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Distributive Justice and DisabilityUtilitarianism against Egalitarianism$
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Mark S. Stein

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780300100570

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300100570.001.0001

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Utilitarianism and Distribution to the Disabled

Utilitarianism and Distribution to the Disabled

(p.33) IV Utilitarianism and Distribution to the Disabled
Distributive Justice and Disability

Mark S. Stein

Yale University Press

This chapter examines the utilitarian approach to disability and distribution in the context of resource allocation. Utilitarianism seeks to maximize welfare and will often approve of measures to cure or ameliorate disability in order to increase welfare. However, utilitarianism will not endorse aid to the disabled that would benefit them only slightly and would divert resources from other uses that could provide people with greater benefits. The chapter explains the greater-benefit criterion and the principle of diminishing marginal utility. After discussing some basic aspects of the utilitarian approach to the distribution of resources between disabled and nondisabled people, and among people with different disabilities, the chapter demonstrates that some of the supposed problems of utilitarianism are actually among its strengths. It also compares utilitarianism with egalitarianism and considers the argument that utilitarianism would often allocate fewer resources to disabled people than to nondisabled people, with the latter ending up with fewer resources and less welfare.

Keywords:   utilitarianism, disability, distribution, welfare, greater-benefit criterion, diminishing marginal utility, egalitarianism, disabled people, nondisabled people, resource allocation

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