Restricted Prioritarianism or Competing Claims?

Utilitas, 29 (2017): 137–152.

Abstract: I here settle a recent dispute between two rival theories in distributive ethics: Restricted Prioritarianism and the Competing Claims View. Both views mandate that the distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals should be justifiable to each affected party in a way that depends on the strength of each individual’s separately assessed claim to receive a benefit. However, they disagree about what elements constitute the strength of those individuals’ claims. According to restricted prioritarianism, the strength of a claim is determined in ‘prioritarian’ fashion by both what she stands to gain and her absolute level of well-being, while, according to the competing claims view, the strength of a claim is also partly determined by her level of well-being relative to others with conflicting interests. I argue that, suitably modified, the competing claims view is more plausible than restricted prioritarianism.