New York: Routledge (2018)
Like American politics, the academic debate over justice is polarized, with almost all theories of justice falling within one of two traditions: egalitarianism and libertarianism. This book provides an alternative to the partisan standoff by focusing not on equality or liberty, but on the idea that we should give people the things that they deserve. Mulligan argues that a just society is a meritocracy, in which equal opportunity prevails and social goods are distributed strictly on the basis of merit. That gives citizens their just deserts. In addition to its novel conceptual approach, meritocracy is distinctive from existing work in two ways. First, it is grounded in research on how people actually think about justice. Empirical research reveals that people don't think that social goods should be distributed equally. Nor do they dismiss the idea of social justice. Across ideological and cultural lines, people want rewards to reflect merit. Second, the book discusses hot-button political issues and makes concrete policy recommendations. These issues include anti-meritocratic bias against women and racial minorities and the United States’ widening economic inequality. Justice and the Meritocratic State offers a new theory of justice and provides solutions to our most vexing social and economic problems. It will be of keen interest to philosophers, economists, and political theorists.