UCL Faculty of Laws


A Resourcist Case for Sharing the Costs of Children

08 June 2021, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Image of a child colouring in

This event is organised by the Institute of Laws, Politics and Philosophy (ILPP)

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Please note that the time allocated for this colloquia will be devoted to discussion of the paper. Download a copy of the paper.

Speaker: Prof. Serena Olsaretti (ICREA-Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

About the Paper:

This paper examines the possibility of enlisting the ideal of equality of resources defended by Ronald Dworkin to formulate an argument for sharing some of the costs of children between parents and society at large (“socialisation” for short). Although Dworkin himself does not address the question of how the costs of children should be shared in a just society, and although his view has been taken to be inhospitable to the case for socialisation, I claim that equality of resources can, in fact, provide the bases for that case. Showing this will involve defending two main claims.

The first is that we can construct a resourcist case for socialisation if we locate the case for parental justice in a different place, within the theory of equality of resources, from where existing discussions of this topic have located it thus far. In particular, the proposal this paper puts forward is that parents have claims of justice to sharing the costs of children not because they suffer a brute luck disadvantage relative to non-parents, but because, by dint of the socially necessary work they perform, they are in one respect analogous to private goods producers. The second claim the paper develops consists in interpreting the theory of equality of resources in a way that avoids what I view as certain misconceptions regarding some aspects of that theory. Most importantly, I suggest that the role, in equality of resources, of both people’s identification with their ambitions and that of the envy test, are more circumscribed than we might think, and that, by contrast, the role of the idea of true opportunity costs as the metric of equality is more central than has generally been noticed. Once we keep these points in mind, equality of resources, contrary to received wisdom, turns out to be hospitable, not inimical, to one important argument for parental justice.

About the Speaker:

Serena Olsaretti is an ICREA Research Professor in the Department of Law at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. She is currently working on a monograph on Parental Justice, under contract with Oxford University Press.

About the Institute:

The Institute brings together political and legal theorists from Law, Political Science and Philosophy and organises regular colloquia in terms 2 and 3.

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