Moral Luck and the Budget
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk on how the budget could affect people based on how lucky they have been in life.
"Do you feel lucky?" Well do you? Perhaps you should ask yourself that question on Wednesday as the Chancellor delivers his budget because moral luck - good or bad and what the state should or shouldn't do about that luck is at the heart of it all. Take two policies - the first, the decision to scrap inheritance tax on family homes worth up to £1m. Many people are now sitting on a small fortune that's been earned because they got lucky, bought a house at the right time in the right place and now they're going to be able to pass on that good fortune to their descendants. The second is the proposal to repeal the legally binding targets on child poverty. Whatever the arguments about the accuracy of such measurements, will it make it much harder for those who are unlucky enough to be born to poor parents to escape their poverty? What role should the Fates have in determining our ability to lead a good life and what, if anything should be the role of the state in rebalancing the scales? There are many ways to define social justice - creating a fair and decent society by rewarding human endeavour, self-reliance and people who are morally responsible and do "the right thing", get a job, set up home, look after their family. All compelling, but when inequality is created by luck should the state put a finger in the scales? Isn't good and bad luck just part of life and the idea that governments can do anything about it nonsense? Shouldn't we just stand back and let fate take its course because any attempt by the state to do anything about it will create new injustices in the process. Or in the interests of social solidarity should the state load the dice a little in favour of those who are less fortunate due to no fault of their own?