This paper examines a very recent proposal for a desert-based theory of justice (Thomas Mulligan, Justice and the Meritocratic State. New York and London: Routledge 2018). This proposal starts from some important intuitions, such as the role of desert in distributive justice, the implausibilty of an equality-first principle of distribution, the unattractive features of luck-egalitarianism or the relation between desert and personal responsibility. While acknowledging the significance of these premises, the focus of the paper will be on the distinction between desert and merit, and the meritocratic character of the theory proposed. In particular, the question will be whether this new desert-based account takes into consideration seriously enough Rawls's critical account of desert.
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