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LESSON 8:

JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS

Today, the topic of our discussion is Justice and Fairness. attention and care in his private affairs than he gives the children
of others; we think it is fair when the person who is first in a
Points to be covered in this lesson:
line at a theater is given first choice of theater tickets; we think it
• Concept of justice is just when the government gives benefits to the needy that it
Justice: The word “justice” is on everyone’s lips nowadays, and does not provide to more affluent citizens; we think it is just
may signify almost anything. We hear the cry “Peace and when some who have done wrong are given punishments that
Justice!” from people who would destroy existing societies with are not meted out to others who have done nothing wrong; and
fire and sword. Other people fancy that perfect justice might we think it is fair when those who exert more efforts or who
readily be obtained by certain financial rearrangements — as if make a greater contribution to a project receive more benefits
anything in this world ever could be perfected. from the project than others. These criteria—need, desert,
Very often we all say that the particular action was not justified. It contribution, and effort—we acknowledge as justifying
was not right on the part of that person to treat us like the way differential treatment, then, are numerous.
he or she did but do you know what is the meaning of justice On the other hand, there are also criteria that we believe are not
and fairness? Lets understand the meaning of these two terms. justifiable grounds for giving people different treatment. In the
“Justice is the ligament which holds civilized beings and world of work, for example, we generally hold that it is unjust to
civilized nations together,” said Daniel Webster at the funeral of give individual’s special treatment on the basis of age, sex, race,
Justice Joseph Story, in 1845. or their religious preferences. If the judge’s nephew receives a
suspended sentence for armed robbery when another offender
Fairness: Fairness is conformity with rules or standards and
unrelated to the judge goes to jail for the same crime, or the
ability to make judgments free from discrimination or dishon-
brother of the Director of Public Works gets the million dollar
esty
contract to install sprinklers on the municipal golf course despite
Disputes among individuals in business are often interlaced with lower bids from other contractors, we say that it’s unfair. We also
references to justice or to fairness. Justice and fairness are believe it isn’t fair when a person is punished for something over
essentially comparative. They are concerned with the compara- which he or she had no control, or isn’t compensated for a harm
tive treatment given to the members of a group when benefits he or she suffered. And the people involved in the “brown lung
and burdens are distributed, when rules and laws are adminis- hearings” felt that it wasn’t fair that some diseases were
tered, when members of a group cooperate or compete with provided with disability compensation, while other similar
each other, and when people are punished for the wrongs they diseases weren’t.
have done or compensated for the wrongs they have suffered.
Issues involving Justice and fairness are usually divided into
Standards of Justice are generally taken to be more important
three categories:
than utilitarian considerations, however, standards of Justice do
not generally override the moral rights of individuals. Principles • Distributive Justice (concerned with the fair distribution of
of Justice societies benefits and burdens),
The most fundamental principle of justice—one that has been • Retributive Justice (the just imposition of punishments and
widely accepted since it was first defined by Aristotle more than penalties upon those who do wrong),
two thousand years ago—is the principle that “equals should be • Compensatory Justice, (the just way of compensating people
treated equally and unequal unequally.” In its contemporary form, for what they lost when they were wronged buy others).
this principle is sometimes expressed as follows:
“Individuals should be treated the same, unless they differ in Distributive Justice
ways that are relevant to the situation in which they are in- When people’s desires and aversions exceed the adequacy of
volved.” For example, if Jack and Jill both do the same work, their resources, they are forced to develop principles for
and there are no relevant differences between them or the work allocating scarce benefits and undesirable burdens in ways that
they are doing, then in justice they should be paid the same are just and that resolve the conflicts in a fair way. The develop-
wages. And if Jack is paid more than Jill simply because he is a ment of such principles is the concern of distributive justice.
man, or because he is white, then we have an injustice—a form The fundamental principle of Distributed Justice may be
of discrimination—because race and sex are not relevant to expressed as follows:
normal work situations. Individuals who are similar in all respects relevant to the kind
There are, however, many differences that we deem as justifiable of treatment in question should be given similar benefits and
criteria for treating people differently. For example, we think it is burdens, even if they are dissimilar in other irrelevant respects;
fair and just when a parent gives his own children more and individuals who are dissimilar in a relevant respect ought to
be treated dissimilarly, in proportion to their dissimilarity.

