Adam Smith, being a classical liberal, had a theory of justice that seems sketchy and anaemic to modern eyes. It is often described as 'thin' because it included only three rules of justice that must be guaranteed by law:
“What about inequality and social justice?!” the people cry. In this age of Affluence and Consumerism, surely any theory of justice must ensure that we all have an equal amount of stuff and equal access to all the good things in life, so that it’s fair?
These days it seems that most people align themselves with either the political left or the political right. This rigid and simplistic dichotomy creates a lot of confusion as people try to dig up all the philosophers from ages past with the aim of classifying them as either left or right within the modern political lexicon. Hence the epic battle for Adam Smith’s legacy. If Adam Smith still walked the earth, would he be a left-leaning liberal or a right-leaning liberal?
Measuring executive pay ratios is an enormous waste of time and effort, especially when you consider that we could, instead, decide to measure something much more enlightening such as corporate productivity. Then at least our metrics would give us something to celebrate. Instead, the equality industry expends a huge amount of energy measuring the multiple by which CEOs earn more than the average worker so that they can regale us with shocking reports about how much other people earn.
There are two kinds of equality – formal equality and substantive equality. The idea that all men are born equal expresses formal equality, and everybody agrees with that. But the idea that everybody should have the same amount of wealth expresses substantive equality, and that's a bit more difficult to justify. Why should people be equal in relation to the amount of stuff they have? Why is it unfair for someone else to have more stuff than you?
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