This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

A problem of distributive justice

We discussed above the differences between commutative and distributive justice. Commutative justice is the most personal, practical, and obvious, but it is also the imprecise. Considering every day transactions, even if both parties aim with good will toward the just price of the goods or services being exchanged, they will rarely hit the mark. When someone under- or over-pays, the amount of the deviation begins to accumulate, introducing disequilibrium into the system. On a social level, when these accumulations reach a certain point, an offense against distributive justice becomes apparent and, because distributive justice is the role of the State, and because it is obvious that at this point only the State could possibly remedy the injustice, it falls to political action to propose a solution. Note that we have only mentioned transactions in which men sincerely aimed at the just price. Even here we must admit that deviations must occur and accumulate. What would we expect, then, in a society in which men are taught to use every means at their disposal to pay least and charge the most in economic transactions?—and in which some are in a position to exploit and some are in a position to be exploited? A society which has forgotten the Just Price in favor of self-interest and the profit-motive will necessitate the action of the State far more than a society which seeks justice of its own accord, because it will be actively seeking disequilibrium in every transaction. The need for distributive justice in the case of large-scale inequality is great indeed.

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