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Measuring freedom: towards a solution to John Rawls’ indexing problem

Ferretti, Thomas ORCID: 0000-0003-4683-883X (2022) Measuring freedom: towards a solution to John Rawls’ indexing problem. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 15 (1). ISSN 1876-9098

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Identification Number: 10.23941/EJPE.V15I1.538

Abstract

Suppose a principle of distributive justice states that social institutions should maximize the freedom of the least well-off. Understanding how to do so would be easier if freedom only depended on one good, like income. If it depends instead on a composite index of social primary goods, a question arises: Which combination of social primary goods can maximize the freedom of the least well-off? This is John Rawls’ indexing problem. Solving it requires addressing two related problems. The first consists in evaluating, in theory, under which conditions it is acceptable to substitute goods, that is, their substitution rates. The second consists in evaluating which acceptable substitutions are feasible in practice. This article proposes a framework to think clearly about this indexing problem within a Rawlsian, resourcist conception of distributive justice. I conclude by discussing a path towards solving the indexing problem. While further empirical exploration is needed, plausible assumptions about social regimes suggest that maximizing the freedom of the least well-off is likely to require giving them access to a social position with a balanced combination of social primary goods.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://ejpe.org/journal/index
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: A - General Economics and Teaching > A1 - General Economics > A13 - Relation of Economics to Social Values
D - Microeconomics > D3 - Distribution > D30 - General
D - Microeconomics > D6 - Welfare Economics > D63 - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I3 - Welfare and Poverty > I32 - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J8 - Labor Standards: National and International > J81 - Working Conditions
P - Economic Systems > P5 - Comparative Economic Systems > P51 - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2022 13:06
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 11:21
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/116861

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