Lucas Stanczyk
Harvard University
A just society must provide a range of goods: police protection, education, medical care, legal representation, to name only a few. But how should a just society organize production of these goods? To ask this question is to broach the topic of productive justice. We need a theory of this topic in order to explain the content of the ideal of social justice. A certain theory of productive justice is now widely taken for granted. It has the following commitments. Every able beneficiary of just institutions owes some productive contribution. There is no free-loading on just institutions. Therefore, income support from the state should normally be conditioned on working. Those who would be idle must find a way to support themselves. Beyond this general requirement, however, each citizen gets to decide his own contribution, because each citizen has a right to choose his occupation. The state may not assign occupations or specify anyone’s place of work. Nor may it direct anyone to work longer than he prefers, provided he is not loafing on public support. Instead, labor must be allocated through a market, where everyone is free to decline any given job offer. The labor market thus fixes the possibilities of just production: the socioeconomic goals that a society may justly accomplish are limited to those that can be pursued in or alongside a labor market. This theory is now widely accepted. I argue that its central elements are importantly mistaken. Income support from the state should not normally be conditioned on working. To think this is to misunderstand the nature of each citizen’s contributory duty. Nor is it the case that a just state may never assign urgent jobs or otherwise restrict occupational decisions. To think this is to misunderstand several of the basic rights and liberties of citizenship. In my dissertation, I defend a different theory, with three elements. The first is a theory of every citizen’s right to free choice of occupation. The second is a theory of the scope and basis of the economic duties of modern citizenship. The third is a theory of the permissibility conditions of restricting labor market liberties. Together these three elements comprise a new theory of productive justice
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