Equality and social justice
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The exponential expansion of the human population of the earth, together with the accelerating pressure that is being placed on natural resources, is of a magnitude that threatens soon to render the expression 'scarce resources' pleonastic. Too many people chasing too few goods is a reliable recipe for disaster. The problems are of such a magnitude that the search for real solutions can readily appear futile. This is especially so because the gravest problems are often not theoretical at all, but practical. They are the problems of convincing contrary human beings of the necessity of radical changes in their life styles, and in their aspirations and expectations. The first step, however, is to find the correct theories. High on the list of priorities must be an adequate theory of the morally proper distribution among people of the scarce goods and resources which they all require. Once we have such a theory, it will be time enough to worry about getting people to listen, to understand, and to act. The received opinion, in many circles, is that the current distribution of goods and resources is unjust because it is gravely unequal. For all that there is evident truth in this claim, the problem of expressing it in a clear and theoretically perspicuous manner has proved to be an intractable one. The fault lies with egalitarianism itself. In its incomplete apprehension of the nature of injustice, it has embraced a collection of half-truths with a tenacity and a fervour which have seriously impeded further progress. My primary thesis is that egalitarianism, as a theory of social justice, is false. Some of the beliefs to which egalitarians have subscribed do deserve, however, to be preserved. My secondary thesis is that this can be achieved by incorporating these insights into a properly formulated, nonegalitarian, socialist theory of justice. This theory will not be presented in detail: instead, the discussion will range over a variety of considerations which converge upon socialism, as providing the only morally acceptable theory of distribution. If the treatment is sometimes tentative, speculative, and controversial, that is because the time has passed for toying with safe and cautious approaches to these problems.