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Edited by John B. Davis, Alain Marciano and Jochen Runde
Chapter 7: Normative Economics and Theories of Distributive Justice
Marc Fleurbaey 1. Introduction The deﬁnition of what is good or just for society is not only important for political philosophy, it is also essential for economics insofar as the latter is involved in policy decision-making with consequences for the well-being of the population. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an impressive joint effort in both disciplines to put some order into the various arguments and basic principles which may be relevant to the deﬁnition of a ‘just’ or a ‘good’ society, and to develop comprehensive doctrines and rigorous methods. Three historical lines of thought about social justice provide the background of the more recent developments. The ﬁrst is utilitarianism, a doctrine initiated by Jeremy Bentham, and oriented toward ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’, in its founder’s words.1 The utilitarian approach views happiness as the primary goal of human life, or at least as the goal which ought to be promoted by social and collective policies. The second pillar is libertarianism, whose core value is freedom, and focuses on individual rights rather than happiness. John Locke is commonly considered to be one of the ﬁrst prominent authors in this line. The third historical pillar has been egalitarianism, the development of which can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx, and which focused initially on the distribution of social advantage. Actually, utilitarianism and libertarianism have a signiﬁcantly egalitarian ﬂavor too, because utilitarianism is based on the principle that every individual should be...
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