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The fundamental principle of distributed Justice, is that equals • Productivity:
should be treated equally and unequal, unequally. It is based on a The better the quality of the individual’s contributed product
purely logical idea that we must be consistent in the way we treat the more compensation they should receive.
similar situations.
Problems related to this method of measurement:
If, for example, Vinod and Akanksha are both doing the same
It ignores peoples’ needs
work for me and there are no relevant differences between them
or the work they are doing, then in justice I should pay them • The needs of handicapped & other disadvantaged
equal wages. However, if Akanksha is working twice as long as people will not be met
Vinod and if length of working time is the relevant basis for It is hard to place an objective value on contributed products
determining wages on the sort of the work they are doing, then, • Especially in certain fields such as
to be just, I should pay Akanksha twice as much as Vinod.
• Artistic production
Justice as Equality: Egalitarianism • Science — especially basic research
Every person should be given exactly equal shares of a society’s
• Education
or a group’s benefits and burdens.
• Religion
Egalitarians base their view on the proposition that all human
beings are equal in some fundamental respect and that, in virtue of • Health care
this equality, each person has an equal claim to society’s goods. The better the quality of a person’s contributed product, the
Equality has been proposed as a principle of justice not only for more he or she should receive.
entire societies, but also within smaller groups or organizations. In order to deal with the second criticism the principle of
Justice Based on Contribution: Capitalist Justice contribution has been suggested. They say that the market
According to the Capitalist view, when people engage in economic forces of supply and demand should determine the value of a
exchanges with each other, what a person gets out of the exchange person’s product. The value of a product would then depend
should be at least equal in value to what he or she contributed. not on its intrinsic value but on the extent to which it is both
Justice means that the benefits a person receives should be relatively scarce and is viewed by buyers as desirable.
proportional to the value of his or her contribution. Benefits Justice based on Needs and Abilities: Socialism
should be distributed according to the value of the contribution The socialist principle states that:
the individual makes to a society, the task, a group, and foreign Work burdens should be distributed according to people’s
exchange. abilities and benefits should be distributed according to
The principle of contribution is the most widely used principle of people’s needs.
fairness used to establish salaries and wages in American This principle is based first on the idea that people realize their
companies. One of the assumptions behind the “Puritan ethic” is human potential by exercising their abilities in productive work.
that the harder one works, the more one deserves. The market The benefits produced through work should be used to
forces of supply and demand should determine the value of a promote happiness and well being and this means distributing
person’s product. them so that people’s basic biological and health needs are met,
But, how to measure the “value of contribution” of each and then using what is left over to meet people’s other non basic
individual. Answer to this given by capitalist is: needs.
Contribution of individuals should be measured in terms of: The principle of need and ability, however, is the principle that
• Work effort: tends to be least acknowledged in business. Needs and abilities
certainly should be taken into account when determining how
The greater the quantity of the individuals effort the greater
benefits and burdens should be distributed among the
their compensation should be: the harder you work the more
members of a society or group.
you should paid.
Problems related to this method of measurement: Justice as Freedom: Libertarianism
From each according to what he chooses to do, to each accord-
It ignores that how effectively you work
ing to what he makes for himself (perhaps with the contracted
• The incompetent drudge would be rewarded more aid of others) and what others choose to do for him and
than someone who produced more by working less. choose to give him of what they’ve been given previously
• If we reward people solely for their efforts and ignore (under this maxim) and haven’t yet extended or transferred.
their abilities and relative productivity, then talented and In general, people should be allowed to keep everything they
highly productive people will be given little incentive to make and everything they are freely given.
invest their talent and productivity in producing goods Criticism of Libertarianism:
for society.
• Libertarians only stress on one value that is the freedom from
the coercion of others and sacrifices all other rights and
values to it, without giving any reason that why this should
be done.

