Inequality

James Christensen on egalitarian trade justice (in Moral Philosophy and Politics)

Mpp coverBy Mark D. White

Forthcoming (and open access) from the journal Moral Philosophy and Politics, "Egalitarian Trade Justice" by James Christensen (University of Essex) surveys several approaches to incorporating explicit conceptions of fairness, justice, and equality into the debates over trade (often dominated, in economics, by efficiency concerns). Judging from the other "online first" papers recently posted, an upcoming issue of the journal will focus on such expansive ethical issues involved with trade, always a welcome discussion.

The first few paragraphs preview the contents of the paper:

In recent decades, notions of fair and just trade have become increasingly widespread. These ideas are invoked by politicians, protesters, workers, consumers, and corporations. The belief that trade is currently unfair or unjust is ubiquitous, though there is considerable disagreement about where, exactly, the unfairness or injustice lies, and, relatedly, about what must be done to rectify the situation. Resolving these disagreements will be crucial if we are to succeed in reconciling ourselves to the globalized world in which we live, and in resisting calls for a return to more parochial modes of production and exchange.

Among political philosophers, it is common to claim that justice in trade requires some kind of equality (Brandi 2014; Christensen 2017; Garcia 2003; James 2012; Moellendorf 2005; Suttle 2017). Often, the claim is that the national income gains that trade makes possible should, at the bar of justice, be distributed in an egalitarian fashion. Trade egalitarianism has been defended in a variety of different ways, but, for present purposes, it will be helpful to distinguish between two broad approaches. The first approach begins with a general commitment to equality and then identifies the implications of that value for trade. Advocates of this approach argue that trade must be arranged in a manner that adequately promotes a value that we have trade-independent reason to endorse (Christensen 2017, pp. 140–142). Because this approach begins from a commitment to equality as a freestanding value, and then applies that value to trade, we can refer to it as the applicative approach.

The second approach, by contrast, does not begin with a general commitment to equality. Rather, it begins with the practice of trade, and with an account that identifies that practice’s nature, aims, and key participants. In light of the account that they provide, advocates of this approach then argue that an egalitarian principle is appropriate for trade practice – regardless of that principle’s appeal, or lack thereof, in other contexts (James 2012). Because this approach begins with an explication of the nature of trade practice – and searches for a principle suited to that nature – we can refer to it as the explicative approach.

This first distinction – between applicative and explicative approaches – has, in practice, coincided with a second, looser, distinction between stronger and weaker forms of trade egalitarianism. The explicative approach has been used to defend conclusions that are less strongly egalitarian than those defended by proponents of the applicative alternative. In this paper, I engage with the primary explicative account of trade egalitarianism – that offered by Aaron James – and argue that its egalitarian conclusions are unduly minimalistic. My aim is not to criticize the explicative approach, but rather to show that the arguments and commitments of its best-known defender – James – either fail to rule out, or in fact positively support, more robustly egalitarian conclusions. I will not claim that James’s explicative approach can yield egalitarian conclusions that are as strong as those produced by the applicative alternative, but I will contend that James’s approach can accommodate egalitarian conclusions stronger than those he in fact endorses. I hope to move the debate about trade justice forward by demonstrating that proponents of the explicative approach can endorse egalitarian conclusions of similar strength to those embraced by proponents of the applicative alternative, despite approaching the subject in a very different – and apparently more parsimonious – manner.


Updates to "Cost-Benefit Analysis at the Crossroads" symposium (LPE Project)

Lpe projectBy Mark D. White

The Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project's "Cost-Benefit Analysis at the Crossroads" symposium, which I blogged about earlier, continues, adding two new contributions.

First, in "Equity in Regulatory Cost-Benefit Analysis," Zachary Liscow (Yale Law School) considers three ways to include distributional effects into CBA—incorporate mesaures of distributional impact in CBA estimates, "cleanse" cost and benefitm measures to account for distributional impacts, and use differential weights in CBA—and acknowledges that, at the end of the day, this is a political decision:

Which of these distributional strategies to adopt ultimately boils down to a political choice. Imposing distributional weights might be controversial politically, not to mention legally. It might be that the public finds explicit weighting quite problematic. We have no direct evidence on this, but the US tends to have strong legal and social norms of formal equality. And explicitly weighting the benefits conferred to some individuals more than others could violate those norms. On the other hand, it could be that the public would pay almost no attention to such procedures of government bureaucrats—or that they would like it if they did pay attention. Ultimately, this choice brings up deep questions of democratic theory: How, if at all, does it matter normatively what the public thinks? Or, alternatively, is this just a question of political feasibility, which depends on the difficult-to-predict reception of a new policy?

