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November 25, 20121 response
November 1, 20121 response
Dear Ambitious Student - What an assignment! What you propose to write could indeed be a book instead of a research paper, so my hat is off to you and your ambitions. As a piece of advice, you might want to check with your professor (before the assignment is due) to see if there is a way to meet the requirements of the assignment, but evaluate the issues in a more specific way. This might help you to narrow down your research. In am not sure, for example, you need to do a whole review of moral theory in order to write a paper about economic justice.
As far as resources, I recommend beginning with the online (and free!) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Perhaps begin by searching articles in justice or economics. Besides the numerous articles, be sure to make use of the bibliographies at the end of them. You will get a sense of who the major names are, both historically and today. Good luck!
September 22, 20121 response
September 22, 20121 response
I don't think you are right, many people in the past thought that slavery was unproblematic, and based on the natural differences that exist between people. In just the same way that today we think it is OK for animals to work for us and be eaten by us, and for plants to be used by us, so some argued that slaves and the group they came from were so different from their owners that different treatment was appropriate.
I have been to countries where slavery still exists, informally if not entirely legally, and the same justification is used today as was used in the past.
August 9, 20121 response
July 5, 20121 response
June 28, 20121 response
You've raised a good and complicated question. Let's leave the word "created" aside, since if it has its religious meaning, many people won't find it self-evident.
I take the claim that "all men are equal" to be a way of saying what philosophers put this way: "All persons are entitled to equal moral consideration." It's not an empirical claim, since we don't get the answers to broad questions of moral principle by adding up the facts, though as we'll note below, empirical facts can be relevant to applying the principle.
Notice a few things the principle doesn't say. First, it doesn't say what a person is; that's a hard question that we'll set aside. Second, it doesn't say that only persons are entitled to moral consideration. It might be that some animals are. It might even be - on some views - that parts of inanimate nature are too. Third, and perhaps more relevant to your question, it doesn't say that all persons have the same detailed rights. 10-year-olds don't have the right to marry or to enter into contracts. Murderers don't have the right to roam the streets freely. And people with intellectual handicaps may lack some rights as well, though the devil is in the details.
What specific rights a person has depends partly on matters of facts; what abilities a person has might well be relevant; past actions might be relevant; how others have treated him or her may be relevant. The point of the slogan is that in deciding if someone is entitled to certain rights, only the morally relevant considerations be applied, and they should be applied even-handedly. If some characteristic is relevant (intellectual capacity may sometimes be), then it doesn't violate the principle of equal moral consideration to grant people different rights depending on whether they have the characteristic or not. What would violate the principle is to ignore the morally relevant distinctions to someone's advantage or disadvantage.
Maybe the simplest way to put it is this: the principle says that people are entitled not to be treated arbitrarily. But paying attention to relevant distinctions isn't arbitrary and so this idea of moral equality doesn't call for granting everyone the same detailed rights.
March 31, 20121 response
February 29, 20121 response
I don't know what it means for an economic system to benefit. But it seems plausible that some people benefit at the expense of those who are most exploited. I don't see how this benefit is supposed to defeat the proposition that the human race has a responsibility to eradicate poverty -- typically the cost of the exploitation to the exploited is much greater than the benefit of the exploitation to the exploiters and typically, moreover, the assignment of roles is deeply unfair (e.g., tarnished by historical wrongs that led to some being born privileged and others disadvantaged).
Currently, the poorest quarter of humanity has about 0.78 percent of global household income. This means that these 1.8 billion people, on average, have about 1/32 of the global average income. More than half of them are chronically undernourished, and most suffer one or another severe deprivation. Had the poorest quarter maintained its 1988 share of global household income, its share would now be greater by about half -- 1.16 rather than 0.78 percent of global household income -- and most of today's extreme poverty would then not exist (figures from Branko Milanovic, World Bank, reflecting market exchange rates). Had we allowed the poor to participate proportionately in global economic growth, the world would be much like it is today: still very unequal (with the poorest quarter, on average, at 1/21 of global average income). But the death toll and suffering from poverty would be much lower than they in fact are today.
For a viable system where the economic playing field is more level, you might look at the European Union, which displays only mild inter- and intra-national inequalities. The top fifth of EU citizens have about five times as much income as the bottom fifth -- the corresponding ratio for humankind is 162:1. A crucial cause and effect of lower income inequality is a fairer distribution of starting positions: in the EU, even those born into the bottom quarter have a fair chance to receive a decent education and to work their way into a satisfying job or even into a leadership position. As the percentage of those who have good educational and employment opportunities increases, the market premium for the more challenging jobs tends to diminish.
Some countries have considerably lower income inequality than the EU. In Sweden, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Japan, for instance, the ratio between the richest and the poorest fifths is below 4:1. What is the value of money in such a low-inequality environment, you ask. When inequality is low, then money has little value as a marker of hierarchy. You cannot feel very special on account of being able to afford things when very many others can afford them as well. But the institution of money is valuable in other ways: as a rough indicator of what people contribute to society and what they take from the social product, for example. Money is also extremely useful for facilitating exchanges and thereby for communicating demand and supply information throughout an economy so as to enable market participants to adjust their conduct toward better coordination and fulfilment of their individual preferences.
While greater equality would massively increase efficiency by allowing many more people to develop their talents and then to compete for the more important social roles, the abolition of money would greatly reduce efficiency in any modern economy above the size of a village.
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