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Aristotle believed, like his master, Plato, that justice is the very essence of the state, and that no polity can endure for a long time unless it is founded on a right scheme of justice. It is with this consideration in view that Aristotle proceeds to set forth his theory of justice. The theory, however, was not developed by him in isolation. He sat the concept of human happiness basis of his discussion, and explains the concept of justice on the basis of individual life- He says in this field:.

Justice is relative to persons, and a justice distribution is one in which the relative values of the things given correspond to those of the persons receiving. Aristotle, According to Aristotle, justice in individual is the harmony in the human soul, and in the society is equality and proportion in the enjoyment of values.

In other words, the common interest. All men think justice to be a sort of equality; and to a certain extent they agree in the philosophical distinctions which have been laid down by us about Ethics. For they admit that justice is a thing having relation to persons, and that equals ought to have equality.

However there still remains a question — equality or inequality of what? Aristotle, Justice, to Aristotle as to Plato, is virtue in action. Justice means that every member of a community should fulfill his moral obligation towards the fellow-members of his community. Justice in the political sense, has two divisions : 1. Corrective justice is concerned with voluntary commercial transactions like sale, hire furnishing of security, etc. This type of justice relates primarily but not exclusively to political privileges.

Corrective and Distributive Justice from Aristotle to Modern Times

From this point of view, each type of political organization has its own standard of worth and, therefore, of distributive justice. In a democracy, the standard of worth is free birth; in an oligarchy it is riches, in aristocracy of birth it is descent while in true aristocracy it is virtue. It minimizes strife and confusion by countering inequality of the equals or the equality of the un-equals. Aristotelian distributive justice is, thus, the other name of proportionate equality i. The family is based on two relations: the relation between man and woman and that between master and slave, both of which are considered to be natural.

To all members of the family the father is an absolute ruler, but he should rule the slaves with mildness, the wife as a free member of the community, and children by right of affection and seniority. Aristotle, The most comprehensive human society is the state. The aim of the state is to produce good citizens, individuals living a virtuous and happy life. As the highest virtues are intellectual, it is the duty of the state not to create warriors, but men capable of making the right use of peace, which is conducive to intellectual activity.

The state should be strong enough to protect itself. The state should be wage no wars except in self-defence or to subjugate natural slaves, i. The Greeks combine courage with culture and are therefore, superior people; and the superior people are alone justified in extending their rule over those who are inferior. The treatment given to citizen should be determined by the differences of capability, property, birth, and freedom. Equals should be treated as equals and un equals as un equals. Although the individual citizen is prior to the state in point of time, the state is prior to the individual in significance, for the whole is prior to its parts.

As man is a social animal, the natural aim of the individual is to live in society. The rational aim of society is the happiness of man. So in a rational society ,the interest of the individual and the state are harmonized.

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To Aristotle, the worth of the individual citizens depends on the kinds of government under which they are brought up. A government is good when it aims at the good of the whole community, bad when it cares only for itself. The best form of government is a monarchy in which the ruler is a man of intellectual eminence and moral worth. There is therefore a difference between the rule of the best aristocracy and of the richest oligarchy , since the best are likely to have only moderate fortunes. There is also a difference between democracy and polity, in addition to the ethical difference in the government, for what Aristotle calls polity retains some oligarchic elements.

But between monarchy and tyranny the only difference is ethical. Aristotle believes that monarchy is better than polity.


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But the corruption of the best is worst; therefore tyranny is worse than oligarchy, and oligarchy than democracy. In this way Aristotle arrives at a qualified defence of democracy; for most actual governments are bad, and therefore, among actual government, democracies tend to be the best. Democracy, Aristotle says, arises from the belief that men who are equally free should be equal in all respects; oligarchy, from the fact that men who are superior in some respect claim too much.

Both have a kind of justice, but not the best kind. Russel, In the theory of mortality Aristotle raises the question of the good for man- the good which is the end of all human ends. According to Aristotle, the ultimate end of man is happiness which is an activity of the soul. Aristotle says that Plato was right in dividing the soul into two parts, one rational, and the other irrational. The irrational part itself he divides into the vegetative and the appetitive. Russel, From this definition of happiness it follows that it is not the same thing as pleasure.

Pleasure is only beauty is the accompaniment of the perfect physical development of youth. The highest pleasure attends the highest happiness. While in all its degrees is good, pleasure may be good or bad according as it accompanies good or bad activities. The ethical goal of happiness cannot be attained without some non-ethical prerequisites, such as the proper discharge of mental and bodily functions and the satisfaction of economic needs. In order to extend his line of argument onto more contemporary issues, consequences need therefore to be derived deductively from his schematic model.

