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A Capitalist Conception of Justice

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1 A Capitalist Conception of Justice
By Irving Kristol

2 Adam Smith – the “intellectual father” of capitalism
In The Wealth of Nations he says People are economic beings who pursue their self-interest within a free market of barter and exchange that functions to get what each one needs (or wants) by giving what others need (or want). Although the resulting distribution of wealth will be unequal, it will be fair provided exchanges are freely made.

3 Capitalism in Action – One Red Paper Clip
1995 cube van (200k+ mi) Recording contract (complete CD with web marketing) 1 year free rent in Phoenix 1 afternoon with Alice Cooper KISS snowglobe Role in Corbin Bernsen movie House in Kipling, Sask – 7/12/2006 Starts with one red paper clip – 7/12/2005 Fish pen E.T. doorknob Coleman stove 1000 watt generator 1 keg of beer + 1 Budweiser sign Skiddoo Trip for two to Yahk, BC (pop. 400)

4 Adam Smith – second verse
In The Theory of Moral Sentiments he says People also are social beings who have sympathy for their fellow human beings who, for one reason or another, are unable to fully participate in the free market of economic exchange AND therefore have unmet needs. Help should be given such people, but it should exist outside the market and should flow from individual feeling rather than from authoritarian decisions by the government.

5 Kristol’s “Capitalist Conception of Justice”
“Capitalist justice”  “Social justice” Capitalist justice = equality before the law + equality of political rights + equality of economic opportunity. Capitalist justice  economic equality in fact. “Social justice” adds the idea of economic equality. A free market will raise the tide and thus float more boats, NOT make all boats equal However, the resulting unequal distribution of wealth will be whatever it turns out to be -- and by definition it will be as “just” as the free market can make it.

6 Kristol’s “Capitalist Conception of Justice,” continued
Authoritarian manipulation of the free market is not the answer. Overall production of wealth will be decreased. No clear standard for the fairest redistribution of wealth. Voluntary redistribution of wealth is, however, consistent with free market economics. What does this mean for taxes?

7 Rawls remembered. Rawls’ second principle assumes an unequal distribution of benefits in society. And Rawls provides a basis for asking whether a particular pattern of inequality is fair. Thought experiment: original position & veil of ignorance. Principle: the inequality must benefit everyone to some degree, particularly the less advantaged. This could provide a basis for voluntary redistribution.

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