What is the Conservative Point of View about Distributive Justice?

Public Affairs Quarterly 28 (4):341-373 (2014)
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This paper examines the conservative point of view about distributive justice. The first section explains the methodology used to develop this point of view. The second section describes one conservative point of view and briefly provides empirical evidence that it reflects the viewpoint of many ordinary conservatives. The third section explains how this conservative view can ground objections to social safety net programs, using as examples the recent health reform legislation and more extensive proposals for a true national health system. The fourth section sketches ways that non-conservative philosophers might try to refute those objections. Examining a conservative point of view leads to several important conclusions. One is that the conservative point of view is not properly represented in contemporary philosophical discussions. Another is that the conservative point of view cannot be refuted by appealing to existing egalitarian writings. A third is that if progressive philosophers such as myself want to address the conservative point of view, we must expand the range of issues that we discuss in contemporary political philosophy. Doing so is a vital task, because otherwise we ignore the political views held by as much as half the American population.

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Alex Rajczi
Claremont McKenna College


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