John Isbister — “Ethics and Economics”

“Is it possible to have a just society?”
John Isbister, VP Faculty Affairs, Ryerson University
January 15, 2014

A definition of justice is “getting what you deserve.” That is a good working definition of criminal justice, but what about social justice? How do we get what we deserve within our social system? It is a subject that has puzzled thinkers at least since Aristotle, and the debates echo over the centuries. My contention is that the principles propounded by some of the great philosophers can help us in our thinking, but they are incapable of giving us clear, precise answers. There are too many plausible principles, some of which lead us in opposite directions. Is there a morally justified distribution of personal incomes in Canada? Can we justify the existence of poverty, at any level? Should the accident of citizenship have any bearing on ones well-being? Do animals have a right to justice and, if so, is it any different from the right to justice of human beings? The questions, and many like them, are fundamental, and the search for answers never-ending.

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