Continuing on this theme is "Let's Politicize Cost-Benefit Analysis" by Elizabeth Popp Berman (University of Michigan), author of the forthcoming book Thinking Like an Economist: How Efficiency Replaced Equality in U.S. Public Policy (a book I'm certain will be a topic of discussion on this blog upon its release in March 2022). Berman reviews the different ways the two major American political parties have used (and abused) CBA for their own ends, but instead of arguing for CBA as an idealized and "objective" evaluative standard, she sees it for what it is,

a convenient fiction that exists to coordinate action and facilitate decision-making. Our methods for estimating, say, the Value of a Statistical Life are arbitrary. They put a patina of rationality on what is essentially a moral choice. We accept them because they give us a consistent way to produce a number that roughly accords with our sense of what is reasonable—but a dozen other numbers could be similarly justified. Our actual estimates of costs and benefits are often lucky to be correct within an order of magnitude. And minor changes in assumptions—for example, about the appropriate discount rate—can lead to dramatically different assessments of the benefits of a project or decision. [Emphasis added.]

She concludes that, in practice, CBA should (continue to) serve the goals of those using it, and technical improvements to it should be made for the same reasons:

The primary goal of CBA reform should not be to produce the best, most morally defensible analysis. It should be to introduce technical changes that tilt the playing field toward outcomes we think are good. And in areas where CBA seems likely to be irredeemably biased against action, our aim should be to push for alternative forms of evaluation.

Of course, this would negate any independent evidentiary value that CBA may have, but that is Berman's point—it shouldn't be regarded in that way at all. (Again, I eagerly await the publication of her book for more thinking along these lines.)


Where is the Good Samaritan?

The Rev. B. P. Campbell

[In this sermon Ben explores the dark side of individualism, isolation, and fragmentation—the unnecessary consequences of economic growth—in the aftermath of the tragedies in Dallas, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and other cities last week.  --JW]

Reference: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

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"Now in the 21st century, as the mobility and disloyalty of money take over, we are slipping into greater fragmentation.  Too many ditches.  Too many robbers.  Too little community.  Too much despair."

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            Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

            Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

            Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

            This week, maybe this year, we’ve all been living on the Jericho Road.

            We’ve built a nation of Jericho Roads.

            Where is the Good Samaritan?

            It’s as if we were living right in the middle of the story which Jesus told the lawyer.  “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What have you been taught?”  Jesus asks.  The man gives the right answer – Love God and your neighbor.  But then he asks another question.  It is on this question, and Jesus’ answer to it, that God’s Holy Spirit builds the kingdom of God.

            “Who is my neighbor,” the man asks.

            Jesus’ answer is a story – a story that breaks the rules of religion and sets men and women free – a story whose basic commandment is to Live, to Live imaginatively, to tackle the issues that present themselves today without prescription or instruction – only the instruction to love our neighbor as ourselves.

            This week, maybe this year, we’ve all been living on the Jericho Road.

            We’ve built a nation of Jericho Roads.

            Where is the Good Samaritan?

Continue reading "Where is the Good Samaritan?" »


An Answer to "Questions for Free-Market Moralists"

Mark D. White

I read with great interest Amia Srinivasan's contribution to the New York Times' philosophy column "The Stone" titled "Questions for Free-Market Moralists." After introducing the political philosophies of John Rawls and Robert Nozick, she states that "on the whole, Western societies are still more Rawlsian than Nozickian: they tend to have social welfare systems and redistribute wealth through taxation. But since the 1970s, they have become steadily more Nozickian." Then she presents four statements that she claims describe Nozick's minimal state -- and are representative of what she terms "free-market moralism" -- with which she assumes most people will not be comfortable. (Certainly not readers of The New York Times, by any rate.) But I'm not so sure, especially once we clarily what the four statements are talking about.

The four statements are:

1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?

2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible?

3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange?

4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don’t freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing?

For each statement, Ms. Srinivasan provides an example of what such a world would look like: for instance, after statement #2, she suggests the following. (Note that this example also invokes statement #3 about inherited wealth.)

Suppose that I inherited from my rich parents a large plot of vacant land, and that you are my poor, landless neighbor. I offer you the following deal. You can work the land, doing all the hard labor of tilling, sowing, irrigating and harvesting. I’ll pay you $1 a day for a year. After that, I’ll sell the crop for $50,000. You decide this is your best available option, and so take the deal. Since you consent to this exchange, there’s nothing morally problematic about it.

