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Economic Justice

Is it just that some are poor and others are rich? Is economic growth always desirable? Is it important what goods we produce, not just how much of them? If yes, why is this so? Is education a final good or an intermediate good? Should health care be free for all?
These and many other questions are rooted in the two basic questions of economic justice: What makes for a good economic outcome? How should the benefits and burdens of economic cooperation be distributed among the members of society?
The course will present the answers to these questions provided by the main contemporary theories of distributive justice and at some of their implications in terms of policies.

The course will be divided in two parts. The first part will start with an exposition of the normative foundations of neoclassical theory (utilitarianism/welfarism/preferences satisfaction UWPS). We will than turn to ethical approaches alternative to UWPS, ranging across the political spectrum from libertarianism to left/liberalism to egalitarianism.
The second part of the course will put the theories encountered in the first part at work in the context of today's important economic policy debates. We will see how alternatives theories may yield very different sets of policy conclusions. First we will focus on the increase in income and wealth inequality many countries have been experiencing in the last decades and on possible causes and remedies. In particular we will discuss wealth and inheritance taxation as well as basic universal income and basic universal services and basic universal capital. We will then move to environmental justice, defined as the fair treatment of people with respect to environmental policies and then to gender equity, meant as the provision to all people, regardless of gender, of the same conditions and opportunities for flourishing.

Finally, in view of the widening scope of markets in the organization of society, we ask: should everything be for sale? can we have a market economy without becoming a market society?
The course encourages the active participation of students. The list of issues to be discussed in the second part is provisional in the sense that it could be modified to incorporate students' suggestions.


    Prelude: Facts and values in economics. Why we cannot do without a normative point of view.

    Part 1. Theories of justice

    1. Utilitarianism, Welfarism, Preferences Satisfaction: from Jeremy Bentham to Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu

    2. Contractualism: John Rawls

    3. Libertarianism: Robert Nozick

    4. The capability approach: Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum

    5. Equality of resources: Ronald Dworkin

    6. Equality and community: G.A. Cohen

    7. Equality of opportunity: John Roemer

    8. An egalitarian critic of egalitarians: Elisabeth Anderson

    9. Recognition or Redistribution?: Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Michael Sandel

    Part 2. Policy issues and controversies

    1. Income and Wealth Inequality: measures and causes.

    2. Taxation of wealth and inheritances

    3. Basic Income Basic Capital and Basic Services 

    4. Environmental Justice

    5. Global Justice and migration

    6. Gender Equity

    7. Moral Limits to Markets

Research Seminar in Economics
Steuer- und Sozialpolitik bei wachsender Ungleichheit