Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 18: Equity
Bernard Hodgson By ‘equity’ for the purposes of this chapter we shall understand the principles of moral justice as they apply to economic activities. More particularly, we shall concentrate on the issue of distributive justice or the criteria for the fair allocation of the material benefits and burdens among the participants in a particular economy. However, such an inquiry also has significant implications for questions concerning commutative and social justice. We shall pursue these implications from a contemporary vantage point at the intersection of philosophy and economics. The perspective taken within the latter discipline is that of the ‘orthodox’ tradition of classical and neoclassical theory. As we shall learn, an analysis of moral equity within economic ethics faces a deep conundrum. The initial standpoint and its criticism A good deal is at stake philosophically in addressing questions of justice. Of all moral ideals, the criteria of justice seem based in the provenance of pure reason itself. Most critically, the imperatives of justice do not permit individuals to make exceptions in their own favour. This practical consistency or impartiality rule is most compelling when understood as an extension of our basic intuitive repugnance to avowing a formal contradiction (x is M and x is not M) to practical contexts bearing on the avower. For example, I should be allocated good B in circumstances C but not another person P in the same circumstances. Barring exceptive conditions, from the point of view of justice, persons as persons are moral equals. Aristotle, characteristically,...
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