Thursday, July 6, 2017


Discrimination is a violation of the formal principle of justice because it gives some individuals more than they deserve and others less than they deserve. But if we do adopt affirmative action policies, then some previously advantaged groups become disadvantaged: in particular, white males. Some libertarians argue that reverse discrimination also violates the formal principle of justice and therefore it is equally wrong. In sum, the key philosophical questions raised by affirmative action include:

1. In terms of public policy, should government treat persons as individuals or as group members? If, we are fundamentally group members, which group determines our identity? Am I essentially unique individual or am I simply a white male? In other words, should public policy be based on "impartiality" and be blind to the attributes of particular individuals such as race, gender, age, or sexual preference; or should it exercise "partiality" and help the disadvantaged?

2. What role should government play in mediating the competition for scarce resources between groups and individuals? Should government simply guarantee the freedom to compete, or should it redistribute resources based on moral principles such as merit, need, equality, or social utility? Do individuals or groups have only a negative right to compete for resources,or do they also have a positive right to possess at least some resources?

3. What role should government play in fighting economic effects of racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice?

4. Should public policy aim at utility (preventing future injustice) or retribution (paying back) groups and individuals that have suffered injustice in the past?
5. Does the Principle of Liberty, at least sometimes, trump the Principle of Justice?   

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