Fair innings

Bioethics. 2015 May;29(4):251-61. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12101. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


In many societies, the aging of the population is becoming a major problem. This raises difficult issues for ethics and public policy. On what is known as the fair innings view, it is not impermissible to give lower priority to policies that primarily benefit the elderly. Philosophers have tried to justify this view on various grounds. In this article, I look at a consequentialist, a fairness-based, and a contractarian justification. I argue that all of them have implausible implications and fail to correspond to our moral intuitions. I end by outlining a different kind of consequentialist justification that avoids those implications and corresponds better to our considered moral judgments.

Keywords: age; fairness; prioritarianism; priority setting; utilitarian ageism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ageism / ethics*
  • Aging*
  • Developed Countries
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Ethical Theory*
  • Health Care Rationing / economics
  • Health Care Rationing / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Policy Making*
  • Public Policy*
  • Social Justice*