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Affordability and Non-Perfectionism in Moral Action

Rumbold, B; Charlton, V; Rid, A; Mitchell, P; Wilson, J; Littlejohns, P; Max, C; (2019) Affordability and Non-Perfectionism in Moral Action. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10.1007/s10677-019-10028-4. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

One rationale policy-makers sometimes give for declining to fund a service or intervention is on the grounds that it would be ‘unaffordable’, which is to say, that the total cost of providing the service or intervention for all eligible recipients would exceed the budget limit. But does the mere fact that a service or intervention is unaffordable present a reason not to fund it? Thus far, the philosophical literature has remained largely silent on this issue. However, in this article, we consider this kind of thinking in depth. Albeit with certain important caveats, we argue that the use of affordability criteria in matters of public financing commits what Parfit might have called a ‘mistake in moral mathematics’. First, it fails to abide by what we term a principle of ‘non-perfectionism’ in moral action: the mere fact that it is practically impossible for you to do all the good that you have reason to do does not present a reason not to do whatever good you can do. And second, when used as a means of arbitrating between which services to fund, affordability criteria can lead to a kind of ‘numerical discrimination’. Various attendant issues around fairness and lotteries are also discussed.

Type: Article
Title: Affordability and Non-Perfectionism in Moral Action
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10677-019-10028-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-019-10028-4
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Affordability, Total cost, Non-perfectionism, Numerical discrimination, Fairness, Lotteries, Broome
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085732
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