Advertisement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1181–1204 | Cite as

Autonomy-Based Reasons for Limitarianism

  • Danielle ZwarthoedEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper aims to provide autonomy-based reasons in favour of limitarianism. Limitarianism affirms it is of primary moral importance that no one gets too much. The paper challenges the standard assumption that having more material resources always increases autonomy. It expounds five mechanisms through which having too much material wealth might undermine autonomy. If these hypotheses are true, a theory of justice guided by a concern for autonomy will support a limitarian distribution of wealth. Finally, the paper discusses two issues autonomy-based limitarianism would raise. First, insofar as coercion invades autonomy, do autonomy-based reasons legitimate coercive measures to secure a limitarian distribution of wealth? Second, is a limitarian ethos consistent with the incentive to produce enough wealth to secure distributive justice?

Keywords

Limitarianism Autonomy Wealth Distributive justice Coercion Incentives 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Versions of this article have been presented at the Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law Video Workshop jointly organised by the universities of Cordoba and Louvain, at the Workshop in Economics & Philosophy (Université catholique de Louvain), at the Political Theory Group (University of Glasgow) and at the Philosophie et théorie économique seminar (University of Reims). I am grateful to all the participants for their helpful comments and questions, and in particular to Antoinette Baujard, Jean-Sébastien Gharbi, Brian Girvin, Axel Gosseries, Cyril Hédoin, Carl Knight, Lucas Misseri, George Pavlakos and Pierre Van Zyl. I also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for the detailed and insightful comments they provided on earlier versions of the manuscript. All errors are my own.

The work reported in this publication had benefited from a grant from the Fonds Spécial de Recherche (FSR) of the Université catholique de Louvain.

