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Fairness, Morality, and Pursuing an Ideal System of Distributive Justice


White, Ryan P. (2021) Fairness, Morality, and Pursuing an Ideal System of Distributive Justice. Other, California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/s22z-ks92.


[Introduction] In the pursuit of an ideal society, an important factor to consider is what system of distributive justice to establish. Given a group of people and some measure of well-being – for example, wealth, income, or respect – systems of distributive justice attempt to answer the question “Who should get what?”. In this essay, I will argue that the ideal system of distributive justice must be primarily based on libertarianism, with some added amount of socialism; the former represents the most morally justified system, while the latter represents a more fair system. Fairness and morality seem to be at odds, and while both are necessary to some extent in our society, our system of distributive justice must ultimately be morally justified by the people who will live under it. First, I will introduce four classical theories of distributive justice: meritocracy, egalitarianism, socialism, and libertarianism. Then, we will look at each theory individually, considering how one would best go about constructing such a system, and evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each. This will allow us to rule out meritocracy and egalitarianism as viable systems, as they are either too vague or reducible to other systems. Next, being left with socialism and libertarianism, we will claim that these two plausible theories are on two sides of a sort of fairness-morality spectrum, and proceed to argue that the two can be consistently mixed. Finally, to decide the ideal libertarianism-socialism mixture, we will consider the emergence of forms of government from the perspective of a citizen, and find that libertarianism is to be preferred, but some socialism is necessary to protect certain fundamental rights.

Item Type:Thesis (Other)
Subject Keywords:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize ; Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy ; Hixon Writing Center
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Philosophy
Awards:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy, 2021.
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Quartz, Steven R.
Group:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize, Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy, Hixon Writing Center
Thesis Committee:
  • None, None
Defense Date:2021
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06092021-173044735
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14271
Deposited By: Leslie Rico
Deposited On:09 Jun 2021 21:08
Last Modified:09 Jun 2021 21:17

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