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This means that it would be wrong to tax one person (that is, take governed by those principles, but that they did not yet know
the persons money) in order to provide welfare benefits for what each of them would turn out to be like in that society.
someone else’s needs. Rawls refers to the situation of such an imaginary group of
• The critics of Libertarianism say, if people through no-fault of rational persons as the “original position”, and he refers to their
ignorance of any particulars about themselves as the “veil of
their own happen to be unable to care for themselves, their
ignorance”.
survival should not depend on the outside chance that others
will provide them with what they need. Retributive Justice
A person may be ill, handicapped, unable to obtain the tools or If the purpose of a punishment is to deter others from
land needed to produce goods, too old or too young to work, or committing the same wrong or to prevent the wrongdoer from
otherwise incapable of producing anything through his or her repeating the wrong, then punishment should not be greater
own efforts. And other people may refuse to provide that person than what is consistently necessary to achieve these aims.
with what he or she needs. According to libertarianism this person Compensatory Justice
should not get anything but critics say that this is not right Each • It concerns restoring to individuals what they have lost due
person’s life is of value and consequently each person should be to being wronged by another. We generally hold that when
cared for, even if this means coercing others into distributing one person wrongfully harms the interests of another
some of their surplus to the person. person, the wrongdoer has a moral duty to provide some
Justice as Fairness: Rawls form of restitution to the person he or she wronged.
By this time so many theories were discussed that a comprehen- • Insofar as possible the wrongdoer should restore the loss
sive theory capable of drawing these considerations together The most controversial forms of compensation undoubtedly
and fitting them together into a logical whole was needed. So are the “preferential treatment” programs that attempt to
that’s how John Rawl’s came up with this theory. remedy past injustices against groups. If a racial group, for
John Rawl’s theory is based on the assumption that conflicts example, has been unjustly discriminated against for an
involved should be settled by first devising a fair method for extended period of time in the past and its members conse-
choosing the principles by which conflicts will be resolved. The quently now hold the lowest economic and social positions in
principles of distributive Justice that Rawls proposes can be society, does justice require that members of that group be
paraphrased by saying that the distribution of benefits and compensated by being given special preference in hiring, training,
burdens in a society is just if, and only if: and promotion procedures? Or would such special treatment
itself be a violation of justice by violating the principle of equal
1. Each person has an equal right to the most extensive basic
treatment? Does justice legitimize quotas even if this requires
liberties compatible with similar liberties for all, and
turning down more highly qualified non- minorities? These are
2. Social and economic inequalities are arranged so that they are complex and involved questions that we will not be able to
both answer at this point.
a. To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons, and b.
Overview
Attached to offices and positions open to all under
• The most fundamental principle of justice is the principle
conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
that “equals should be treated equally and unequals
Principle 1 is called the Principle of Equal Liberty unequally.”
Essentially it says that each citizen’s liberties must be protected
• Issues involving justice and fairness – distributive justice,
from invasion by others and must be equal to those of others. retributive justice and compensatory justice.
Principle 2a is the Difference Principle
It assumes that a productive society will incorporate inequalities, Activity
but it then asserts that steps must be taken to improve the Briefly discuss the principles of justice. What are the different
position of the most needy members of society such as the sick types of justice?
and the disabled unless such improvements would so burden
society that they make everyone, including the needy, worse off
than before.
Principle 2b is the Principle of Fair Equality of Opportu-
nity
It says that everyone should be given and equal opportunity to
qualify for the more privileged positions in society’s institu- tions.
This means not only that job qualifications should be related to
the requirements of the job, but that each person must have
access to the training and education needed to qualify for the
desirable jobs.
Rawls principle of Justice consists of determining what
principles a group of rational self interested persons would
choose to live by, if they knew they would live in a society

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