Show Less

Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 2: Social Justice Examined: With a Little Help from Adam Smith

Anthony de Jasay


Anthony de Jasay 1 INTRODUCTION We shall not go far wrong if we think of justice as a quality that members of groups who habitually congregate together would wish their relations to have – at least most of the time. Justice, then, is intrinsically ‘social’. It would have no meaning with respect to an isolated individual. If so, it is hard to see what the word ‘social’ is doing in the phrase ‘social justice’. It looks very much like a harmless pleonasm – though it may be suspected that expressions loaded with superfluous words are seldom quite harmless. It goes with ‘social justice’ as with ‘distributive justice’, and the two are frequently treated as synonymous. All justice is distributive, either because benefits and burdens accruing to persons are generated in obedience to the rules of justice (notably those relating to property and contract), or because they are generated in violation of them and attract redress and retribution. However, while ‘distributive’ may be a redundant word, it has an empirical content that is not too hard to understand. The ‘social’ in ‘social justice’ has no discernible meaning apart from its being a term of approbation; ‘social’ is something good, and its immense strength comes in large part from its inchoate vagueness. If social justice is not a harmless pleonasm, what is it? I think we come closest if we treat it as a password that, once uttered, validates claims for altering the distributional status quo. Its name carries the tacit suggestion...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.