Economic Justice

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Economic Justice, what is economic justice, and is it truly just? MacKinnon opens this chapter with a conversation between two people who have different views on the subject. One believes that wealthy citizens have a right to keep the wealth that they obtain; while the other believes that it is the responsibility of the wealthy to share their good fortune. This conversation raises the questions; what does society owe its citizens, and what do citizens owe society.

One issue that is raised while discussing economic justice is income inequality. MacKinnon addresses this issue by pointing out that according to inequality.org the richest one percent of households now owns 34.3 percent of the nation’s private wealth. (MacKinnon p.283) She also points out that this amounts to more wealth than the bottom 90% of households combined. She provides us with statistics that show, on average women earn less than men, and that white men in general earn much more than black men or Hispanics. She also gives us some reasons for this, such as; women often leave work to care for family members, and black men along with Hispanics lack the education needed to earn more. Most people in society find these inequalities unjust. MacKinnon quotes the former chair of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan as saying, “Income inequality is where the capitalist system is most vulnerable.” Income inequality is not the only issue related to economic justice, health care is another area where many suffer inequality. Although our system provides Medicare for the elderly it does not cover all costs. Our system also provides Medicaid to the poor which allows them access to medical attention, but provides no coverage for the working poor. Roughly 60% of all workers get their health insurance from their employers and the majority of the others have no coverage at all. These people risk spending their life savings on medical cost, therefore many of them don’t seek the medical attention they need. MacKinnon points out that poverty plays a role in a person’s health as well. Most poor people cannot afford to eat a healthy diet and are therefore the most likely to be overweight and unhealthy. This brings us to the question; if income inequality and health care inequality are considered unjust, what would be considered just. This leads MacKinnon to the topics of justice, charity, and efficiency. She begins by explaining the difference between justice and charity. MacKinnon describes justice as a moral obligation to give people what they have a natural right to receive; whereas, she describes charity as anything given beyond what a person has a right to receive. Just as justice and charity play a role in economic justice, so too does efficiency and liberty. Efficiency is a measure of effectiveness that describes how well an economic system is operating and liberty gives us the freedom to choose the economic system that we operate. According to MacKinnon many people believe that a free market economy is the most efficient system because it is the easiest to create wealth. It is also consider an unjust system because of issues such as income inequality and health care inequality which we have already mentioned. All of these economic issues lead us to the question of distributive justice; how wealth is distributed in society. MacKinnon discusses two different ways to examine distributive justice. The first type that she discusses is called process distributive justice. This is a view that some philosophers have that feels that as long as the means by which the wealth was obtained was just, then it is not unjust to for the rich to keep their wealth. She points us to the reading by Robert Nozick for an example of this view. Nozick first states in his writing that the term redistributive justice may be misleading. Therefore, he uses the term justice in holdings. This view holds that if something is acquired by just means than it is not unjust to keep it. Another term he...
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