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Justice, Fairness, and World Ownership

Cécile Fabre
Law and Philosophy
Vol. 21, No. 3 (May, 2002), pp. 249-273
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3505205
Page Count: 25
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Justice, Fairness, and World Ownership
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Abstract

It is a central tenet of most contemporary theories of justice that the badly-off have a right to some of the resources of the well-off. In this paper, I take as my starting point two principles of justice, to wit, the principle of sufficiency, whereby individuals have a right to the material resources they need in order to lead a decent life, and the principle of autonomy, whereby once everybody has such a life, individuals should be allowed to pursue their conception of the good, and to enjoy the fruits of their labour in pursuit of such conception. I also endorse the value of fairness, whereby the right person or institution makes the decision as to whether to bring about justice. I show that justice and fairness can be satisfied only if we all enjoy a combination of private and collective rights over the world. In making that case, I shall argue that the set of ownership rights I advocate differs from readily available conceptions of restricted private ownership in two important respects. First, it is such that in some circumstances, two individuals or more can have control rights over the same property at the same time, not, as is standardly the case in legal systems, by contracting with one another (through gifts and joint purchase), but simply on grounds of justice. Second, it allows that, if necessary, property-owners be expropriated from their property without compensation.

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