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Economic justice

Page history last edited by John McMahon 4 years, 5 months ago


A.Introduction to Economic Justice

B. Major Debates in Economic Justice

     I. The Tax Debate

     II. The Healthcare Debate

C. The Democratic Socialism Movement

     I. The Origins of Democratic Socialism

     II. Political Leaders of Democratic Socialism

D. Connections to Distributive Justice

E. Conclusion 



A. Introduction to Economic Justice:

The economy of a nation is an essential part of the proper functioning of society. Also important is how the economy works for the people of said nation. 2020’s Democratic Presidential Primary is exemplary for the important question of what is considered just in terms of the economy. Most candidates are bringing their plan for economic justice as the forefront of their campaigns. One thing that keeps becoming clear is that no one can agree on what the correct definition of economic justice is. This is not exclusive to modern day politics either, many political philosophers over the course of history had extremely strong and varied ideas to discover the way to have a functioning and economically just society. 


This is the pivotal issue that is going to be investigated and discussed on this page. This page will be discussing the issues on the forefront of economic justice, such as taxes and healthcare, the recent growth and influence of the democratic socialist movement, and economic justice’s connection to distributive justice. It becomes incredibly evident through the texts of Robert Nozick, Bhaskar Sunkara,, and the campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg as to how important the premise of economic justice is, which is conceptualized by some to be universal economic fairness on the basis of equal opportunity.



B. Major Debates of Economic Justice


I. The Tax Debate

The debate on what constitutes just taxation is the cornerstone of economic justice. We have seen major tax debates and protests throughout the entire history of our country.The first great tax protest, The Boston Tea Party, paved the way for not only the representation we have for being taxed, but also all the questions brought to the Government on what fair and just taxation is. While there's been plenty of tax plans and great thinkers on the topic of just taxation, the people this section will focus on are Robert Nozick and Bernie Sanders. Each subsection of this section will contain the ideas of each thinker for just taxation.


Robert Nozick: Nozick’s plan for taxation is minimalist. In terms of distributive taxation, Nozick sees no value in it. To explain taxation, Nozick sets up the Wilt Chamberlain example as a thought experiment. Nozick’s point when it comes to the Wilt Chamberlain example is the control of one's own resources when regarding taxes and keeping government intervention out of economic transactions (Nozick 1974, 160-164). Robert Nozick’s ideology of taxation being forced labor is another portion of his interesting plan for economic justice out of Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The idea is Nozick’s way of calling taxation unjust and defining why. The injustice of taxation to Nozick stems from the added hours someone needs to work in order to pay their taxes. Nozick states that taxation is on par with forced labor because those extra hours that are worked go entirely to the government are forcing the people to work more hours than they are getting paid for (Nozick 1974, 169). 


Bernie Sanders: Senator Bernie Sanders has become a political phenom in the Democratic party, particularly with his ideas on distributive justice, and more specifically his plans for greater taxation to fund public programs such as Medicare for All. His major point in his idea of just taxation is the Wealth Tax. The Wealth Tax is Senator Sanders’ plan to place a tax on billionaires and large corporations, where he argues that the economic top 1% has been paying too little in taxes, while the lower classes have had to pay too much. Senator Sanders’ Wealth Tax takes an equity approach to economic justice. In response to the low taxation rates of the wealthy, Senator Sanders plans on introducing a tax to the wealthiest 180,000 households in America to raise revenue for public plans that would help the less fortunate (Golshan 2019). Senator Sanders’ plan is also expected to create the most revenue out of all the tax plans of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 election. His plan exceeds Elizabeth Warren’s progressive tax plan including a wealth tax, with Senator Sanders to raise $1.6 trillion more than Senator Warren’s plan (Golshan 2019). Some of the public plans that Senator Sanders plans on providing for with the money raised from the tax on extreme wealth--as well as enforcement of corporate tax evasion/mispayment--are plans for universal healthcare, which is talked about in section B, universal childcare, and an affordable housing program. There are major concerns regarding Senator Sanders’ wealth tax, mainly on the constitutionality of it. There are conflicting opinions on whether it is constitutional or not.


For more information on the inequality of taxes not only within the United States, but its affects upon the entire world check out the Just war theory (jus ad bellum) page.


