SOCIAL JUSTICE AND
Social justice, or distributive justice, is a moral standard by which some people judge political and economic institutions. Advocates of social justice believe the moral justification of our institutions depends on how well these institutions serve the interests of the poor and least advantaged. The basic institutions of society must sufficiently benefit all, including the least advantaged and most vulnerable members of society.
“Hard libertarians” (see question 5) reject social justice. In their view, justice only requires that people respect one another’s rights.
Hard libertarians tend to assume that a commitment to social justice entails a commitment to a welfare state that redistributes wealth. The hard libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick argues that we cannot ask how we should distribute wealth unless we have the right to distribute it. Suppose you find a lost wallet. Justice requires that you return the wallet to its owner. You shouldn’t worry about what’s the best way to distribute the money—the money is not yours to distribute.