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Volume 48 • Number 4

October 2011



How Much Effort Can We Make?

by David Alm

As is well-known, Rawls and his followers have argued that a person cannot justify a disproportionate share of social resources he is able to secure in the market by claiming that he deserves that share.1 There has been some controversy about why exactly Rawls, at least, thought that is supposed to be the case, but this article focuses on just one factor that does seem to carry some weight with Rawlsians.2 This is that a person cannot deserve to have more than others of money or other social goods if those competitive advantages of his that enable him to get more are not themselves deserved.3 If he does, unfairness results. For example, someone could end up with more than others because he has more of some talent that happens to be much in demand. Yet this talent itself is likely to be inborn or else the result of early training, for which the person himself can take no credit. Even if he has developed the talent later in life, the aptitude and perseverance needed even to accomplish that feat is equally a prize in the "natural lottery." But what about effort?

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American Philosophical Quarterly is published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications.

ISSN: 2152-1123