Distributive Justice
Philosophy 10
Instructor: Phil Freneau

Should the strong be required to support the weak? How does society "distribute"
wealth among its members? These are the questions. There are three basic sides
to this issue. The permissive system entitles individuals to a subsistence
income supply for existing as a human. The puritan system requires that people
at least be willing to contribute to society in order to receive a subsistence
income. Finally, the Individual view holds the property rights of the individual
to be sacred: no one may forcibly deprive him of his goods. I will argue for the
last alternative.

Individualism is an extension of Locke\'s idea of property rights. An
Individualist believes each person owns his own life, the fruits of his labor,
and his property. No one may deprive him of these property rights. He is free to
act as long as his actions do not interfere with the property rights of others.

At this point it is important to define what money is. Money is an exchange of
value. Money has value because it represent labor, or value, one has created but
not yet used. Money in my pocket is what I have created but not yet consumed.
Money is not a natural resource; it does not grow on trees. Men can make money
by their physical or mental labor. Do I not, then, have full claim to my

If A discovers a cure for AIDS; it surely was not solely a product of A.
Society\'s framework made the discovery possible: A had to build on previous
knowledge; she had to use a laboratory she probably did not own. All of these
factors make society a partner in the discovery. Therefore, she does not have
the right to all of the benefits of her discovery; she must give up some of her
benefits to society at large.

It is true that A did not personally create every piece of equipment she used to
make the discovery; however, the point missed by in this situation is that
property is held by individuals, and A had to exchange value in the form of
money to buy or rent the equipment she used. The owners have already been paid
for the use of their equipment. Business agreements occur between individuals;
there is no entity, "society," that handed her a gift. If A were to have to pay
more to "society," then she would, in effect, be paying twice.

If a permissivist responds with "but she will get rich selling the cure for a
high price while thousands are dying," there are basically two responses. The
first is that this phenomenon displays the actual value of her product - the
price paid in a free market. The second is that any attempt to take her money
simply because "she has a lot of it" is robbery.

In a state of nature, I cannot get something for nothing. I cannot reap what I
do not sow. If I do not invest efforts planting and caring for my crops, there
will be nothing at harvest time. Fish are not going to jump into my boat; I have
to catch them! Others who argue for Permissivism or Puritanism seem to forget
that the wealth they want to redistribute must have a source, because money
represents value already created. Thus they cannot deal out wealth as if there
were an inexhaustible supply of it; sometimes called "manna from heaven." The
only solution they have to this problem is to rob those who have money and are
unwilling to pay!

If a portion of the population is very poor, the Permissivist would argue that
there could be violence. One of the roles of government, according to Locke, is
to enforce property rights, so one solution is that the government would have to
deal with the violence. It is more likely, however, because people have
compassion, that private organizations would be set up to help the poor back on
their feet.

There is one major issue that we have not yet addressed: What about those who
are willing to work, but cannot because of their disability? Are they entitled
to a subsisence income? My reply would be this: No, they are not entitled to
anyone\'s labor, because no man may force another\'s wealth from him. If the
disabled truly cannot produce anything of value, they are at the mercy of those
who can. This may sound harsh, but if the Permissivists really value human life
as much as they say, they will be more than willing to support these
unproductive individuals. They