More on Positional Goods

by Harry on September 20, 2004

The posts on positional goods give me a lame excuse to link to a paper Adam Swift and I have recently posted on the Equality Exchange. The paper tries to think through the significance of positional goods for distributive principles. Here’s the abstract, in case you want to look any further. Comments welcome (though I don’t promise to respond on the thread, and if comments are really substantive you might want just to email me or Adam).

The paper discusses the significance of positional goods for debate about egalitarian and prioritarian principles of distribution. Defining positional goods as those whose absolute value, to their possessors, depends on those possessors’ place in the distribution of the good, and noting that such goods fuse concerns with absolutes and relativities, it explores the ramifications of that fusion. It argues that levelling down with respect to positional goods may improve the absolute position of some people with respect to other goods, and perhaps all things considered, and may also be justified by appeal to the value of fair competition. It identifies three kinds of positional goods, suggesting that such goods are more pervasive than is commonly recognised. It then considers challenges to the case for levelling down with respect to positional goods, noting that some goods have both positional and non-positional value and that unequal distributions, or unfair competitions, may leave some people worse off with respect to particular goods while also making them better off all things considered. It ends with discussion of considerations that might lead us to condemn the personal motivations that constitute the circumstances that require us to choose between fairness and the all-things-considered well-being of the worst off. Those motivations are especially problematic where the goods in question are positional.



The blog reader and sometime commentator 09.21.04 at 10:49 am

Posting welcome (though I don’t promise to comment on it on this thread — so now we’re even).


harry 09.21.04 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for explaining why there are no comments! I just meant that comments on this may require me to think more (and therefore for a muhc longer time) than I usually do when blogging…. I don’t know whether that makes me seem frivolous normally; if so, sorry.


the set of all blog readers 09.21.04 at 8:02 pm

Evidently, flattering us will get you nowhere, Harry.

Comments on this entry are closed.