References

  1. Angelescu L (2014) Rich people, an overview. In: Michalos AC (ed) Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. Springer, Netherlands, pp 5566–5569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson AB, Piketty T, Saez E (2011) Top incomes in the long run of history. J Econ Lit 49(1):3–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benson Paul (2005) Authority and voice in autonomous agency. In: Anderson Joel and Christman John (eds) Autonomy and the challenges to liberalism. Cambridge University Press, pp 101–126Google Scholar
  4. Blanchflower DG, Oswald AJ (2004) Well-being over time in Britain and the USA. J Public Econ 88:1359–1386.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0047-2727(02)00168-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdieu P (1979) La distinction. Critique sociale du jugement. Editions de Minuit, ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Bourdieu P (1981) Questions de sociologie. Editions de Minuit, ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Brickman P, Coates D, Janoff-Bulman R (1978) Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative? J Pers Soc Psychol 36:917–927.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.36.8.917 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Casal P (2007) Why sufficiency is not enough. Ethics 117:296–326.  https://doi.org/10.1086/510692 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christman J (1987) Autonomy: a defense of the split-level self. South J Philos 25:281–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crouch C (2003) Commercialization or citizenship: the case of education. In Commercialization or Citizenship: Education Policy and the Future of Public Services. Fabian Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Csikszentmihalyi M (1999) If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy? Am Psychol 54:821–827.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.54.10.821 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cummins RA (2000) Personal income and subjective well-being: a review. J Happiness Stud 1:133–158.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010079728426 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Currie J, Gahvari F (2008) Transfers in cash and in-kind: theory meets the data. J Econ Lit 46(2):333–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dart T (2014) Texas teenager suffering “affluenza” avoids jail for second time. The Guardian, Thursday 6 February 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/06/texas-teenager-affluenza-escapes-jail-second-time. Accessed 12 November 2018
  15. Diener E (2000) Subjective well-being: the science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. Am Psychol 55:34–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener E, Biswas-Diener R (2002) Will money increase subjective well-being? Soc Indic Res 57:119–169.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014411319119 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diener E, Oishi S (2000) Money and happiness: income and subjective well-being across nations. In: Diener E, Suh Eunkook M (eds) Culture and subjective well-being. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 185–218Google Scholar
  18. Diener E, Horwitz J, Emmons RA (1985) Happiness of the very wealthy. Soc Indic Res 16:263–274.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00415126 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dworkin G (1988) The theory and practice of autonomy. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Easterlin R (1973) Does money buy happiness? The Public Interest 3. pp 3–10Google Scholar
  21. Easterlin RA (1995) Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? J Econ Behav Organ 27:35–47.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0167-2681(95)00003-B CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Easterlin RA (2001) Income and happiness: towards a unified theory. Econ J 111:465–484.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0297.00646 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eckenroth D (2015) Wealthy justice: the role wealth plays in sentencing and in the affluenza defense notes. New England Journal on Criminal & Civil Confinement 41:443–462Google Scholar
  24. Elster J (1982) Sour grapes. utilitarianism and the genesis of wants. In: Sen AK, Williams B (eds) Utilitarianism and beyond. Cambridge University Press, pp 219–238Google Scholar
  25. Festinger L (1962) Cognitive dissonance. Sci Am 207(4):93–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Frank RH (1999) Luxury fever: why money fails to satisfy in an era of excess. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Frankfurt HG (1988) The importance of what we care about: philosophical essays. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge  https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511818172
  28. Frey BS, Stutzer A (2002) What can economists learn from happiness research? J Econ Lit 40:402–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fricker M (2007) Epistemic injustice: power and the ethics of knowing. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  30. Friedman MA (1986) Autonomy and the split-level self. South J Philos 24:19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gosseries A (2011) Qu’est-Ce Que le Suffisantisme ? Philosophiques 38:465–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hume D (2004) An enquiry concerning the principles of morals. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (Original work published in 1751)Google Scholar
  33. Khader SJ (2011) Adaptive preferences and women's empowerment. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kollmuss A, Agyeman J (2002) Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environ Educ Res 8:239–260.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13504620220145401 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mackenzie C (2014) Three dimensions of autonomy: a relational analysis. In: Veltman A, Piper M (eds) Autonomy, oppression, and gender. Oxford University Press, Oxford pp 15–41Google Scholar
  36. Maurin É (2009) La peur du déclassement: Une sociologie des récessions. Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  37. McLeod C (2002) Self-trust and reproductive autonomy. MIT Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mirrlees J (1971) An exploration in the theory of optimum income taxation. Rev Econ Stud 38:175–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Monin B (2008) Cognitive dissonance. In Darity WA (ed), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition. MacMillan, Farmington Hill, MA pp 599–601Google Scholar
  40. Morton JM (2011) Toward an ecological theory of the norms of practical deliberation. Eur J Philos 19:561–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Musgrave RA (1959) The theory of public finance. McGraw-Hill, New York and LondonGoogle Scholar
  42. Myers DG (2000) The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. Am Psychol 55:56–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nozick R (1974) Anarchy, state, and utopia. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Nussbaum MC (2000) Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oshana M (2006) Personal autonomy in society. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  46. Pinçon M, Pinçon-Charlot M (2009) Sociologie de la bourgeoisie. La Découverte, ParisGoogle Scholar
  47. Rawls J (1999) A theory of justice. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Rawls J (2001) Justice as fairness : a restatement. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
  49. Raz J (1986) The morality of freedom. Oxford University Press, Oxford: New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Robeyns I (2011) The capability approach (last modified in 2016). In: Zalta Edward N (ed) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/capability-approach/. Accessed 12 November 2018
  51. Robeyns I (2017) Having too much. In: Knight J, Schwartzberg M (eds) NOMOS LVII: Wealth. Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. New York University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Robeyns I (2018) Where do people put the riches-line. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://crookedtimber.org/2018/01/06/where-do-people-put-the-riches-line/. Accessed 12 November 2018
  53. Sen AK (1985) Commodities and capabilities. North Holland, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  54. Slemrod J (2006) The consequences of taxation. Soc Philos Policy 23:73–87.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0265052506060171 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spears D (2014) Decision costs and price sensitivity: Field experimental evidence from India. J Econ Behav Organ 97:169–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thurow L (1976) Government expenditures: cash or in-kind aid? Philos Public Aff 5(4):361–381Google Scholar
  57. Waldron J (1988) Autonomy and perfectionism in Raz’s morality of freedom. Southern California Law Review 62:1097–1152Google Scholar
  58. Westlund AC (2009) Rethinking relational autonomy. Hypatia 24:26–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. White S (2010) A modest proposal? basic capital vs. higher education subsidies. Br J Polit Int Rel 12(1):37–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

Personalised recommendations