How is Distributive Justice Possible?

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Wanpat Youngmevittaya

Abstract

Distributive justice is one of the most popular issues in the late 20th century AngloAmerican analytical political philosophy, at least since John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. This paper deals with the very broad conception of distributive justice – taking something coercively from someone and giving it to someone else – by asking the very fundamental question “how is distributive justice possible?” Even though this paper does not aim to tackle any certain theory of distributive justice, Rawlsian distributive justice is taken considerably because it captures the heart of concepts of distributive justice in general. My main argument is that distributive justice would be theoretically possible only if the following conditions are true metaphysically and epistemologically: (1) the identity of the person must be perceived as “I = WE, and WE = I,” (2) moral ties among certain people must be perceived as “constitutive” rather than “instrumental,” and (3) a particular conception of the good or merit must be prior to a conception of the right; these conditions make state coercion possible without failing to respect a person as an ends in themselves.

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