Theories Of Distributive Justice / Edition 1

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Overview

Equally at home in economic theory and political philosophy, John Roemer has written a unique book that critiques economists' conceptions of justice from a philosophical perspective and philosophical theories of distributive justice from an economic one. He unites the economist's skill in constructing precise, axiomatic models with the philosopher's in exploring the assumptions of those models. His synthesis will enable philosophers and economists to engage each other's ideas more fruitfully.

Roemer first shows how economists' understanding of the fairness of various resource allocation mechanisms can be enriched. He extends the economic theory of social choice to show how individual preferences can be aggregated into social preferences over various alternatives. He critiques the standard applications of axiomatic bargaining theory to distributive justice, showing that they ignore information on available resources and preference orderings. He puts these variables in the models, which enable him to generate resource allocation mechanisms that are more consonant with our intuitions about distributive justice. He then critiques economists' theories of utilitarianism and examines the question of the optimal population size in a world of finite resources.

Roemer explores the major new philosophical concepts of the theory of distributive justice--primary goods, functionings and capability, responsibility in its various forms, procedural versus outcome justice, midfare--and shows how they can be sharpened and clarified with the aid of economic analysis. He critiques and extends the ideas of major contemporary theories of distributive justice, including those of Rawls, Sen, Nozick, and Dworkin. Beginning from the recent theories of Arneson and G. A. Cohen, he constructs a theory of equality of opportunity. Theories of Distributive Justice contains important and original results, and it can also be used as a graduate-level text in economics and philosophy.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Economics [UK]

In attempting to summarize and evaluate [a] large body of literature from the perspective of both economics and philosophy, Roemer set himself an ambitious goal. He has succeeded admirably...It will be invaluable to those wishing to understand the precise significance of recent contributions to the theory of distributive justice. Even those who choose to skip the more technical sections will appreciate the author's profound knowledge of his subject and his lucid prose...[This is] as balanced and fair as one is likely to see on a topic which often generates more heat than light.
— A.F. Shorrocks

Times Higher Education Supplement - Brian Barry
This book is a synthesis of work on distributive justice carried on in the past fifty years by economists and political philosophers...It is important in its own right and can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject who does not black out at the sight of a symbol...[A] remarkable achievement. I know of nobody else who combines Roemer's mastery of formal analysis with his respect for the integrity of political philosophy and his deep understanding of it.
Social Choice and Welfare - Marc Fleurbaey
In this book, Roemer gives us a very useful overview of [this] field...The main results of social choice and axiomatics of resource allocation are presented in a clear and non-technical, albeit rigorous, way, and are put in the perspective of philosophical debates on justice. Moreover, the lively style of this book makes it a very pleasant reading...This book is a very good synthesis and a very important contribution to a better understanding of normative economics, and to the dialogue between philosophers and economists. It gives the impression that what was once welfare economics and then social choice theory is now reaching a new stage of maturity, in particular thanks to Roemer's own contributions to the field, and at the same time is full of promises for future developments.
Journal of Economics [UK - A.F. Shorrocks
In attempting to summarize and evaluate [a] large body of literature from the perspective of both economics and philosophy, Roemer set himself an ambitious goal. He has succeeded admirably...It will be invaluable to those wishing to understand the precise significance of recent contributions to the theory of distributive justice. Even those who choose to skip the more technical sections will appreciate the author's profound knowledge of his subject and his lucid prose...[This is] as balanced and fair as one is likely to see on a topic which often generates more heat than light.
Public Choice - Steven J. Brams
I find Roemer's critique of the work of both economists and philosophers penetrating. He is especially good at showing how early formulations in philosophy were found wanting and subsequently revised, giving one insight into the evolution of philosophical ideas. Roemer's most impressive contribution, however, is not in synthesizing the philosophical literature but in formalizing its suppositions and drawing out their implications, using the methodological apparatus of modern economics. Throughout [the book] Roemer takes pains to discuss the broader meaning of his theorems in order to make his book more accessible to noneconomists. I believe that he largely succeeds, making the book one that political scientists and less formally trained public choice theorists can benefit from reading.
Times Higher Education Supplement