This example points out my problem with Ms. Srinivasan's argument: she conflates political philosophy with moral philosophy. It is perfectly consistent to maintain, as in statement #2, that free exchanges are morally permissible while also believing that that is something morally problematic with the situation described above -- as long as you don't subscribe to a perfectionist system of morality that fails to distinguish between forbidden and merely "problematic" actions.

But there's more. Statement #2 really isn't speaking to morality -- instead, it's talking about legality that's simply based on a certain morality. How statement #2 should be read (based on my understanding of Nozick, at any rate) is as saying that the state has no moral basis to question free exchanges. Of course, the situation above is distasteful to most, but does this mean should it be forbidden by law? This is a different issue than the one Ms. Srinivasan addresses in her example -- and I suspect many would answer "no, it shouldn't be illegal" even if they regard the landowner's behavior as despicable. This doesn't imply a moral free-for-all, but simply a state that stops short of legislating all moral (or immoral) behavior.

Consider also Ms. Srinivasan's example for statement #4 regarding forced obligation:

Suppose I’m walking to the library and see a man drowning in the river. I decide that the pleasure I would get from saving his life wouldn’t exceed the cost of getting wet and the delay. So I walk on by. Since I made no contract with the man, I am under no obligation to save him.

The problem of duties of beneficence is an old and well-worn one in moral philosophy: while most would say we do have a general obligation to help those in need when it would come at little cost to ourselves, not as many would be willing to make that a strict requirement, much less a legal one (though some jurisdictions have). Ms. Srinivasan seems to draw a extreme and false dichotomy between coerced beneficence and rapacious self-interest -- I would like to think that no matter what kind of state we live in, people would still extend a hand to those in need when they can. (Furthermore, I see no reason to believe this would be any more likely to occur in a Rawlsian system where the state, not the individual, is the party understood to do most of the helping.)

As I understand him, Nozick was describing a state that enables people to make choices when they don't wrongfully harm others, and the market was but one framework in which they could do that. (For that reason, I disagree with the term "free-market moralist," but that's of little concern.) He did not, as Ms. Srinivasan writes, maintain that "the market can take care of morality for us," nor did Rawls hold that morality was the sole responsibility of the state. Fundamentally, Rawls and Nozick differed on the degree to which the state should exercise individuals' collective responsibility to each other on their behalf. Neither Rawls nor Nozick denies a role for private morality outside of the state. But Nozick and the "free-market moralists" believe that individuals, as parts of families and communities, bear the bulk of the responsibility to take care of one another, a responsibility borne voluntarily and, yes, imperfectly (unlike how perfectly the state conducts it, of course).

Ms. Srinivasan also holds Nozick's system to an incredibly high standard, arguing that to concede any weakness in any of the four statements "is to concede that the entire Nozickian edifice is structurally unsound. The proponent of free market morality has lost his foundations." But she neglects to mention the problems with Rawls' system, especially the very particular psychological assumptions that ground the "results" of the veil-of-ignorance exercise -- a brilliant metaphor also found in the work of other philosophers and with various predictions regarding the terms of the social contract.

Ms. Srinivasan states clearly that she believes that Western societies should be tilting back towards Rawls (I would say "further" rather than "back," but that's a difference of interpretation) and away from Nozick. Fair enough -- we disagree on that. But she makes Nozick's system an all-or-nothing proposition while ignoring problems with Rawls, and further misinterprets Nozick's work as describing the whole of morality rather than the operation of the state alone. In the end, her article shows a troubling lack of faith in people to care for each other outside the confines of the state -- and an overly optimistic belief in the power of the state to do the same.


Economic Mobility

Jonathan B. Wight

America’s commitment to a meritocratic society is questioned in a New York Times article yesterday

The color chart (click to enlarge) shows the chance that a child raised in the bottom fifth of the income scale can make it to the top fifth.  The dark red that dominates the Southeast of the United States shows a 4% or less chance.

The reason is less about class discrimination and more about two-parent families, transportation access, and probably spiritual capital (discussed yesterday).  

Inequality

How Much Inequality Do We Want? This is the Wrong Question.

