Desert, democracy, and consumer surplus

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (3):315-338 (2010)
Abstract
If one wishes to give individuals what they deserve, one must find some way of appraising those characteristics that render them deserving. In modern democratic societies, it seems attractive to base this appraisal on an aggregation of the valuations individuals hold of the desert bases under consideration. Some have argued that the market can provide such an appraisal. However, I argue that the market does not provide a satisfactory democratic appraisal that is relevant for desert, as it allows for the existence of net consumer surplus. Nevertheless, I submit that a procedure that does not leave any net consumer surplus would succeed where the market fails. Taking the average valuation of the individuals in society for a given desert base would meet this requirement. Hence, I claim that such a procedure can provide the satisfactory democratic appraisal that the market cannot, and can be used to give individuals what they deserve
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DOI 10.1177/1470594X09351959
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