The U.S. has largely embraced the concept of a meritocracy: Advantages that people enjoy are thought to derive from voluntary choices (e.g., hard work), and any resulting inequities in goods, such as wealth, are thought to be just and fair. According to this view, individuals who achieve more in school (in terms of better grades and more advanced degrees) are thought to deserve a greater allotment of goods. Yet behavioral genetic research suggests that intelligence and school achievement are, like many other outcomes, heritable.
What (if any) implications does this line of behavioral genetic research have for understanding how to conceptualize and achieve a just distribution of goods in the U.S.? To address this question, we ground our project in the philosophical literature on luck. What is luck? Can genetic variants be conceptualized as lucky or unlucky? What about the phenotypes that are linked to genetic variation? Finally, the philosophy of luck and the relevance of behavioral genetic data for considering a phenotype a matter of luck will be used to bridge the scholarly literatures on distributive justice and retributive justice.