This book is a synthesis of work on distributive justice carried on in the past fifty years by economists and political philosophers...It is important in its own right and can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject who does not black out at the sight of a symbol...[A] remarkable achievement. I know of nobody else who combines Roemer's mastery of formal analysis with his respect for the integrity of political philosophy and his deep understanding of it.
— Brian Barry

Public Choice

I find Roemer's critique of the work of both economists and philosophers penetrating. He is especially good at showing how early formulations in philosophy were found wanting and subsequently revised, giving one insight into the evolution of philosophical ideas. Roemer's most impressive contribution, however, is not in synthesizing the philosophical literature but in formalizing its suppositions and drawing out their implications, using the methodological apparatus of modern economics. Throughout [the book] Roemer takes pains to discuss the broader meaning of his theorems in order to make his book more accessible to noneconomists. I believe that he largely succeeds, making the book one that political scientists and less formally trained public choice theorists can benefit from reading.
— Steven J. Brams

Social Choice and Welfare

In this book, Roemer gives us a very useful overview of [this] field...The main results of social choice and axiomatics of resource allocation are presented in a clear and non-technical, albeit rigorous, way, and are put in the perspective of philosophical debates on justice. Moreover, the lively style of this book makes it a very pleasant reading...This book is a very good synthesis and a very important contribution to a better understanding of normative economics, and to the dialogue between philosophers and economists. It gives the impression that what was once welfare economics and then social choice theory is now reaching a new stage of maturity, in particular thanks to Roemer's own contributions to the field, and at the same time is full of promises for future developments.
— Marc Fleurbaey

Journal of Economics [UK
In attempting to summarize and evaluate [a] large body of literature from the perspective of both economics and philosophy, Roemer set himself an ambitious goal. He has succeeded admirably...It will be invaluable to those wishing to understand the precise significance of recent contributions to the theory of distributive justice. Even those who choose to skip the more technical sections will appreciate the author's profound knowledge of his subject and his lucid prose...[This is] as balanced and fair as one is likely to see on a topic which often generates more heat than light.
— A.F. Shorrocks
Times Higher Education Supplement
This book is a synthesis of work on distributive justice carried on in the past fifty years by economists and political philosophers...It is important in its own right and can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject who does not black out at the sight of a symbol...[A] remarkable achievement. I know of nobody else who combines Roemer's mastery of formal analysis with his respect for the integrity of political philosophy and his deep understanding of it.
— Brian Barry
Social Choice and Welfare
In this book, Roemer gives us a very useful overview of [this] field...The main results of social choice and axiomatics of resource allocation are presented in a clear and non-technical, albeit rigorous, way, and are put in the perspective of philosophical debates on justice. Moreover, the lively style of this book makes it a very pleasant reading...This book is a very good synthesis and a very important contribution to a better understanding of normative economics, and to the dialogue between philosophers and economists. It gives the impression that what was once welfare economics and then social choice theory is now reaching a new stage of maturity, in particular thanks to Roemer's own contributions to the field, and at the same time is full of promises for future developments.
— Marc Fleurbaey
Public Choice
I find Roemer's critique of the work of both economists and philosophers penetrating. He is especially good at showing how early formulations in philosophy were found wanting and subsequently revised, giving one insight into the evolution of philosophical ideas. Roemer's most impressive contribution, however, is not in synthesizing the philosophical literature but in formalizing its suppositions and drawing out their implications, using the methodological apparatus of modern economics. Throughout [the book] Roemer takes pains to discuss the broader meaning of his theorems in order to make his book more accessible to noneconomists. I believe that he largely succeeds, making the book one that political scientists and less formally trained public choice theorists can benefit from reading.
— Steven J. Brams
Library Journal
Roemer maintains that the work of economists and philosophers on distributive justice can benefit from mutual acquaintance. He first discusses approaches influential among economists, such as Arrow's Impossibility Theorem and Nash's Axiomatic Bargaining Theory. He effectively shows that these approaches, if viewed as complete theories of justice, make assumptions that are vulnerable to philosophical criticism. He next turns to philosophers' views, including the theories of Rawls, Dworkin, and G.A. Cohen, applying economic analysis in an effort to clarify them. Although he devotes one chapter to Nozick's Lockean account, he concentrates almost entirely on egalitarian theories but fails to discuss challenges to their fundamental assumptions. Nevertheless, the book is valuable, although it will be hard going for all but specialists. -- David Gordon, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Library Journal
Roemer maintains that the work of economists and philosophers on distributive justice can benefit from mutual acquaintance. He first discusses approaches influential among economists, such as Arrow's Impossibility Theorem and Nash's Axiomatic Bargaining Theory. He effectively shows that these approaches, if viewed as complete theories of justice, make assumptions that are vulnerable to philosophical criticism. He next turns to philosophers' views, including the theories of Rawls, Dworkin, and G.A. Cohen, applying economic analysis in an effort to clarify them. Although he devotes one chapter to Nozick's Lockean account, he concentrates almost entirely on egalitarian theories but fails to discuss challenges to their fundamental assumptions. Nevertheless, the book is valuable, although it will be hard going for all but specialists. -- David Gordon, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Brian Barry
This book is a synthesis of work on distributive justice carried on in the past fifty years by economists and political philosophers...I know of nobody else who combines Roemer's mastery of formal analysis with his respect for the integrity of political philosophy and his deep understanding of it. Times Higher Education Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674879201
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/13/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 0.74 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

