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Degrees of community It would be unrealistic, and is in any case unnecessary, to expect our society to become one big happy family, with everyone caring as much about strangers as about their nearest and dearest. That's not what egalitarians are looking for. There are degrees of community, ranging from selfish individualism at one extreme to total social commitment at the -36other, and these correspond to degrees of equality. As a sense of community increases, so does the extent to which a group pays attention to its members' needs, dignity, and aspirations.

By contrast, a sense of community depends on a common culture, with a core of shared attitudes and values. Economic equality is thus a basic precondition for a developed sense of community. Once established, a sense of community helps to sustain the economic equality it depends on. For any economy involves relations of exchange or 'reciprocity' -- you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Our present economy conducts this exchange very narrowly, trading goods and services for specific payments in return.

And only singers with good voices are really deserving. Speaking generally, the value judgments underlying common claims of desert are often open to these two kinds of objection, and so fail to provide a proper basis for desert. That's not to deny the possibility of valid value judgments, but only to recognize the difficulties of making them. Some of the arguments below exploit these difficulties. Are Existing Inequalities Deserved? You don't have to agree with the frontal assault on desert to recognize that few existing inequalities are deserved.

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