Science and Society 58 (2):163 - 174 (1994)

A classic representation of a striking instance of non-market allocation of a scarce good may be seen in the contention of Ajax and Ulysses for Achilles' armor (Ovid, "Metamorphoses", XII 612-XIII 398). The contention is viewed through the prism of Jon Elster's recent work, "Local Justice: How Institutions Allocate Scarce Goods and Necessary Burdens". A distinctive allocative mechanism is identified: allocation by peer democracy in light of arguments made by rival claimants. It is argued that this mechanism is of current interest, for it closely integrates the spheres of democracy and distributive justice. The relations between argument and allocation are sketched, alternative mechanisms are noted, and implications for socialism are suggested.
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