Just Economic Institutions

Two Philosophical Views
  • Royall Brandis


Two of the several ways in which the question of justice in economic arrangements can be attacked have recently found detailed exposition in books by philosophers: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice,l and Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.2 Consideration of the approaches taken by these two authors, as well as the very different conclusions arrived at, may lead us to a better understanding of the difficulty of reaching agreement as to what are (and what are not) just economic institutions. We should say, by way of introduction, that neither the tools of analysis used nor the institutions scrutinized by these authors are exclusively economic. But economic analysis and economic institutions bulk large in both expositions, and the focus of our attention will be restricted to those areas, more narrowly to the economic institutions of property and inheritance. This restriction is not as serious as might at first appear, for the character and developmental path of an economic system are shaped by the design of its institutions regarding property, property rights, and the rights to bequeath and inherit.


Capital Accumulation Social Contract Distributive Justice Economic Institution Basic View 
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  1. 1.
    John Rawls, A Theory of Justice ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia ( New York: Basic Books, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Allan G. Gruchy, Modern Economic Thought ( New York: Prentice-Hall, 1947 ).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John R. Commons, Institutional Economics (New York: Macmillan, 1934; reprint ed., Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1959 and 1961 ).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    C. E. Ayres, The Theory of Economic Progress (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1944; 2d ed., New York, Schocken Books, 1962 ).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Commons, Institutional Economics, p. 161.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    Commons, Institutional Economics, p. 69.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishing 1980

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  • Royall Brandis

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