Distributive Justice and Inheritance

  • D. W. Haslett
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


It is often argued that a just distribution of wealth is one in which each person’s wealth is proportional to his or her productivity. Let us call this the ‘productivity’ ideal of distributive justice. Some version of it has been held by writers with views otherwise as different as those of the arch-conservative Milton Friedman and the socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.1 In this essay I shall attempt to defend a version of the productivity ideal of distributive justice, and examine its practical implications, especially with regard to inheritance. It is usually thought that the productivity ideal of distributive justice justifies rather conservative policies, policies which, for the sake of assuring that wealth is indeed proportional to productivity, reject governmental aid to the poor or any other interference with the market. Thus support for this ideal usually comes from conservatives.2 I shall try to show, however, that conservative support for the productivity ideal of distributive justice is misplaced; that this ideal, as I shall interpret it at least, does not justify conservative policies.


Distributive Justice Chief Executive Officer Productivity Ideal Political Ideal Unnecessary Limitation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ascher, M.L. (1993): “Curtailing inherited wealth”, Michigan Law Review, 89, pp. 61–151.Google Scholar
  2. Brirrairr, J.A. (1978): Inheritance and the Inequality of National Wealth, Washington, DC (Brookings Institute).Google Scholar
  3. Buchanan, A. (1985): Ethics, Efficiency, and the Market, Totowa, NJ (Rowman & Allanheld).Google Scholar
  4. Cooper, G. (1979): A Voluntary Tax? New Perspectives on Sophisticated Estate Tax Avoidance, Washington, DC (Brookings Institute).Google Scholar
  5. Duff, D.G. (1993): “Taxing inherited wealth: A philosophical proposal”, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 6, pp. 3–62.Google Scholar
  6. Fiekowsky, S. (1959): On the Economic Effects of Taxation in the United States, Cambridge, MA (Harvard University), unpublished dissertation.Google Scholar
  7. Friedman, M. (1962): Capitalism and Freedom,Chicago (University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
  8. Haslett, D.W. (1987): Equal Consideration: A Theory of Moral Justification, Newark, DE (University of Delaware Press); London and Toronto (Associated University Presses).Google Scholar
  9. Haslett, D.W. (1990): “What is utility?”, Economics and Philosophy, 6, pp. 65–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haslett, D.W. (1994): Capitalism with Morality,Oxford (Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
  11. Mccaffery, E.J. (1994): “The political liberal case against the estate tax”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 23, pp. 281–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mcclelland, D.C. (1961): The Achieving Society, Princeton, NJ (Van Nostrand).Google Scholar
  13. Mill, J.S. (1965): Principles of Political Economy, with Some of their Applicationsto Social Philiosophy, ed. by V. W. Bladen and J.M. Robson, Toronto (University of Toronto Press); London (Routledge and Kegan Paul) (= Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Vols. II-III ).Google Scholar
  14. Proudhon, P.-J. (1876): What is Property?,Princeton (Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
  15. Rawls, J. (1971): A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA (Harvard University Press )Google Scholar
  16. Shaw, W. and Barry, V. (Eds.) (1994): Moral Issues in Business, Belmont, CA (Wadsworth).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. W. Haslett

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations