Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

Category: Economics (Page 1 of 4)

If everything is measured, can we still see one another as equals?

Relational egalitarians hold what matters for justice is that all members of a society “stand in relations of equality to others.” The idea that all human beings are moral equals is widely shared: it underlies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many national constitutions. How will this norm be affected by the arrival of “big data,” the collecting and analysing of huge amounts of data about individuals? Internet companies and government services collect data about individuals’ activities, including geographic locations, shopping behaviour and friendships. Many individuals voluntarily share such information on social media, some also track their physical activities in meticulous details. Experts expect that “people analytics” – big data applied to the measurement of work performance – will have a revolutionary impact on labour markets.

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Maternity leave: why should employers pay?

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts; explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.  In this fourth post Sarah Goff discusses bearing the costs of maternity leave.

In a 2004 interview, Donald Trump described pregnancy as an inconvenience” for business. Whether or not this remark reveals anything about President Trump’s intentions for his promised reforms to maternity leave in the U.S., it seems plausible as a statement of fact. For a business, it often will be an inconvenience for employees to have a legal right to take a leave of absence and return to their positions without penalty. Of course, the cost of providing paid leave is additional to any costs incurred from the inconvenience of the leave-taking itself.

Observing that there are costs to maternity leave does not imply new mothers lack a moral right to take it. The observation simply raises the question of who is responsible for bearing these costs. The case for employers to provide paid maternity leave is less strong than the case for employers to accommodate new mothers in taking a period of leave with a right to return to their jobs. While only employers can bear the cost of the inconvenience to business, there are many feasible arrangements for other actors to bear the costs of providing financial support during maternity leave. In fact, there is substantial variation across societies in: public provision for paid maternity leave, legal mandates on employers to provide paid leave, employers’ provision of paid leave in excess of legal requirements (particularly in high paying industries where there is a business interest in retaining skilled employees), and social and cultural practices of support for new parents from extended families and kinship networks.

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Stop Supporting the Living Wage Movement!

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.  In this second blog post Ben Sachs offers reasons to be wary of the campaign for a living wage.

Those who support the Living Wage Movement (LWM) no doubt have their heart in the right place. They support the LWM because they care about the poor or specifically the working poor. However, the LWM is going to divide poor people against each other and thereby undermine their ability to effectively advocate for their own cause. And as to the working poor specifically, the LWM will harm them by misleading people into thinking that they don’t exist.

As we all know, the current reality is that many full-time workers don’t earn enough money to live a decent life—at least not without the state’s help. Fortunately, the working poor are eligible for various state-sponsored programmes, such as the Universal Credit and the Child Benefit (in the U.K.). The crucial thing to notice, though, is that the non-working poor are eligible for those programmes too.

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Freedom for Uber Drivers?

Labour Market Injustice

Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.

In this first blog post James Hickson explores how the growth of the platform economy affects the values of freedom and independence. Does the rapidly changing nature of work signal a need to debate how we should understand workplace freedom in the first place?  

In April 2016, Travis Kalanick, the CEO and co-founder of Uber, published a blog post defending the company’s classification of their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than standard employees. Kalanick argued that drivers choose Uber “because they want to be their own boss. Drivers value their independence—the freedom to push a button rather than punch a clock, to use Uber and Lyft simultaneously, to drive most of the week or for just a few hours”. Kalanick even quoted one driver who claimed “I would quit if they tried to make me an employee, because I value my freedom as an independent contractor too much”.

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There is too much division of labour: Against all-or-nothing social roles

Marx might have been right, too strict a division of labour is making us worse off in an important respect: we cannot but fail to develop core human abilities, and this failure cannot but affect our sense of wellbeing, of being at home in the world. Not that we should, or could, fully undo the division of labour such that you and I can “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” But is it unavoidable, or good for us, to have to live by a radical division of labour where the main social roles are an all-or-nothing business?

Consider: you either enter politics, dedicating it a large amount of time, or you have virtually no say in any public affairs. You’re either a parent or someone who can have children in their lives only very sporadically and precariously. You typically either have a full-time job (for many over-engulfing) or an unsatisfying one, which you can all too easily lose, and it probably doesn’t pay enough to live. You’re either in a monogamous relationship, or else your relationship(s) are not socially sanctioned as serious, meaningful, worthy of protection – as marriage and civil partnerships are.

