“Individual Responsibility and Distributive Justice”
ABSTRACT: The specter of individual responsibility haunts many contemporary liberal arguments about distributive justice. It is ever present in these arguments, with examples and hypotheticals of individual responsibility plentiful, but the meaning of responsibility remains ever elusive. I argue here that the ideas of individual choice and responsibility should not be at the center of a theory of distributive justice. Nearly every responsibility argument in the distributive justice literature assumes a regulated and limited market economy as a central feature of society (presumably because such a system is productive and is associated with individual liberty), yet their arguments assume away key features of a market economy and misunderstand the kind of behavior that liberal societies with market economies should promote.