The father of Dialectics is implicitly aware that the time spent in manufacturing a particular type of commodity is relevant to the issue of price as he does not assume that a builder is prepared to trade the construction of a house with a shoemaker for the making of a single pair of shoes for himself: the building of a house - if it needs to trade against pairs of shoes - trades necessarily for several shoe pairs. If a builder were of the same status as a shoemaker then the building of a shoemaker's house would trade for the making of n shoe pairs.

But as a builder is in actuality equal to m shoemakers m being higher than 1 if the trade of a mason is more prestigious than that of a shoemaker and lower than 1 if it happens that the trade of a shoemaker is the more prestigious of the two , that is, a builder is to a shoemaker what m is to 1, then building a house will trade for n times m pair of shoes.

How you compute the value of this n factor, Aristotle does not say. There is however a principle underlying his price theory which allows to calculate it. The n pair of shoes are those that the shoemaker has the opportunity to make during the time it takes the builder to build a house. Let us say that n is determined by the number of pairs of shoes that a shoemaker can make during one time unit, which is defined here as the time it takes a builder to build a house.

An additional determining factor is the one linked to status, implying that in their dealing with each other, the working time of the builder and of the shoemaker do not exchange on a one to one basis. A corollary of Aristotle's model of price in terms of relative status is that the price the potential buyer would be inclined himself to pay in order to have a house built or a pair of shoes made is foreign to the process of price formation. It is in fact only by identifying himself with a particular category of buyers purchasing from him and gauging how much these would be prepared to spend on having the job performed according to what kind of person they are and he is himself within the existing social order , that the potential seller is able to guess how much he can possibly make out of the deal.

But why is it, after all, that the quality of the commodity itself is irrelevant to the issue of its price ' It is because the universe within which Aristotle's model of price formation unfolds is a given universe. The only remaining relevant issue is the actual price at which the commodity will be put for sale, and as far as this is concerned, it is determined by the quality of the parties involved as buyer and seller.

Aristotle's view of relative status determining price hardly had any following at all. An immediate objection to Aristotle's line of argument is that it is implausible - even in ancient Greece - that the very same commodity would sell for different prices to different customers I quoted earlier on Polanyi claiming that there is not even a proper market structure in ancient Greece: Polanyi []: The answer to this is that in this respect ancient Greece is likely to have been in every way similar to the modern Western world in so far as, although toothpaste or soap sell for an identical price in the shop - whomever the buyer might be - the fact remains that in actuality people belonging to different strands of the population buy different types of toothpaste or soap.

Similarly, Aristotle's judge and shoemaker are unlikely to have ordered from the builder the same type of house or the builder and the judge are unlikely to have ordered from the shoemaker the exact same type of shoes. The judge will have wanted to have an expensive house built so that it is easily distinguished from a shoemaker's house - which will be cheap - although it will be as expensive as the shoemaker can afford in order to establish to the world that he is able to house himself better than, say a fisherman can, and so on. How would the mechanism sketched operate in everyday circumstances ' As I said, different amounts of cash will not be paid by different people for the same goods.

The reverse would show too conspicuously, people would protest. In most cases indeed, different amounts of cash are being paid by different people for different goods : the rich buy expensive goods and the poor buy cheap goods. In our society, if it strikes its fancy, nothing prevents a poorer person to purchase an object more commonly bought by rich people, say a luxury car a proper pauper of course will not manage! The rich typically, will pay cash because he owns the liquidity, while the poorer person, for lack of cash, will pay by instalments.

As everyone knows who has at least once borrowed money, the poorer will end up repaying over the years a much larger amount of money for the same item than the rich who paid cash. The instalments paid comprise not only the cash price of the luxury car, but also the costs of borrowing money over the period, and in addition, the payment of a premium gauging the credit risk risk of defaulting in repayment that the poorer person represents to the car seller more on this below. Thus as Aristotle would have it: the poor pay dear and the rich pay cheap or, stated somewhat differently: expensive goods are relatively cheap to the rich while cheap goods are relatively expensive to the poor.

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The book, The Poor Pay More. Consumer Practices of Low-income Families , by Caplovitz was concentrating on this very issue of how the cost of credit renders the same items dearer to the poor. Ten or more years later two British books with very similar titles: Do the Poor Pay More ' Plachaud and Why the Poor Pay More Williams returned to the theme in the English surroundings where consumer credit was still much less common than in the United States.