Mark D. White

InequalityToday on The Atlantic's website, Dan Ariely describes an experiment he conducted with Mike Norton in which they survey people about both the current distribution of wealth in the U.S. and what they thought the ideal distribution of wealth is. Not surprisingly, they find that most everybody underestimates the level of inequality of wealth, and that most everybody would prefer a more equal distribution of wealth--and, most interestingly that the "desired" distribution is extremely stable regardless of political party or nation of origin.*

In fact, he writes, "most likely, if you participated in one of our tests, your response too would have fallen in line with these findings." Uh, no, it wouldn't--I would have refused to answer the question because I don't accept its premise, which is that the final distribution of wealth is more important than the processes which led to it. In Robert Nozick's terms, Ariely implicitly uses a patterned theory of justice, whereas I prefer a historical theory of justice. When I see a skewed distribution of income or wealth, my first thought is not, "let's correct that," but rather "let's see what caused the skewed distribution and see if they're anything unjust about that."

Ariely illustrates this distinction with his two proposals for lessening inequality: education and taxation. Education improves the process while taxation improves the results after the fact. This is comparable to making sure a football game is officiated fairly, but then adjusting the score after the game is finished. If the outcomes of a football game--or of the economy--result from just and fair processes, then it is difficult to find a justification for questioning the results (outside simple utilitarianism).

Ariely describes his methodology as inspired by John Rawls' "veil of ignorance," in which people are asked what kind of world they'd like to live in if they had no idea where they'd fall in socio-economic terms (or, more broadly, in terms of race, gender, and so on). Ironically, however, Rawls was opposed to redistribution after the fact, and meant for his veil of ignorance metaphor to be used when designing institutions that would benefit the worst-off in society so wealth would not have to redistributed after the fact. (Ronald Dworkin's resource-egalitarianism takes the same approach: equalize resources at the beginning of persons' lives, and let them make of their lives what they will.)

My point does not lean only to the left or the right; people on both sides of the political spectrum (and especially libertarians) will happily point out injustices in the system that lead to unjust outcomes. This is one thing that the Occupy movement and the Tea Party have in common: there is corruption throghout the system that benefits the few at the expense of the many. But it does little good to say what we want the world to look at any point in time. Instead, we should focus on how we want to world to work over time--all the time--so everyone has a fair chance at leading the life they want to live.

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* They also neglect to ask what means people are willing to accept to reach their desired level of inequality--I imagine that's where differences in political affiliation would show up the most. Ariely admits to this shortcoming, but casts it in terms of what sacrifices people would be willing to make themselves to lower inequality, not what structural changes in our institutions they would recommend:

Our study also doesn't deal with how to bring what people say they want under the veil of ignorance into line with what they're willing to do when it's their money and resources that are about to be distributed. It is one thing to get people to tell us what kind of society the would want to join, and another to get them part with their money in order to create that society.


Charles Murray's Coming Apart discussed by David Brooks and W. Bradford Wilcox

Mark D. White

MurrayCharles Murray's latest book, Coming Apart, gets reviewed this morning by both David Brooks in The New York Times and W. Bradford Wilcox in The Wall Street Journal. Murray's thesis is that the gaps in income and wealth in America are no more important than the gaps in culture and values between the more and less affluent. To make his point more forceful, he restricts his analysis to white people, in order to prevent critics from arguining that the decline in values he points out is an issue with racial and ethnic minorities only. These trends are certainly apparent across most if not racial and ethnic groups but it is less recognized in whites, the discussion of which may be Murray's greatest contribution to the discussion.

Of course, your opinion of Murray's thesis is going to depend on what values he chooses, and (according to Wilcox) he focuses on "four 'founding virtues'—industriousness, honesty (including abiding by the law), marriage and religion." I doubt many would have issues with the first two, but the last two will turn off a lot of people (including me, to some extent). Personally, I'd prefer that "marriage" be changed to "family" and "religion" be changed to "community" (since the ethical component of religion is already covered by "honesty," or the whole exercise, really). Perhaps Murray puts his virtues in these broader contexts--I have not yet read the book--but I would guess he chose "marriage" and "religion" because participation in them in measurable (social scientist that he is).

Wilcox, the director of the National Marrriage Project, naturally uses Murray's analysis of marriage (which echoes Kay Hymowitz's Marriage and Caste in America) as an example:

The destructive family revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s has gradually eased—at least in the nation's most privileged precincts. In the past 20 years, divorce rates have come down, marital quality (self-reported happiness in marriage) has risen and nonmarital childbearing (out-of-wedlock births) is a rare occurrence among the white upper class. Marriage is not losing ground in America's best neighborhoods.

