Fairness to non-participants: a case for a practice-independent egalitarian baseline

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Proponents of practice-dependent egalitarianism argue that egalitarian duties and entitlements only apply among participants in morally relevant practices. In this paper, I argue that these views are implausible because they allow for objectionable treatment of non-participants. I show that it is impossible, on the basis of practice-internal considerations alone, to determine the extent to which the pursuit of practices can permissibly limit the opportunities of non-participants. There are opportunities beyond the current holdings of practices to which no one has a privileged claim (such as unowned natural resources), and the distribution of which is a matter of justice. A just distribution of such unowned distributive goods, though, requires a practice-independent distributive baseline. I further show that such a baseline can only be egalitarian because all alternative baselines face serious objections. From this I conclude that any plausible theory of distributive justice must accept some form of equal practice-independent distributive entitlements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-485
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Global Egalitarianism
  • Practice-Independent
  • Distributive Justice


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