Justice Ravindra Bhat speaking on Distributive Justice , Poverty and Economic Development

Justice Ravindra Bhat while speaking on Distributive Justice

Distributive justice is concerned with the distribution and allocation of common goods and common burdens. These benefits and burdens span all dimensions of social life and assume all forms, including income, economic wealth, political power, taxation, work obligations, education, shelter, health care, military service, community involvement and religious activities. Thus, justice arguments are often invoked in connection with minimum wage legislation, Affirmative Action policies, public education, military conscription, litigation, as well as with redistributive policies such as welfare, Medicare, aid to the developing world, progressive income taxes and inheritance taxes.1 Since the common goods and resources of the community cannot be said to belong to any individual but are to be distributed according to the judgment of what is judged to be in the interests of the common good, a judgment which only the political institutions of the State are fit to pronounce, no individual may claim any personal right to any part of the common stock. The principles of equity, equality, and social need are most relevant in the context of distributive justice.2 The idea of a fair distribution of resources is generally linked to concepts of human rights, human dignity, and the common good, and is grounded in what civilization is said to owe its individual members in equal proportion. Governments continuously make and change laws affecting the distribution of economic benefits and burdens in their societies. Almost all changes, from the standard tax and industry laws through to divorce laws have some distributive effect, and, as a result, different societies have different distributions.3 Ultimately, this is a highly contested space, and in its practical application has individuals of all political persuasions using various arguments to defend their own perspectives. It seems that justice terminology is employed with considerable flexibility, and fairness arguments are sometimes even made by both parties on opposite ends. There are at least three reasons for this. First, a large part of the literature on justice involves prescriptive theories. A second source of variation in justice terminology refers to everyday usage and is more patterned than the differences in prescriptive theories of justice. Finally, justice arguments are often put forth, not to promote justice, but rather to further the interests of the party employing them.