Suppose we have a group of people, none of whom are more deserving of reward than the others. Further suppose that we have a bunch of resources to share around them. What would be the best way to distribute the resources?
Should we care about the outcome, or only the distributive procedure? For example, we could divide up the resources equally, or else we could aim for the outcome of everyone having equal resources. In the latter case, people who were poorer to begin with would receive a greater share of the new resources. Which approach is better? (Compare telic and deontic egalitarianism.)
This also raises the question of what we should be equalizing. So far I've assumed equality of resources. But note that some people might need more resources to get the same benefit to their well-being as others. So it might be fairer to aim at equality of welfare (i.e. utility), instead.
Finally, we might not care (intrinsically) about the distribution at all. We might just want to maximize well-being, no matter whose it is. This seems the more impartial approach.
This would treat people in the opposite way to the "equality of welfare" approach. According to equality of welfare, we should expend the most resources on those who benefit the least from them, to help compensate for their inability to use resources efficiently. Utilitarianism, by contrast, would recommend distributing resources in the most effective way possible. If some people cannot make good use of the resources, then they should instead be given to those who would get a greater benefit from them.
The greatest problem with taking "equality of welfare" as our goal is that it creates the potential for "utility drains", i.e. someone who is so bad at at converting resources into well-being, that we end up wasting nearly all our resources on them, and to little effect.
Utilitarianism faces the opposite objection, in that there might be a "utility monster" who would be made so incredibly happy by each additional resource that his interests would outweigh everyone else's, and he alone would receive all the resources. That seems unfair. But I don't think this objection is so serious. It's just so implausible, given what we intuitively know about decreasing marginal utility and so forth, that I'm not sure we can even imagine it properly. (So when we call it "unfair", we may instead be imagining a case where the man's happiness did not in fact outweigh the opportunity costs suffered by all the others.)
In any case, this is clearly preferable to the "utility drain" which can result from equality of welfare. So we are left with three options: utilitarianism, procedural resource egalitarianism, and 'outcome' resource egalitarianism.
My position is that utilitarianism is required by the notion of equal concern for all. For otherwise you are saying that worse-off people count for more. Even if they get a lesser benefit from the resource, that's seen as more important than a larger benefit for someone else.
What do you think?