Saturday, October 17, 2009
Task 1: Social justice
What is social justice?
Social justice in the U.S. is social justice in the context of a mixed market economy. As such, I would say it's whatever has to happen to make sure people can participate equally in the market, as both producers and consumers. It is necessary that everyone has access to both sides.
Does this mean I think everyone should have the same amount to spend? No. Does it mean I think that everyone should have a fair chance to earn as much as anyone else? Yes.
What about people that work just as hard but don't make as much money? Okun made this point. The problem with income being linked to production is that it's not necessarily linked. We see this, too, with labor. It can be argued that education takes someone into higher earnings and a person can choose to invest in their education, but if we're going to accept this then we have a lot to do to ensure equal (equitable?) access to education.
The care of the natural environment--insofar as it is, by its very nature, a common resource--is part and parcel of social justice. If anybody damages the natural environment, all eventually suffer for it. Thus, it is an abuse of power, and not just, to do so. A socially just society would ensure that no one suffers for anyone else's meddling in the environment.
So what are the obstacles to equal participation in a mixed market economy? This could be a laundry list. The one I keep thinking about now is race, because it's so insidious. You could provide universal health care, education and all the educational support in the world, affordable housing and so on, but if in the end white people are still the employers and are more likely to hire white people, than you got a problem. So I suppose communities of color have to be empowered to be employers as well, which means targeted economic development among communities of color. This development would have to be collaborative so that the communities feel and have genuine ownership in the process.
So, besides universal state provisions--those things that could be "decommodified," such as health care and education--I think it's really important to empower disadvantaged groups to be producers as well as consumers. It's like the promise of communism ("seize the means of production!") but in a market economy.
A mixed market economy. I'm not sure we'd ever get anywhere without the state supplying certain services equally. I suppose the current batch of health care reform is just a tweak in that direction.
Posted by Matt at 3:47 PM