Meat and coal are two obvious examples: bulk purchase of meat and hence lower prices per lb. People without coal bunkers cannot take advantage of lower solid fuel prices in summer, even if they could afford the lump sum cost of a winter's supply. Poor people may be more likely to buy in small quantities, which often work out more expensive. Secondly, people with low incomes are less likely to have cars and so cannot easily travel to cheap shops some distance away or carry home heavy weights of goods. They may have to rely on more expensive small shops.

Thirdly, since poorer people are normally paid weekly they tend to budget accordingly and plan their spending over short time spans. This may both discourage the kind of capital spending which can save money in the long run, and get families into difficulties if large sums are suddenly required, like the quarterly electricity bill. Finally, many poorer people may be unaware of the opportunities for securing good value for money for the goods and services they buy. I have no doubt pushed Aristotle's model somewhat beyond what its author intended.

Although the reader may feel that such an extension has a ring of truth, the onus remains on me to show that it has more to support itself than sheer plausibility. Furthermore, the scheme remains entirely unconvincing in the absence of an explanation of how things have come about to be the way they now are. What I am aiming at doing in the third part of the paper is therefore bringing together the elements of the equation which account for why it is indeed the case that even in the circumstances of the contemporary economy - which at times keep the identity of buyer and seller strictly anonymous - it remains that it is their relative status which determines price.

A convenient way of looking at the way wealth is distributed between the various strands of society remains the distinction established by the economists of the classical period between rent , profit and wages. These categories emerge unproblematically from our earlier discussion. Thus in Aristotle's prime example we were led to suppose that the builder provides the shoemaker with some leather to have a pair of shoes made, and that the shoemaker who wants a house built takes it on himself to provide the mason with bricks, tiles, etc.

This left out of course the question of how much needs to be paid for the initial supplies. One can imagine of course that the shoemaker will pay the brick-maker in the same way as he does the mason, that is through barter, and that the price he is charged for the bricks is not determined in any other manner than the price he will pay for having a house built by the mason, etc.

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There needs to be an end however to what threatens otherwise to be an infinite regress: there will be cases where, say, the brick-maker will not be the owner of a clay pit and some price will be charged for the unprocessed raw material such as clay. Social systems have always remained uncomfortable with the fact that it is possible to earn rent while resting at night while not so with wages there are admittedly some borderline cases!

A number of revolutions have had no other rationale than to provide existing rent situations with some justification. Assigning the State, i. Thus, even if one were prepared to treat the entire issue of price in so simple terms as Aristotle seems to suggest, there is necessarily a time when one has to deal with an amount of money ending up in one party's hands for reasons unrelated to working time spent in manufacturing but attributable ultimately to ownership of some raw material involved in the manufacturing process; such is the nature of rent.

Profit obtains from reselling a good for a price higher than that of its initial purchase there is usually some additional processing and transport involved ; trade in its entirety rests on this basis. Wages are obtained from those who hire them by those who lend their work capacity and time; to this extent wage earners' only rent derives from charging for their work. It was Adam Smith who first suggested that the average wage would equate with a subsistence wage , allowing in the terms used later on by Marx, the reproduction of the wage earner's family's work force and nothing more.

It is however David Ricardo who associated his name with this equation of average wage with subsistence wage. Marx assigned this equation to exploitation , i. Without discarding plots and conspiracies as possible motors of History, the concept of exploitation remains a theoretical embarrassment.

Because the poor is poor it is risky to deal with him in commercial dealings, and conversely, because the rich is rich, it makes him a reliable person and there is no risk involved in doing business with him or her. The price paid by the poor includes, as we have already seen in a glimpse with the example of the luxury car, a premium he is forced to pay to compensate for the fact that he is a bad risk.

And having to pay more for the same goods or rather for similar goods his chances of becoming richer are further reduced by so much. The notion that the poor pays dear because he or she is a bad risk may seem at first sight far-fetched. Thus on organised markets participants need not worry about the solvency of other actors as clearing houses make sure that everyone is protected against some others' potential default.

The reverse applies to over-the-counter financial operations since they are private between the two or more parties involved. Here, risk of default from the counterparty is inherent to the one to one relationship founding the transaction. In over-the-counter markets, actors are exposed to the risk accompanying any debt incurred by the counterparty. Consequently, financial organisations such as governments or corporations are rated by professional rating agencies which provide in this way some measurement, some quantitative appraisal, of their financial health.


