Justice, equality and social value

Bill Jordan

in Welfare and well-being

Published by Policy Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9781847420800
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447304210 | DOI:
Justice, equality and social value

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This chapter deals with the strongest objection to the proposal that social value should be a criterion for public policy decisions — that it is derived from a particular way of life. In this view, any priority given to a substantive version of the good life, other than the many different lives freely chosen by individuals, is a violation of the principle of liberal neutrality. The question in this chapter is whether the ruling out of absolutisms and authoritarianisms associated with cultures of ethnicity, nationality and religion implies that well-being defined in terms of social care is an unsuitable goal of public policy. This chapter approaches the question by considering one proposal for a major reform of the tax-benefit system, which is rooted in the tradition of liberal individualism. It also uses Van Parijs's arguments for basic income in considering whether reforms in the distribution of rights and resources of this kind might in themselves be enough to correct the divergence between welfare and well-being. It also argues that many of the claims made by other political philosophers in support of the basic income proposal are unconvincing, because they do not address issues of social value directly. Unlike Van Parijs, who acknowledges that people would simply be able to live any life they chose however worthless, political philosophers suggest that society would be in some sense better through the freedom and equality bestowed by an unconditional income on all its members. This chapter suggests that, without other ways of promoting social value, there is little reason to believe that the Easterlin paradox would be overcome by this measure alone.

Keywords: social value; public policy decisions; well-being; public policy; welfare; Easterlin paradox

Chapter.  10918 words. 

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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