Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Distributive Justice Summary, Reading #3

Julian Lamont’s entry on “Distributive Justice” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy briefly summarizes six different principles on how best to distribute goods and services including the main critiques of each principle. Strict Egalitarianism states that all goods and services should be distributed equally to all people, no matter what. The main critique on Strict Egalitarianism is that people’s material goods do not have to be strictly equal in order for people to be better off. The Difference Principle states that wealth does not have to distributed equally as long as the least advantaged have a larger benefit. The Difference Principle focuses on the relative position of different groups rather than exact equality. This principle is heavily criticized. Resource-Based Principles grew out of the Difference Principle but seeks to distribute goods based on people’s choices and talents. Welfare-Based Principles seek to increase welfare of the people with a focus on the Utilitarian line of thought. It is almost impossible to determine a person’s welfare quantitatively, making it almost impossible for proponents to agree on how to apply this principle. Desert-Based Principles examines people’s contributions, efforts, and/or compensations to determine how to distribute goods and services. A criticism is that economic distribution is based on factors out of an individuals control. Libertarian Principles look at the market as being just in and of itself based on the exchanges made. Implementing these principles is nigh impossible so they exist more as gedankenexperiment rather than viable alternatives to goods distribution. Not that any of them seem to really address the current unequal distribution to goods and services.


  1. I am really interested to know what the annual income would be if we lived in the theoretical strict egalitarian world.

    Does anyone know what world income/entire population would be? I'm also very curious to know what it would be for only the United States. All income earned the US divided by the number of people.

  2. I was curious about that too. So, I did a little digging and found the estimated US population at 305,704,432 based on the Census population clock around 9PM. However, that is everyone. The Census Bureau estimates that about 30% of the population are children, which leaves us with about 213,993,103 adults.

    On to the money...according to the CIA World Fact Book (, the estimated GDP for 2008 was $14.58 trillion, $2.524 in revenues. Looking just at the GDP, each adult what have $68,136, but $11,795 based on revenue. The second figure does not factor in the $2.979 trillion in expenditures, which could be used for public services, in a strictly egalitarian model.

    Thanks for asking that Sara, it was good time spent procrastinating.