Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality

Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality

Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality

Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality

Synopsis

This important new study presents a systematic and definitive critique of Ronald Dworkin's highly influential theory of liberal equality. Focusing on the connection Dworkin attempts to establish between economic markets and liberal egalitarian political morality, the study examines his contention that markets have an indispensable role to play in the articulation of liberal ideals of distributive justice, individual liberty, and state neutrality. Subjecting the central tenents of this theory to sustained critical analysis, the author argues that Dworkin's attempt to establish deep affinities between the market and equality is unsuccessful and his proposed solutions to some central controversies in political theory are seriously flawed. This powerful examination of the work of America's leading public philosopher reveals some timely lessons about the hazards and limitations of the market as a device for the articulation and realization of egalitarian justice.

Excerpt

The examination of the relationship between liberalism, justice, and markets begins in this chapter with consideration of the first dimension of the various complex connections Dworkin draws between the economic market and equality. The suggestion under examination is that what justice requires by way of an initial distribution of resources can be established by considering the operation of an ideal market. I identify an objection to this claim. It holds that, even in the restricted circumstances in which Dworkin believes the claim obtains, the market may fail to yield an equitable distribution. This is because the individual preferences on which a market-driven distribution depends are not sufficiently reliable indicators of individual interest to serve as the determinants of fair distributive shares. I then examine two arguments through which it might be thought that the appropriateness of relying on preferences expressed in the market could be re-established. I suggest that these arguments succeed in preserving the credibility of the market only to the degree that they obscure an important problem concerning the conditions under which individual preferences can assume ethical significance. Once this problem is given proper recognition the market cannot be employed as a device for the articulation of egalitarian justice in the way envisaged by Dworkin.

THE PROBLEM OF INITIAL EQUALITY

Dworkin believes we can may make considerable progress in constructing a comprehensive theory of distributive justice by first considering the simpler problem of determining a fair distribution of resources amongst a fixed population of individuals, each of whom has the capacity to devise and pursue some conception of the good life. I will call this the problem of initial . . .

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