Of Opportunity and Preferences


“Under socialist equality of opportunity income differences obtain when they reflect nothing but different individual preferences, including income/leisure preferences.  People differ in their tastes, not only across consumer items, but also between working only a few hours and consuming rather little on the one hand, and working long hours and consuming rather more on the other.  Preferences across income and leisure are not in principle different from preferences across apples and oranges, and there can be no objection to differences in people’s benefits and burdens that reflect nothing but different preferences, when (which is not always) their satisfaction leads to a comparable aggregate enjoyment of life.  Such differences in benefits and burdens do not constitute inequalities of benefits and burdens.”

—Gerald Allan Cohen, Why Not Socialism?, 2009


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