But it's a very different story in blue-collar America. Since the 1980s, divorce rates have risen, marital quality has fallen and nonmarital childbearing is skyrocketing among the white lower class. Less than 5% of white college-educated women have children outside of marriage, compared with approximately 40% of white women with just a high-school diploma. The bottom line is that a growing marriage divide now runs through the heart of white America.

Brooks also cites the marriage gap alongside other factors (using the word "tribes" rather than "class" to emphasize the "tenuous common culture linking them"), but links them to the gap in behavior that he feels is Murray's chief contribution:

Worse, there are vast behavioral gaps between the educated upper tribe (20 percent of the country) and the lower tribe (30 percent of the country). ...

Roughly 7 percent of the white kids in the upper tribe are born out of wedlock, compared with roughly 45 percent of the kids in the lower tribe. In the upper tribe, nearly every man aged 30 to 49 is in the labor force. In the lower tribe, men in their prime working ages have been steadily dropping out of the labor force, in good times and bad.

People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese.

Wilcox points where this disparity in values and behavior cashes out:

The economic and political success of the American experiment has depended in large part on the health of these founding virtues. Businesses cannot flourish if ordinary workers are not industrious. The scope and cost of government grows, and liberty withers, when the family breaks down. As James Madison wrote: "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea."

This is certain to prompt some heated discussion in the coming months. The statement above is too vague to draw significant conclusions, which will come only from a careful reading of Murray's book. Of course, the role of virtue, or ethics in general, among all members of society and its importance to the economy in particular is of great interest to us at this blog. (Start reading, Jonathan!)

Brooks applies Murray's results to the rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle:

Murray’s story contradicts the ideologies of both parties. Republicans claim that America is threatened by a decadent cultural elite that corrupts regular Americans, who love God, country and traditional values. That story is false. The cultural elites live more conservative, traditionalist lives than the cultural masses.

Democrats claim America is threatened by the financial elite, who hog society’s resources. But that’s a distraction. The real social gap is between the top 20 percent and the lower 30 percent. The liberal members of the upper tribe latch onto this top 1 percent narrative because it excuses them from the central role they themselves are playing in driving inequality and unfairness.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I think the most fascinating part of this discussion is how income inequality and cultural inequality interact. In particular, I wonder how much of the decline in "virtuous" behavior that Murray observes among the poor is a result of choices driven by poverty (scarcity), and how much have those behaviors perpetuated that poverty. (This is not to excuse this behavior, necessary, but to understand it better.) And by the same token, the wealthy can certainly be applauded for their virtuous behavior, but to a certain extent it is easier to be good when you have the means, and the extent to which this plays a role should be acknowledged as well.

Whether Murray discusses this issue in these exact terms remains to be seen (after I read the book!), but he does make a political statement, summarized by Roger Lowenstein in his review of the book in Businessweek:

One question I wish he had taken up: Are the “new upper class” and the problems of the lower class related? Coming Apart treats them as separate. That gets to my frustration, which arises in the concluding section. Until then, Murray had merely diagnosed the cultural divide. Now he claims to know the causes. He blames the government and the “welfare state.” This section brims with political resentments; the carefully researched facts give way to bitter generalizations such as “only a government could spend so much money so inefficiently.” The author who tactfully, and wryly, demonstrated how little readers know about the lives of working-class whites, writes of “bureaucrats” with no appreciation, or even interest, in what they actually do. He does not explain why social cohesion should be less today when the Great Society experiment peaked in the 1960s. While blaming the debilitating effect on incentives of social programs, he fails to acknowledge the idea that most Americans probably feel less coddled, less protected today than in 1970.

It's interesting that both Brooks and Wilcox left this part out of their reviews, while endorsing more activist policies on the part of the government to shore up the working class. As valuable as Murray's empirical observations are, it is crucial that we understand them, interpret them, and act on them in a way that doesn't make the situation worse--whatever that may mean.


Reflections on Grading and Inequality

Jonathan B. Wight

Why do students compete for grades? An obvious answer is that they want higher scores so that they can get into graduate school or look more attractive to recruiters from consulting companies. Higher grades lead to more bucks earned after graduation.

What's interesting is that it doesn't take very much inequality to get students to ramp up the hours studying:

A mere 12% increase in score induces some students to knock themselves out to get an A rather than a B!

Of course, the rewards for getting an A are more than just the numerical gain; being scarce, A's offer huge psychic rewards as well as potential pecuniary rewards greater than 12%.

In the raging debate over income inequality the argument is often presented that unequal incomes spur productive behaviors that otherwise would be withheld for lack of incentive. This is surely true, but the advocates of this viewpoint have little empirical evidence to argue that a "huge" difference is needed to spur that activity.