John Roemer is Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics, Yale University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

The Measurement of Utility and Arrow's Theorem

The Measurability and Comparability of Utility

The Arrow Impossibility Theorem

Reformulation of the Impossibility Theorem with Utility Functions

The Connection between Arrovian Social Choice and Distributive Justice

Social Choice on Economic Environments

Conclusion

Axiomatic Bargaining Theory

Justice as Rational Prudence

The Nash Bargaining Solution

Other Axiomatizations of the Nash Solution

The Kalai-Smorodinsky and Egalitarian Solutions

A Criticism from the Economic Point of View

Conclusion

Axiomatic Mechanism Theory on Economic Environments

Introduction

The Domain of Economic Environments

Axioms and Theorems on Economic Environments

Proofs of Theorems

Naming Utility and Goods

Conclusion

Utilitarianism

Introduction

Maskin's Theorem

The Representation Theorems of Harsanyi and Myerson

Utilitarianism from behind the Veil of Ignorance

An Implication for the Interpretation of Individual Optimization under Uncertainty

Optimal Population Size

Conclusion

Primary Goods, Fundamental Preferences, and Functionings

Countering Utilitarianism

Primary Goods, Welfare, and Equality

Rawls's Arguments for Maximin (the Difference Principle)

The Cohen Criticism

Kolm's Fundamental Preferences

Functionings and Capability

Equality of Functionings or Primary Goods: An Alternative Approach

Conclusion

Neo-Lockeanism and Self-Ownership

Nozick's Theory of Distributive Justice

Challenges to Nozick

Joint Ownership of the External World

Generalizations of Locke on Economic Environments

Implementation

The Morality of Self-Ownership

Conclusion

Equality of Welfare versus Equality of Resources

Introduction

Dworkin on Equality of Welfare

Countering Dworkin's Central Argument against Equality of Welfare

Dworkin's Definition of Equality of Resources

An Axiomatic Approach to Equality of Resources

Conclusion

Equality of Opportunity for Welfare

Relocating Dworkin's Cut, 1

Relocating Dworkin's Cut, 2

Equality of Opportunity: An Example

Equality of Opportunity: A Formalization

A Discrete Formulation of Equality of Opportunity

Examples of the EOp Mechanism

Related Approaches to Equality of Opportunity

Conclusion

Appendix

Appendix: Envy-Free Allocations

References

Index

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