II. The Healthcare Debate

Healthcare has quickly become one of the major debating points of distributive justice within the Democratic Presidential Primaries. This topic is also one where you can see the most polarization within the party, the nation, and distributive justice as a whole. In this section, we will compare Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All and Pete Buttigieg’s Medicare for All Who Want It plans, and focus them into a scope of distributive justice within a few political thinkers’ frameworks.


Sanders’ Medicare for All: If there is one thing that most people know Senator Sanders for, it's his resilience when it comes to pushing for Medicare for All. His plan is to have a universal, government funded, public healthcare system that will do away with private healthcare entirely. He is so persistent on this topic because of his view that private healthcare is unfair, unequal, and unjust. For him, the inflated prices of medicine and the large co-pays that come with private insurance are parts of a clear problem that private medical insurance is unjust to people in lower tax brackets. When discussing Sander's healthcare plan it is important to break it down section by section and asking what each portion means. 


Firstly, in Senator Sanders’ plan, what does universal mean? The answer is actually quite simple, but the reasoning and effect it will have is a bit more difficult and convoluted. Universal in universal healthcare is for everyone (Kliff 2019). The universality of the healthcare plan is for a reason: Senator Sanders’ plan is meant to eliminate private insurance companies as a whole. Sanders finds injustic within the private insurance field due to the hiking of medicine prices as well as the incredibly high rates for insurance and medical treatment are. This creates benefits for the lower class, eliminating insurance rates, and healthcare coming straight from the taxes someone is paying. How does Senator Sanders plan on paying for these public health insurance packages? As talked about in the tax debate section of this page, Senator Sanders plans on funding this program through taxation. Specifically though, he plans on using the wealth tax in conjunction with a slightly higher tax rate on the middle class in order to fund this plan (Kliff 2019). 


Overall, Senator Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan of Medicare for All, is exemplary of his definition of economic justice. 


Buttigieg’s Medicare for All Who Want It: A tweak to Sander’s Medicare solution, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has developed a plan for Medicare for All Who Want It, a system that would firstly establish a government funded public option, but also would work in conjunction with private insurance companies. Mayor Buttigieg’s Medicare plan is the best of both worlds plan. A much more moderate approach to healthcare, people have the choice to opt into the government funded plan or keep their original healthcare. This has the view of justice that includes a freedom of choice. Buttigieg makes his belief in choice as a portion of economic justice known, When discussing his plan for medicare he stated "We make sure that everybody can afford [public health insurance], but we don't require you to take it. And partly I think that's just the right policy, because I think people should be able to choose…” (Simon and Glenn 2019). His plan, while not as extreme and universal as Senator Bernie Sanders’ plan, is still an attempt at distributive justice in healthcare. This quote exemplifies the perceived benefits that will be distributed when Buttigieg would enact his plan. Those benefits being lower costs in terms of insurance premiums and co-pays, but also a distribution of choice. Similar to Bernie's plan, this form of healthcare is beneficial to the lower class and people who struggle to afford health insurance, since they have the option to opt into the cheaper government funded health insurance. 


C. The Democratic Socialist Movement

One of the major movements for economic justice is the democratic socialist movement. In part due to Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Presidential properties, it has seen a boom in support in the US in the past few years. This section will discuss the economic plan of democratic socialists. In doing so, it will also cover the major political actors who support democratic socialism and their plans for economic justice. 


I. The Origins of Democratic Socialism

Democratic Socialism can be viewed as an “Americanized” version of the ideology of Socialism. In Bhaskar Sunkara’s The Socialist Manifesto, he takes the first forty pages to develop a hypothetical situation that would allow the application of socialism, as used in Europe today, into the capitalist economy of the United States. Sunkara explains socialism as an economic theory that allows the control of resources of employees in tandem with government programs. In Sunkara’s Socialist America, each person who works for a company would become an investor in that company and receive benefits for their investments (Sunkara 1-31). Democratic Socialism occurs outside of the private business field. Democratic socialism was also the campaign theme of Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primaries of 2016. His run, which was defeated by Hillary Clinton, introduced both himself and the ideas of Democratic Socialism out into the mainstream of political thought, with the assistance of heavy polarization among the political parties


II. Political Leaders of Democratic Socialism

Democratic Socialism has become a substantial part of modern political life, led by an incredibly strong set of politicians who are passionate about the distributive qualities of the movement. Senator Bernie Sanders is the figurehead of the current Democratic Socialist movement, running on his 2020 campaign slogan “not me, us.” This slogan is a powerful example of the Democratic Socialist movement’s reliance and alliance on the masses of a country. A socialist system can only work if people buy in to it in order to fund the public plans for the people of the country. 


