Socialist Justice

Simpson, Evan (1976) Socialist Justice. Ethics, 87 (1). pp. 1-17. ISSN 1539-297X

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So long as society is regarded as founded upon agreements, egalitarian economic doctrines tend to appear unjust. The price of each person's consent is fair compensation for his contribution, and a greater contribution warrants greater compensation. Even the equal exertion of unequal talents and capacities should mean greater rewards for the more gifted. Within such a framework the problem of social justice is largely one of determining institutional structures in which benefits received adequately repay benefits conferred, and these structures are subject only to the constraint that the liberty which provides the context of consent should not be unnecessarily infringed. For the spectrum of laissez-faire philosophies which constitute classical liberalism the problem is relatively trivial: Compensation for effort is adequate, and the distribution of social goods equitable, as long as each person is free to seek his own gain in his own way. The distribution will not, of course, be equal, but since equity and equality are distinct, the interests of justice are served by guaranteeing liberty alone. Insofar as the problem of justice is conceived in terms of a reconciliation between liberty and equality, indeed, the expression "social justice" is on this view a misnomer. Social policies which ignore the incompatibility of liberty and equality are oppressive and thus inherently unjust

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 1716
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: October 1976
Date Type: Publication
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