Economic Justice

What Is Economic Justice?

Economic justice is a component of social justice and welfare economics. It is a set of moral and ethical principles for building economic institutions, where the ultimate goal is to create an opportunity for each person to establish a sufficient material foundation upon which to have a dignified, productive, and creative life.

Key Takeaways

  • Economic justice is the idea that the economy will be more successful if it is fairer, and that prosperity and justice go hand-in-hand rather than in opposition to one another.
  • The goal is to create opportunities for all to thrive.
  • Universal basic income, income equality by gender and race, equal opportunity for employment and credit, and allowing all to reach their full potential are key tenets of economic justice.

Understanding Economic Justice

The concept of economic justice intersects with the idea of overall economic prosperity. There is a belief that creating more opportunities for all members of society to earn viable wages will contribute to sustained economic growth. When more citizens are able to provide for themselves and maintain stable discretionary income, they are more likely to spend their earnings on goods, which in turn drives demand in the economy.

Achieving economic justice can include addressing wage gaps and other deficiencies in individual earnings. For instance, there are members of the workforce employed in jobs that do not make full use of their skills. This typically leads to workers earning wages that do not reflect the full potential of their abilities. As a result, they do not have the highest income they are capable of earning.

Such loss of possible wages creates an inefficiency in the economy because those workers will not have the income to participate to their fullest in it. If this inefficiency reaches significant magnitude—wherein large portions of the population are not purchasing goods and services they might have otherwise spent their earnings on—it can slow the economy.

Examples of Ways To Achieve Economic Justice

One attempt to achieve economic justice is a system of progressive taxation, wherein the tax percentage increases as the base income amount increases. The goal of progressive taxation is to remedy income inequality and provide funds for social services, public infrastructure, and education. The earned income credit, affordable housing, and need-based federal financial aid for college students are other examples of economic justice institutions.

Actions that could serve economic justice also include efforts to end gender-driven wage gaps and providing more thorough career preparation and education to low-income and at-risk segments of the population. Elevating wages for workers who have been earning lower wages is another proposed method of serving economic justice.

Such a strategy can be seen as a counterpoint to the idea of paying greater salaries to business executives who are associated with generating the wealth that pays the wages of others. Note that this idea doesn't operate in reverse: When the economy experiences a downturn, it is those who are among the poorest who face the most severe detriments, compared with those who are more affluent.

What Is the Goal of Economic Justice?

Economic justice strives to eliminate the inequality created by capitalism by creating equal opportunities for all members of the economy. Proponents argue that giving everyone a chance to earn a decent, fair income is good for the economy, as putting more money in pockets leads to greater spending on goods and services.

What Is the Difference Between Social Justice and Economic Justice?

Economic justice is about money and making sure everyone has an equal share. Social justice is concerned with equal rights in general for people of all social dimensions. The idea behind social justice is that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, privileges, and opportunity—regardless of their legal, political, economic, or other circumstances.

Is Economic Justice Achievable?

Pure economic justice is a rarity. Many developed economies offer some form of welfare and implement a progressive taxation system to ensure that bigger earners contribute more to public finances. However, in most of these countries, inequality is still widespread. Loopholes that favor the wealthy undermine attempts to reduce inequality, and big businesses often threaten to relocate elsewhere if forced to share a greater portion of their earnings with employees.

Article Sources
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  1. Cornell Law School. "Minimum Wage."

  2. U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How Does Consumer Spending Change During Boom, Recession, and Recovery?"

  3. Pfeffer, Fabian et al. "Wealth Disparities Before and After the Great Recession." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 650(1), pp. 98-123.

  4. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "How Recessions Impact Household Net Worth."

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