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Investors take such ratings into consideration when these bodies issue further debt under the form of government or corporate bonds. By grading financial institutions they determine how much these are to be penalised when gaining access to the markets. With these grades, which typically start at the top with AAA for the most trustworthy governments issuing bonds, rating agencies assess how much risky it is to deal with every financial actor and what amount of added premium allows to compensate for the risk of default it presents very much in the same way as an insurance premium gauges a risk of loss.

Providing that the rating agencies' assessments are accurate, financial institutions are able to trade on the markets under conditions which reflect accurately their financial status : a low rating means indeed hefty penalties, a high rating means highly favourable conditions for accessing the markets. Here, in the financial world, it thus looks as if status reflects in an exact manner risk of default.

It is tempting therefore to consider status in this perspective: status reflects the risk, i. The question which then arises is whether or not risk contributes in any similar way to defining the status of persons. In the typical example Aristotle proposes of the mason and the shoemaker it is implied that the question of the price paid for leather and bricks has been settled separately. What is not spelled out but presupposed is that what gets paid is the labour involved in building a house or making a pair of shoes.

The type of circumstances assumed to prevail are those which I have come across in West Africa, that it goes without saying that the customer provides the craftsman or craftswoman with the raw materials implied in the job. If you want a shirt made, for instance, you first go and buy the fabric needed and pass your order to the tailor at the same time as you hand him out the raw materials he needs and which has been purchased by you elsewhere.

The tailor is not the supplier of the fabric, this is not part of his job definition we still proceed in the same way of course in Europe or in the United States at the top end of the range in fashion wear. So the way things work out is that the shoemaker orders a house from the builder and provides him, in order that he is able to start construction, with, say two ton of bricks and eight hundred pound of roof tiles; the judge provides the builder with twenty five ton of bricks, two ton of roof tiles and fifteen ton of marble. Let us suppose for the sake of the argument that it takes the builder the same time to build the judge's house and the shoemaker's, the judge's will nonetheless be automatically more expensive as it contains within its walls fifteen ton worth of marble.

In reality of course the judge's house will be much longer in building than the shoemaker's.

Distributive Justice ECON1710

The question to be raised is then the following: all accounts being settled once both houses are built, will the builder have charged the shoemaker and the judge the same amount per hour of his working time ' The answer which Aristotle provides it is implicit in the argument presented in the first part of my paper but still perfectly clear is that the shoemaker will be charged a higher fee per hour than the judge: in terms of builder fees, it will be relatively cheaper to have an expensive house built than a cheap one because the judge is an important person to the bricklayer while the shoemaker is not.

A paradox is however threatening which I cautiously refrained from mentioning so far. The way Aristotle presents price formation, it may look as if it would be advantageous for a mason to build houses for shoemakers only or for people of a similarly low status ; as such building is more profitable on an hourly basis than, say constructing judges' houses. Should you lend some money you own in excess of your immediate needs for a short period or for a long period of time ' Usually long-term rates are higher than short-term.

But if you lend for short periods you allow yourself to take advantage of favourable opportunities as they arise; conversely you may be faced with having to reinvest at a less favourable rate. From the point of view of the builder it takes much more time to build a judge's house, and although in relative terms the shoemaker will pay more, the need to find a new client arises less often with judges.

Let us suppose that it takes a mason one week to build a house for a shoemaker and six weeks for a judge's house. If the mason has specialised in shoemakers' houses, he is faced at the end of each week with having to rollover his orders for the following week. Is he in a position to chain assignments in such a manner that he will never be left without work ' If instead he has specialised in judges' houses, the issue of rolling over orders gets only raised every six weeks, a period which is likely to be long enough to ensure that he will not suffer excessively from defaulting prospects.

Instead of lending over ten years an investor may choose to lend for three-month tranches at a time. In normal circumstances an annualised three-month interest rate is lower than a yearly rate for a ten-year loan, but the three-month investor keeps more room for manoeuvring as he is free to reallocate his capital four times a year. Should the three-month rate appreciate, so much the better for him, but if it depreciates, there will be a threshold on the way downwards below which he would have been wiser to lend over a longer period of time.

Syntax Advanced Search. About us. Editorial team. Izhak Englard. Oxford University Press Introduction -- The starting point : Aristotle's classification of justice -- High scholastics -- Late scholastics -- A special theological problem : divine justice -- Jewish commentators -- Post scholastic writers -- The modern use of Aristotle's forms of justice. Aristotle in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. Distributive Justice in Social and Political Philosophy. Edit this record. Mark as duplicate. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index.


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