Economic Justice

Prentice Hall
Stephen Nathanson  
Total pages
June 1997
Related Titles


The text is appropriate for a wide range of undergraduate college courses that cover issues such as political philosophy, ethics, contemporary issues, or economic justice offered by Philosophy, Economics, Political Science, or Sociology departments.

This is an introduction to the philosophy of economic justice. Three kinds of economic systems are described: libertarian capitalism, state socialism, and the welfare state with the purpose of determining which best satisfies the requirements of economic justice. Each system is then evaluated from the perspective of three central, widely recognized values: promoting human well-being, giving people what they deserve, and promoting human liberty. Though the book does defend a particular position, it is also written to encourage students to think about the issues intelligently and form their own educated views on the subject.


  • Presented in a clear and readable style to ensure and enhance student comprehension of the material. Pg.___
  • Explains the central ideas on the nature of capitalism, socialism, and the welfare state. Pg.___
  • Provides clear, concise discussions of the major theorists: Marx, Nozick, and Rawls. Pg.___
  • Illuminates current debates about whether government should provide resources to its citizens, what citizens are entitled to, and what duties citizens have in paying taxes to support government programs. Pg.___
  • Illustrates the issues in the first chapter within “real life” contexts that help students see their effects. Pg.___
  • Uses evaluative criteria that students can understand by asking which system promotes well-being, gives people what that deserve, and protects our liberty. The basic concepts and arguments in the book are neither technical nor of purely academic concern. Pg.___
  • Provides coverage of the major ideas and thinkers, but avoids the dryness of many other textbooks. Pg.___
  • Provides a brief “summing up” section in each chapter. Pg.___

Table of Contents


1. Introduction.

Vast Disparities of Wealth. Are Disparities Defensible? The Problem of Just Wages. Justice and Political Legitimacy. What's Ahead.

2. Three Views.

Capitalism. Private Ownership of Property. The Market System of Production and Distribution. To Each, According to . . . Socialism. Public Ownership of Property. A Planned Economy. To Each, According to . . . The Welfare State. Ownership of Property. A Market Distribution with Supplements. To Each, According to . . . Summing Up.

3. The Case for Libertarian Capitalism.

Productivity and Well-being. The Utilitarian Argument. Rewards for the Deserving. Liberty and Justice: The Entitlement Theory. The Case Against Government Intervention. The Overall Argument. Summing Up.

4. Socialism and the Critique of Capitalism.

Does Capitalism Maximize Human Well-Being? The Distribution of Wealth. Does Capitalism Reward the Deserving? Socialism and Desert. Capitalism, Socialism, and Individual Liberty. How Liberty Upsets Liberty. The Case for Socialism. Summing Up.


5. Promoting Well-Being.

Assessing Capitalism and Socialism. The Utilitarian Argument. The Capitalist Reply to the Marginal Utility Argument. Are There Other Motivations? Back to the Present. The Welfare State Solution. Playing It By Ear. The Limits on Utilitarian Arguments. Summing Up.

6. Rewarding the Deserving.

How Do We Tell What People Deserve? Moral Desert. Supply and Demand. Inherited Advantages. Moral Desert as a Patterned Conception of Justice. Socialism and Desert. The Rejection of the Personal Desert Criterion. Does Socialism Give People What They Deserve? The Welfare State Solution. Is the Personal Desert Criterion Adequate? Summing Up.

7. Protecting Liberty.

Capitalist versus Socialist Freedom. Socialism as a Threat to Freedom. The Welfare State Solution. Nozick's Challenge to the Welfare State. Does Liberty Upset Patterns? Is Taxation on a Par with Forced Labor? Where Do We Stand?


8. Rawl's Defense of the Liberal Democratic Welfare State.

Rawl's Method. The Original Position. The Veil of Ignorance. The Two Principles of Justice. The Difference Principle. Defending the Difference Principle. A Second Rawlsian Argument. Fair Equality of Opportunity. Implications for the Welfare State. Evaluating Rawlsian Justice. The Social Contract Method. The Difference Principle and Economic Justice. Some Morals of the Story. Summing Up.

9. What Should Welfare States Provide?

How Much “Welfare?” The Emergency Relief State. Limitations of the Emergency Relief State. The Comprehensive Welfare State. Isn't This Socialism? In Defense of the Comprehensive Welfare State. Summing Up.

10. The Comprehensive Welfare State: Objections and Replies.

Libertarianism and the Function of Government. Encouraging Dependency. Incentive, Again. Do Nonworkers Deserve Resources? Is Equal Opportunity Enough? Summing Up.

11. The Bottom Line.

Vast Disparities. The Problem of Just Wages. Justice and Political Legitimacy. Utopian? Unrealistic?

For Further Reading.