Student Report: Superdeep #15 “Relational Egalitarianism & Economic Liberty” by Jiyuan (Dmitry) Sun

Reported by Dongkun Lyu, class of 2025

Dmitry conducted a seminar on “equality” in the field of political philosophy on December 1st. He started with a hook question, “what is the point of equality”, and proposed some possible answer by resorting to the scenario of Titanic story.

Dmitry then switched the answer into the realm of political philosophy: if you were relational egalitarians, you would pursue equality in two senses, encompassing negative aim and positive aim. The former is to end oppression while the latter is to create a democratic community where all citizens are given equal respect and concern, where people stand in relations of equal to others. Relational egalitarians could reach a consensus of civil liberties, while held vague and inconsistent positions on liberties in the realm of economic life (especially there may be negative consequentialist estimates of liberties in economic life).

After the summary of the attitude towards “liberties” as rational egalitarians, Dmitry in turn articulated how this notion was defined in realm of economic. He introduced “Economic liberty as market democracy” by John Tomasi (2012) and “Radical republic economic liberty” by Tom O’Shea (2020). From this he asserted that equality in the economic may become a consideration of civic capabilities as a necessity for citizens to stand in equal relations to each other and showed the spectrum of Economic liberty for relational egalitarians.

Absolutely guaranteed               Indifferent                 Absolutely restricted

Then he delved into Elizabeth S. Anderson (1999) ’s theory which was a capability approach, Debra Satz (2010)’s theory which focused on basic social rights/goods to “health care, education, housing, and a decent minimum of income”, and Tom O’Shea (2020)’s theory as a conception of economic liberty tailored for his republican version of relational egalitarianism.

Finally, he ended with some personal reflections including “Economic liberty is not only instrumental to equal relations in a democracy but also independently valuable” and Questions for further thoughts encompassing “which conception of economic liberty is more plausible”.

Q&A session:

Question from Prof. Joseph Mazor: For the republican conception of economic liberty, the core idea is security from economic domination, which implies an intensive state intervention in market freedom. Does this arouse the worry about state domination?

Dmitry: For republicans, they are equally concerned with political dominating power, namely the arbitrary power from the state. To make for effective state intervention while obviating the chance for the state to act against people’s will, the republicans, from the 18th century till now, have put forward complicated institutional designs in which the state’s power are jointly constituted by different groups and institutions, with each of them responsible for different parts of state affairs and forging the dynamic of “check and balance.” The republican conception of state features such collective governing, and specifically in economic issues, each market stakeholder ideally has an adequate representation in state policy, so that the state’s intervention will be democratic rather than arbitrary.