Work in Progress/forthcoming work

Nonideal Luck-Egalitarianism: A Critique of Dworkin’s Theory of Improvement and an Alternative Defense.
Over the last two decades, luck-egalitarianism has dominated the debate on distributive justice. In particular, Ronald Dworkin’s equality of resources is regarded as one of the canonical approaches. Yet, luck-egalitarianism has become the subject of serious critique for being too ideal-theoretical, unduly abstract, and too far disconnected from actual political discussions in here-and-now societies. This paper aims to contribute to this debate, by critically analyzing a central but less prominent element of Dworkin’s work: his nonideal ‘theory of improvement.’

The paper will defend three claims. The first is that Dworkin’s ideal-theoretical argument provides the most convincing defense of the luck-egalitarian ideal. The second is that his nonideal theory of improvement, revolving around ‘resource deficits’ and ‘liberty deficits’ is both ad hoc and incomplete because it remains too much within his ideal-theoretical methodology and categories. The third claim is that there is a more promising alternative non-ideal implementation of Dworkin’s luck-egalitarianism ideal, focusing on ‘social endowments’ and ‘natural endowments.’ The aim of the paper is to develop this alternative theory of nonideal luck-egalitarianism that will do a better job in providing practical guidance for urgent egalitarian question that liberal-democratic societies face today.

Mandatory Vaccination and the Protection of the Best Interests of the Children Involved

The 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak in the US unequivocally brought to light what had been brewing below the surface for a while: a slow but steady decline in vaccination rates in Western societies, resulting in the rise of measles outbreaks in Europe and Northern America. This vaccine-hesitance can be traced back to an increasing public questioning of vaccines by an emerging anti-vaccination movement. The question emerges how liberal-democratic governments should deal with such opposition to vaccination when it leads to compromised herd immunity and the re-emergence of outbreaks of diseases that for decades were assumed to be under control.

In a recent paper (Journal of Applied Philosophy 2017) I argued that the maintenance of herd immunity provides ipso facto sufficient reason to justify unconditional mandatory childhood vaccination policies. They should only allow for medical exemptions, not for nonmedical (religious or philosophical) exemptions. However, in certain contexts this might be too blunt a legal tool. Firstly, mandatory childhood vaccination might be a disproportionate intrusive legal measure in societies with long and successful traditions of voluntary vaccination programs. There seems to be no good to argument for introducing mandatory policies in contexts where voluntary vaccination programs generate robust and undiminished herd immunity. Secondly, some parents might reject to subject their child to vaccination with the mere aim to protect the collective good of herd immunity. Yes, society as a whole is safer, vulnerable persons are protected better, but the trade-off is that their child needs to undergo a medical treatment and is thus exposed to certain risk. Such parents might be more open to (mandatory) vaccination programs when it can be shown they are in the best interest of their child.

This paper takes these two reservations towards unconditional mandatory childhood vaccination onboard and develops an argument defending (1) conditional mandatory vaccination, (2) justified only when it protects the best interests of the child involved. This theoretical move does not ipso facto solve the conflict between vaccine-hesitant parents and a vaccination-promoting government. But is does redirect the focus to the core issues in this debate: how to determine the best interests of children? And to what extent does the legal principle of proportionality allow government to override parental decision-making on these issues?