Rather, people fight heroically over quite small differences in rewards—primarily because the reward itself is a symbol of social standing or intrinsic excellence. Some students, for example, want to view themselves as masters of the material or essential lovers of the subject and will work for no "pay" (e.g., they audit or do extra work).

In the wider world Adam Smith argued that the most ambitious businessman really just wants recognition for the rivalry involved or the excellence of the work. Hence, the "necessity" of social recognition promotes profound exertions, without requiring huge financial rewards (e.g., "great objects"):

In every profession, the exertion of the greater part of those who exercise it, is always in proportion to the necessity they are under of making that exertion…. The greatness of the objects which are to be acquired by success in some particular professions may, no doubt, sometimes animate the exertion of a few men of extraordinary spirit and ambition. Great objects, however, are evidently not necessary in order to occasion the greatest exertions. Rivalship and emulation render excellency, even in mean professions, an object of ambition, and frequently occasion the very greatest exertions (Wealth of Nations, Liberty Fund Edition, 493-494).

What is the lesson? Those who advocate for equal distribution of rewards—there are not many in this day and age—are sadly misguided, and perhaps misunderstand human nature. Inequality is good—but here's the main point—huge inequality is not necessary to bring out the human passion for exceling and competing. This does not constitute an argument in favor of government distribution, but presents a counter-argument to those who proclaim as "fact" something that is apparently untrue.

Large inequality is not necessary for markets to function. At least, that's the lesson [from grading] in my classroom. But there would be a riot if points were not awarded "fairly" according to the contract in the syllabus! So justice first, and mild inequality second, are the prerequisite institutions needed. [Clarification added.]


New issue of Social Philosophy and Policy: New Essays in Political and Social Philosophy

Mark D. White

Spp29-1Always an essential read, the latest issue of Social Philosophy and Policy (29/1, January 2012) has the theme of "New Essays in Political and Social Philosophy," and features essays by some of biggest names in those fields (not to mention legal philosophy):

POLITICAL LIBERTY: WHO NEEDS IT?, Jason Brennan

STATE COERCION AND FORCE, Christopher W. Morris

DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY AND ECONOMIC LIBERTY, John Tomasi

WHO OWNS WHAT? SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE FOUNDATION OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, Lloyd P. Gerson

HUMAN REPRODUCTIVE INTERESTS: PUZZLES AT THE PERIPHERY OF THE PROPERTY PARADIGM, Donald C. Hubin

WHY FREE TRADE IS REQUIRED BY JUSTICE, Fernando R. Tesón

STRUCTURAL EXPLOITATION, Matt Zwolinski

RESCUING JUSTICE FROM EQUALITY, Steven Wall

REINTERPRETING RAWLS'S THE LAW OF PEOPLES, Christopher Heath Wellman

RESPONSIBLE CHOICES, DESERT-BASED LEGAL INSTITUTIONS, AND THE CHALLENGES OF CONTEMPORARY NEUROSCIENCE, Michael S. Moore

GENOCIDE AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: DISPELLING THE CONCEPTUAL FOG, Andrew Altman

HARM AND THE VOLENTI PRINCIPLE, Gerald Dworkin

EDUCATION AND THE MODERN STATE, Anthony O'Hear


Call for papers: 14th World Congress in Social Economics, "Towards an Ethical Economy and Economics"

Mark D. White

From the Social Economics Blog:

ASSOCIATION for SOCIAL ECONOMICS
 
14th WORLD CONGRESS IN SOCIAL ECONOMICS
 
CALL FOR PAPERS
 
University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, June 20-22, 2012
 
"Towards an Ethical Economy and Economics"

The on-going financial crisis continues to evolve from one centered on the Western financial system to sovereign debt crisis, particularly in the Euro-zone. This has brought into sharp relief the inadequacy of standard approaches that emphasise the economy as inherently stable and the incapacity of the current economic system to address its fundamental problems. The crisis has also raised a host of ethical issues revolving around the actions of governments, the financial sector, communities, individuals, and, indeed, the economics profession. The financial crisis has further revealed the reliance on conventional notions of growth to sustain mass consumption and as a vehicle for addressing recessionary pressures, largely ignoring concerns over environmental sustainability and increasing inequalities. Social economics, with its focus on the social values and relationships that drive the market-based system, is well-placed to offer insightful analyses of the present state of economies and of economics and to offer an outlet for discussion of alternatives founded on the notion of the economy as the process of social provisioning.

See here for more details...