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Welfare Economics on Solidarity - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 217
Solidarity/justice/Welfare economics/Moon: An adequate account of the welfare state, one that
can justify its redistributive aims, must ultimately be based upon a theory of justice, and the most
promising theories are those which Phillipe Van Parijs calls 'solidaristic conceptions of justice'
(1995(1): 28), such as those offered by Rawls, Dworkin, Amartya Sen, and Van Parijs himself. Solidaristic conceptions of justice are based upon a commitment to 'equal concern' for the interests of all, and to 'equal respect, that is, the view that what counts as a just society should not be determined on the basis of some particular substantive conception of the good life' (1995(1): 28). Liberalism: The 'liberal' commitment to equal respect in solidaristic theories of justice underlies their support for the standard 'negative' and democratic rights characteristic of the welfare state, and the commitment to equal concern underlies their accounts of social justice and so the redistributive elements of the welfare state. >Van Parijs.
Institutions: No theory, by itself, directly supports the institutional welfare state. Van Parijs, for example, rejects it in favour of a system providing the highest possible basic income for all, and Rawls explicitly rejects the welfare state on the grounds that it tolerates the highly unequal distribution of wealth produced by a capitalist society, and so undermines democracy by concentrating too much economic and political power in a wealthy elite.
Solidaristic approaches: Still, solidaristic theories can supply the deficiencies, noted above, in justifications of the welfare state that appeal to membership and solidarity, and to the baseline problem in efficiency-based arguments.
Membership: with regard to the appeal to membership, solidaristic theories of justice provide grounds for the value of social inclusion on a principle of equality. And they address the serious lacunae in efficiency-based arguments, specifically the fact that they take a market generated outcome as their starting point, and ask whether that outcome could be improved through some government policy.
Distributive equality: But because there is nothing privileged about market generated outcomes, market institutions and the 'initial' distribution of resources must themselves be morally justified, and solidaristic theories of justice address that problem.
Welfare state: while solidaristic arguments do not necessarily justify the welfare state as the ideal regime, they do
Gaus I 218
provide grounds for central welfare state policies.
Rawls: Rawls's ideal regimes, a property-owning democracy or market socialism, would have to be welfare states in the sense I have used the term here: that is, they would have to have social policies that would collectively provide for certain needs, justified in terms of efficiency and their redistributive conse- quences.
Van Parijs: (...) Van Parijs allows significant scope for collective provision including the area of medical care.*

* See Rawls (2001(2): 135—40) and the preface to the revised edition of his Theory of Justice (1999)(3) for his discussion of politico-economic regimes; and see Van Parijs (1995(1): 41-5).


1. Van Parijs, Philippe (1995) Real Freedom for All. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Rawls, John (2001) Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
3. Rawls, John (1999) A Theory of Justice, rev. edn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moon, J. Donald 2004. „The Political Theory of the Welfare State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Welfare Economics
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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