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Theories of Distributive Justice / Edition 1

Theories of Distributive Justice / Edition 1

by John E. RoemerJohn E. Roemer


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674879201
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/13/1998
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

John E. Roemer is Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University.

Table of Contents



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


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


Axiomatic Mechanism Theory on Economic Environments


The Domain of Economic Environments

Axioms and Theorems on Economic Environments

Proofs of Theorems

Naming Utility and Goods




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


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


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


The Morality of Self-Ownership


Equality of Welfare versus Equality of Resources


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


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



Appendix: Envy-Free Allocations



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