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the freshest faces of politics, is also a publicly announced supporter of Bernie Sanders, after giving her endorsement to him for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary. Along with this, her latest bills released shows her exact standing on economic justice. For example, her program of bills, “The Just Society Suite” encompasses many economic features as well as immigration. The section of the “Just Society” that is most important for economic justice and democratic socialism is the “Guarantees the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights for All” section, which contains support for plans of universal healthcare and affordable housing for all people, which have ties to Sanders and to democratic socialism. 


It is evident when looking at the actions of the leaders is the strong influence that distributive justice has on Democratic Socialism. Both Senator Sanders and AOC find themselves attempting to gain the support of the masses in order to allow for the social programs they plan on enacting. Support is evident given Sanders' standing as one of the main candidates in the 2020 Primary, including leading in the most recent primary poll for California (Berkeley IGS California Poll 2019). 



D. Connections to Distributive Justice

If there is one overarching theme of the theories of economic justice displayed on this page is that it all has to do with the distribution of funds and products. The central question of economic justice has to do with taxes, opportunities, and their distribution among the population. More importantly however, what of that distribution is considered just? It can be seen through the writings and thoughts of the thinkers discussed on this page. It is seen in Robert Nozick’s writing Anarchy, States, and Utopia, that he does not believe in distribution at all, that is what he thinks is just. From his Wilt Chamberlain example, discussing the justice within the control of people's own distribution of their resources, to his dislike of taxation because of his belief of taxation being forced labor with distribution of the worker's taxes to hypothetical “lazy hippies” (Nozick 169). 


This page also covers the distributive function of the economic plans of the modern politicians, Senator Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. While very different in terms of what they each are looking for in terms of distribution, both presidential candidates have a plan that would distributed public funds to improve the living conditions of the less economically fortunate people, in the United States. 


E. Conclusion

Overall, economic justice is an essential and a highly debated topic within politics. This wiki takes a more modern approach to the answers of what economic justice is? On this page, we covered the plans of Nozick, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Sunkara in terms of taxes and healthcare. We covered the dense and powerful Democratic Socialist movement and its leading politicians, as well as economic justice's broader connections to distributive justice. An ever evolving topic, I felt as if a modern approach to the topic at hand was an incredibly important to discover possible answers for the question of what economic justice is. This topic will continue to develop over the next several years. We must continue to focus on this evolving theory to attempt to answer what economic justice is. But as to this page, the implications of fairness within economic justice is focusing on the equality of opportunities for all within an economic framework.



Works Cited:

Sunkara, Bhaskar. 2019. The Socialist Manifesto. (NY): Best Books.


Golshan, Tara. 2019. “Bernie Sanders’s Wealth Tax Proposal, Explained”. Vox. Sep. 24, 2019.



2019. “Berkeley IGS California Poll”. RealClearPolitics. Nov. 21- Nov. 27 2019. 



Kliff, Sarah. 2019. “Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-For-All plan, Explained”. Vox. April 10, 2019.



Simon, Scott. Glenn, Heidi. 2019. “'Just The Right Policy': Pete Buttigieg On His 'Medicare For All Who Want It' Plan”. NPR. Nov. 8, 2019.



Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria. 2019. “A Just Society: Guarantees Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights for All”. House of Representatives. 



Nozick, Robert. 1974. “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”. Basic Books. Blackwell Publishers. Pg. 160-174.


O'Neill, Martin. May 28, 2004. Economics and Economic Justice. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.



Fleurbaey, Marc. July 15, 2019. Socialism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.



Daniels, Norman. Sept. 29, 2008. Justice and Access to Healthcare. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.




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