Distributive Justice


(1)   Martin E. Sandbu, Just Business: Arguments in Business Ethics (Prentice Hall, 2011).

(2)   Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (New York, 2012).

The learning objective of the final course discussion is to prompt you to think about the problem of distributive justice within the context of a capitalist society and the framework of a market economy. As Sandbu points out in the introduction to chapter 11, “business decisions cannot avoid affecting the distribution of incomes and wealth.” “If business creates value, who ought to get what share of the created value?” Since business activity also destroys value, we also need to ask “Who ought to bear what share of the loss when business destroys value?” (Sandbu, p. 159) The answer to these questions requires a theory of distributive justice. Your task is to familiarize yourself with the several alternative accounts of distributive justice analyzed by Sandbu–viz. utilitarianism, Robert Nozick’s libertarianism and John Rawls’s social contract theory of justice–and to articulate briefly the advantages and disadvantages of each theory.

Please, respond to the following question groups in no less than two paragraphs each:

(1) What is the problem of “deservingness”? In other words, why is it the case that claims about moral desert–i.e. claims about what people deserve–are neither sufficient nor necessary for determining the justice of the market’s distribution of income and wealth? (Sandbu, pp.160-66)

(2) How is distributive justice understood within the utilitarian ethical tradition? And what is meant by the diminishing marginal utility of money? Lastly, how would utilitarianism solve the problem of Lee Raymond’s executive compensation? (Sandbu, pp. 166-69)

(3) What is Robert Nozick’s understanding of distributive justice? In other words, how does a libertarian like Nozick justify entitlements? Keeping in mind Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain example, how would a libertarian solve the problem of Lee Raymond’s executive compensation? (Sandbu, pp. 169-71)

(4) What principles of justice would rational people agree to in John Rawls’s hypothetical “veil of ignorance” social contract thought-experiment and why? Explain the implications of Rawls’s difference principle (on p. 175) for business ethics. (Sandbu, pp. 172-76)