Monday, November 24, 2014

Economic Justice, II: What is “Participative Justice”?


As we noted yesterday, economic justice is divided into three principles, which are themselves forms of justice.  These are participative justice, distributive justice, and social justice.  We will look at participative justice today.

“Justice” is the premier temporal or cardinal virtue.  Rendering to each what each is due constitutes justice.

“Participative Justice” describes how someone makes input to the economic process in order to make a living.  The “due” of participative justice with respect to economic justice requires that everyone have equal opportunity to gain access to private property in productive assets as well as equality of opportunity to engage in productive work.

This “principle of participation” does not guarantee equal results.  Rather, participative justice demands that society’s institutions be structured in such a way as to guarantee every person the exercise of the equal human right to make a productive contribution to the economy, both through one’s labor (as a worker) and through one’s productive capital (as an owner).

Thus, participative justice rejects monopolies, special privileges, and other exclusionary social barriers to economic self-reliance.

What is the philosophical justification of participative justice?  After all, Aristotle never used such a term, nor did Aquinas.

This is easy to understand.  Aquinas was, in a very real sense, “only” commenting on Aristotle, conforming the work of the Philosopher to Judeo-Christian principles.  If Aristotle did not address something, chances are neither would Aquinas — at least directly.

Indirectly is another matter altogether.

Take, for example, the capacity to acquire and develop virtue that defines human beings as human beings.  According to Aristotle, every human being has a different capacity to acquire and develop virtue, that is, “human-ness.”  Every human being is therefore not quite human in the same way anyone else is human.  You even have some quasi-humans, “natural slaves,” who, while they look human, have no capacity to acquire and develop virtue at all.

Well . . . no, said Aquinas.  There is a fundamental unity of truth, of the intellect, as he made clear in a treatise entitled (as you might expect) “On the Unity of the Intellect.”  That which is true is as true, and is true in the same way, as everything else that is true.  Nothing can be both true and false at the same time.

This is the first principle of reason.  It’s also called “the principle of identity” and “the principle of contradiction,” depending on whether you are looking at all truth being equally true, or the impossibility of contradiction in truth, respectively.

This is Aquinas’s “analogy of being.”  That is, whatever something is, it is fully that thing.  All members of a class are analogs of one another.  Not clones or duplicates: analogs.

Participative justice is simply a statement of the analogy of being.  If someone is a human being, he or she is fully a human being, and as fully a human being as every other human being, having all the essential characteristics of humanity — such as the full spectrum of natural rights that define each and every human being as a human person.

Consequently, if one human being has the natural right to life, liberty, or property and thus the right to participate in the common good through their exercise, then all human beings have those same rights in the same way, and thus the right to participate in the common good through their exercise.

Within the Kelso-Adler theory of economic justice, then, participative justice is applied to the economic common good.  It pertains to the right of every single human being to exercise (participate in) economic rights, especially the means to acquire and possess private property in capital.  Effectively, this means equality of opportunity, not equality of results.

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