The Persistence of the Leveling Down Objection
According to the Leveling Down Objection, some, if not all, egalitarians must concede that leveling down can make things better in a respect—in terms of equality. I argue, first, that if this is true, then it is hard for such egalitarians to avoid the even more disturbing result that leveling down can be better all-things-considered. I then consider and reject two attempts to take this particular sting out of being an egalitarian. The first is Tom Christiano’s argument that the egalitarian is not forced to concede that the leveled down state is better with respect to equality, on the grounds that if equality with respect to any X matters, e.g. welfare, then value must be assigned to X, rendering the leveled down state inferior even with respect to equality. This is insufficient, I argue, to justify his requirement that Pareto-inferior states cannot be better with respect to equality. The second, offered by both Ingmar Persson and Campbell Brown, is to argue that prioritarianism—a central rival to egalitarianism—is also subject to the Leveling Down Objection. Persson and Campbell fail, I claim, because their arguments turn on increases in measures in leveled down states that have no value on the prioritarian view.