February 15, 2019

Who is worse off?

Health, priority to the worse off, and time

The prioritisation of resource allocation towards the worse off is a well known rule. What does this mean exactly?
 There are many dimensions in which someone can be worse off (e.g., in terms of wellbeing, health, opportunities, resources), and there are many ways to give priority to someone (e.g., by giving extra weight to their claims, lexical priority to their claims, or by earmarking a fixed amount of resources for their claims). Furthermore, there are many different reasons why one might want to give priority to benefits to the worse off: is it because it is good to promote equality for its own sake, good to promote equality for other reasons, because benefits to the worse off matter more, because the worse off typically fall under some sufficiency threshold, or for many of these (and maybe other) reasons
The precise argument is described in a recent article that combines the complete lives approach with the forward looking approach, and says:
 I believe that the focus on complete lives has been beneficial in that it is a step away from a complete focus on current distributions of health. However, I think that the arguments presented in this paper give us reason to adopt a more nuanced approach to how to rank individuals in terms of who is worse off with the purpose of giving priority to certain benefits in light of unequal distributions of health over time. Such an approach accepts that both the complete lives view and the forward looking view that only takes into account current and future health states, matter. This leads to the complicated question of how to combine these views. Some work that addresses how to combine  concerns for simultaneous segment inequality and complete lives inequality has appeared recently, but the question needs further attention.
Therefore, it is still a work in progress.