I’m kind of impressed by how much of the late twentieth-century argument about distributive justice among liberal political philosophers is basically anticipated in this paragraph from Sidgwick’s Principles of Political Economy (1883), pp. 506-7:
In this perplexity it may perhaps be suggested that we should measure desert not by achievement, by the utility rendered to the recipient of a service, but by the effort of the worker. And certainly this measurement is more in harmony with the general notion of good and ill desert, outside the region of exchange: we generally consider that the merit of a deserving act lies in its intention rather than its result, since this latter may be materially changed by causes for which the agent cannot be made responsible. But the attempt to apply this principle to the distribution of social produce involves us in difficulties that seem even theoretically insuperable. For not only shall we have to abstain from rewarding physical strength and quickness, and ingenuity, since these are qualities independent of voluntary effort; but we shall find it hard to justify the allotment of higher remuneration to those who have exhibited energy and perseverance, as we cannot prove that these qualities, like the former, are not merely gifts of nature, rather than manifestations of the free choice of the individual agent. Thus practically on this line of argument the principle of rewarding desert will find no realisation, through our scrupulous anxiety to realise it exactly! Now, whatever may be said, on the principles of necessarianism in favour of practically discarding the attempt to reward Desert, [Note: The reconstructors of society who discard Desert seem driven to adopt as their principle of distributive justice either simple Equality, or Equality modified by differences of Need…] it must be admitted that this conclusion is not in harmony with our common notions of Justice. Still, the reasoning which has gradually led to this conclusion seems to shew that the demand for greater equity in distribution can only be practically interpreted as a demand that differences in remuneration, due to causes other than the voluntary exertions of the labourers remunerated, should be reduced as far as possible.