New working paper: Social Justice, Public Goods and Rent-Seeking in Narratives

I have a new working paper (co-authored with Phil Magness) which has been submitted to Independent Review. In this short article, we explain a way to sort the wheat from the chaff with regards to social justice. We argue that relational equality (an idea at the center of the social justice literature) is a potent concept and that cementing relational inequality is a method of preserving rent-seeking arrangements that discriminate against particular groups (minorities or majorities). The paper is available here on SSRN and the abstract is below:

Social justice, as a concept, has long been considered inimical to the classical liberal tradition (Hayek 1976; Nozick 1973; 1974). To be fair, there is much to criticize about the concept. The definitional fluidity of the term, along with its frequent deployment for “activist” political endeavors, cast doubt upon the scholarly rigor of the term (Hayek 1978). However, where there is chaff, there is wheat and thus the possibility of salvaging some parts of the social justice concept to serve both normative and positive ends (Tomasi 2012, xvii-xx). Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the aim of this paper. To do so, we introduce the concept of “rent-seeking in narratives,” which, as we argue, takes the best concepts from the literature on social justice in order to make it a relevant tool for social science and classical liberal thought.


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