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Resisting TTIP and Corporatocracy

TTIP protesters in Brussels, February 2015.

TTIP protesters in Brussels, February 2015. Greens EFA, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Valentin Beck teaches moral and political philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin. He recently published Eine Theorie der globalen Verantwortung (Suhrkamp 2016). This post is the fourth and final part of our series on TTIP.

Traditionally, trade agreements have been a topic of debate chiefly for economists and other experts. Recently, however, TTIP, TPP and CETA have loomed large in public discourse. What is behind the intense public interest and vehement opposition by civil society groups? The debate does not centre solely on matters of distribution, as some would suggest. Instead, the most important critique of these agreements regards their power to undermine democratic procedures.

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Announcement – New Issue of Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric

The editors of Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric are pleased to announce the publication of the second re-launch issue of the journal: volume 9, issue 1.

The issue is devoted to the topic of “Global Justice and Non-Domination” and features the following original articles:

The whole issue, with all articles and reviews, can be freely accessed at Volume 9, Issue 1.

For more information about the journal, please see the journal homepage.

Reminder – Call for Papers: Labour Market Injustice Workshop

Newcastle University & Durham University, 14-15 December 2016

Labour market injustice is a pressing problem both domestically and globally. None the less, there continues to be considerable disagreement about how to understand and locate the moral concerns involved. Many commentators understand labour market injustice in interactional terms, viewing it as a problem with the wage or contract terms employers offer their workers. But, there is also an emerging trend towards thinking about it in more structural terms. One such thread involves conceptualising labour market injustices as systemic problems, such as understanding exploitation or discrimination as group-to-group phenomena. Another thread involves articulating proposals to prevent labour market injustices through institutional and policy level responses.

This workshop will operate as a detailed discussion of a set of works-in-progress that consider these emerging angles on (domestic and global) labour market injustice. We invite submissions grounded in any area of political theory, including both applied work and more theoretical or methodological contributions, and also papers that consider the intersection with importantly related disciplines, such as law and economics. Topics may include, but are not limited to, areas such as:

  • Labour rights
  • Discrimination
  • Work-life balance
  • Business organisation
  • Supply chains
  • Brain-drain
  • Exploitation

Confirmed participants

  • Anca Gheaus (University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
  • Martin O’Neill (University of York)

Workshop Organisers

  • Elizabeth Kahn (Durham University)
  • Tom Parr (University of Essex)
  • Andrew Walton (Newcastle University)

Submissions

Abstracts of up to 500 words, accompanied by contact details and institutional affiliation, should be sent to andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk by 30th September 2016.  We will notify accepted papers by 14th October.

For further information, please contact andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk, tparr@essex.ac.uk, or elizabeth.kahn@durham.ac.uk

How free is free trade? On CETA, TTIP, and other false promises

Regina Kreide is Professor of Political Theory and History of Ideas at the Institute of Political Science, Justus Liebig University, Giessen. This guest post is Part 3 of a special series on TTIP that we’re running this summer.

Lines of social conflict are no longer configured in terms of “more state” or “less state”. Opinions differ as to how open or closed our societies ought to be. The same holds not just for matters of immigration, but also for economic and financial-political developments. But does opening economic borders lead to greater “plenty” for all? What, for that matter, does “open” mean in this context? Counter to commonplace views of free-trade agreements, a closer look makes one thing clear, above all: economic “globalization” does not create prosperity for the many. More still, the term is in no way synonymous with an open society or open economic borders. The contrary is true. The example of water supply shows that free trade agreements such as the CETA and the TTIP lead to economic foreclosure and to the bypassing of existing international law. It is “open” – like a one-way street – only for massive incroachments on our societal order.

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TTIP – What we’ve learned in the debate

This post is Part 2 of the special series on TTIP that we’ll be running in the coming weeks.

12/07/2014 - Protestors against the EU-US trade deal (TTIP - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) march from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London.

Anti-TTIP protesters in London, 2014. Wikimedia Commons.

TTIP is a complicated issue – but the fact that there is so much public debate about it shows that we have, after all, learned something from the Great Financial Crisis, or so I will argue. Before this crisis, many debates about economic policy took the form of “more market, please” (usually coming from the right) versus “more state, please” (usually coming from the left). But this way of carving up the terrain overlooks the essential preconditions of markets that are themselves political. In addition to questions about “more market” versus “more state”, we need to ask questions about who sets the rules of the economic game.

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