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An Ethic of Social Justice

An Ethic of Social Justice

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Published by jason_polen

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Published by: jason_polen on Feb 15, 2011
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 Jason PolenPLSC 432 Ethic of Social Justice10/12/09
´A Nation·s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.µ
My primary social principle
is a deontological statement that describes the obligatoryrole society has to everyone, not just ´the individualµ.
Society·s primary goal should be raising theminimum standard of living for everyone
. This primary principle assumes societies are capable ofmeeting peoples·
needs and people are willing to make sacrifices. This principle is derivedfrom the Kantian sense of ´Dutyµ, but instead of describing the duty of individuals, I amreferring to the collective duty society should have to
its members. This type of duty isutilitarian because it aims to generate the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount ofpeople. However, my idea of society·s duty is different than utilitarianism because it rejects theimplication of and excluded minority. Utilitarianism creates a false dilemma; while
maybe forced to make extreme utilitarian choices, society as a whole is not subject to these sameharsh realities. There are enough resources for everyone·s basic needs to be met, and evenenough for everyone to live very well. With technology and progressive allocation of resources,I believe
should have access to nutrition, healthcare, a job, education, time for leisure,the means to raise a healthy family, and a life free from worry about how to acquire these basicneeds. The subsequent three principles are teleological targets that more specifically express
society should reach a minimum standard of living and continue to raise that standard.The term ´minimum living standardsµ is culturally and historically relative, andtherefore dynamic. My second principle addresses this relativity by further defining the idealrelationship between rich and poor.
 As society progresses, living standards of the poor should increase
at a significantly higher rate than those of the wealthy.
What is now being called, ´the gapµ refers tothe increasing discrepancy between rich and poor. The diminishing marginal utility, also autilitarian concept, points to a logical resolution for reversing the gap trend. Society shouldfocus its resources where they will make the most difference: on the poor. Mahatma Gandhicaptured the essence of this principle when he said, ´A nation·s greatness is measured by how ittreats its weakest membersµ. The more society raises the standard of living the better societywill be as a whole.This second principle has a limit; it is not meant to create a perfectly equal societyregardless of talent. John Rawls· ´difference principleµ is very similar to my second principlebecause they both accept a reasonable amount of inequality, while emphasizing raising theminimum standard of living. Reasonable inequalities in the distribution of resources should beattached to peoples· ability to contribute to society. Those who can offer more skills should berewarded accordingly, but not to the point where their rewards hinder growth in the lowestparts of society. Making as many ´Pareto improvementsµ as possible will help society reach´Pareto optimumµ, where an increase in wealth cannot occur without a decrease for someoneelse. At this point society should follow my second principle by taking actions that only alterthe balance of wealth in favor of the poor. This is also limited to the extent that people losingwealth, in this case the rich, retain their personal liberty outlined in my third principle.My third principle says,
individuals· liberty should be maximized, as long as it does not harmother people or society as a whole.
This teleological principle aims to
societies· decisionstoward outcomes that favor the less wealthy, without extensively hindering the freedoms of themore wealthy. The wealthier people in society have a right to enjoy a higher standard of livingthan the less wealthy. A certain amount of inequality is actually good for society as whole
because it creates incentives for innovation. Classical liberal economists claim any barrier topeoples· prosperity hinders innovation by reducing our incentive to work. This is a completeoversimplification that assumes human beings are incapable of comprehending short termsacrifices, say in the form of taxes, can benefit society and themselves in the long run.The qualifying statement of this principle is the most important. ´Harming people orsocietyµ is considered
that has a net decrease on society·s minimum standards ofliving. I specify
decrease because some things may hurt one aspect of society whiledrastically helping another. For example, creating a law that says all grocery stores must givefree food to those who cannot afford it. Deciding who cannot afford food would have to bedetermined. The result would drastically increase the living standards of the poor, but havesome negative economic implications for the rich. In this case the benefits to the poor should beconsidered above all else.My fourth principle says,
everyone should have the opportunity to compete in the variousaspects of the economy.
John Locke said everyone has the right to ´life, liberty, and the pursuit ofpropertyµ. This vague statement begs the question: what is the best way for society to deliverthese basic rights? First, the structures of society have to be shaped in a way that is effective togenerating these opportunities for everyone. Finding ways to including everyone in economicendeavors is productive to society and beneficial for people too. Durkheim·s concept of´anomieµ is a result of utilitarianism·s shortcomings: people are left out. Second, this structurehas to close the gap of inequality, while still maintaining incentives for innovation. This is adifficult, but defiantly possible task.
Accepting vast inequality
attempting to create perfect equality is unethical andagainst human nature. My social principles are based on two assumptions about people.

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