Desert, Justice and Affirmative Action

  • Albert Weale
Part of the Studies in Social Policy book series


The welfare state is associated in most people’s minds with public expenditure, and this is indeed an important aspect of its functioning. However, there is another aspect of government intervention which has received less attention, but which nevertheless can be argued to be of equal importance. This is the aspect of the regulatory powers of the welfare state. The modern welfare state has powers to intervene in the transactions of individuals and corporations to secure outcomes and conditions that would not arise of their own accord in the course of those transactions. A most important area in which this applies is in the field of employment contracts. Governments regulate the terms and conditions of employment contracts in various ways, requiring, for example, specified health and safety conditions at the workplace, limitations on the hours and wages for which persons may work, and the attainment of certain qualifications before persons can be licensed to practise an occupation. Of course, government action in the employment field is not limited merely to these regulatory devices. Employment-creation programmes and social security payments are also important ways by which governments promote welfare by means of employment policies. Both regulation and public expenditure can support one another.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Joel Feinberg, Doing and Deserving (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970) p. 64.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Aristotle, The Politics, trans. T. A. Sinclair (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962) bk 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See David Miller, Social Justice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976) p. 89. As will be clear, my own discussion owes much in general to Miller’s.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Contrast Feinberg, Doing and Deserving, p. 59.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brian Barry, Political Argument (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965) p. 166. Miller, Social Justice, pp. 93–4, appeals to the same example.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Compare F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960) pp. 97–9.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See, for example, Ivan Illich, Limits to Medicine (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a clear account, though one with a critical appraisal, see Nathan Glazer, Affirmative Discrimination: Ethnic Inequality and Public Policy (New York: Basic Books, 1975).Google Scholar
  9. For a well-written discussion of the first relevant case to be taken to the Supreme Court, see Robert M. O’Neil, Discriminating Against Discrimination (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Laurence Lustgarten, Legal Control of Racial Discrimination (London: Macmillan, 1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 10.
    The Brixton Disorders 10–12 April 1981, Report of An Inquiry By the Rt Hon. The Lord Scarman, OBE (London: HMSO, 1981) Cmnd 8427, ss5.7, ss 6.32.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    I follow Alan H. Goldman, Justice and Reverse Discrimination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979) p. 5, in holding that there cannot be any moral significance in this distinction, and certainly none of the sort used in the Bakke judgement.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    Compare Mary Anne Warren, ‘Secondary Sexism and Quota Hiring’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, VI 3 (1977) pp. 240–61, who gives a long list of secondary sexist practices.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Francis Cornford, Microcosmographia Academica (Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes, 1908) p. 11.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    H. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 6th edn (London: Macmillan, 1901) p. 283.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Feinberg, Doing and Deserving, pp. 77–8.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    A point well made by Goldman, Justice and Reverse Discrimination, p. 81.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    For a full discussion of the idea of group compensation, see Owen M. Fiss, ‘Groups and the Equal Protection Clause’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, V 2 (1976) pp. 107–77.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Alan H. Goldman, ‘Affirmative Action’, Philosophy and Public Affairs, V 2 (1976) p. 192.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Compare Thomas Nagel, ‘The Policy of Preference’ in Mortal Questions (London: Cambridge University Press, 1979) pp. 91–105.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    I confess though that I appear to be in a minority of one on this issue, at least as far as Britain is concerned. Even the Thunderer has clear convictions in quite the opposite direction: The Times, Tuesday, 30 March 1982.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    See Lester C. Thurow, Generating Inequality (London: Macmillan, 1976), which traces out the striking implications of this suggestion.Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    An objection forcibly raised by Lustgarten, Legal Control of Racial Discrimination, p. 19.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Lewis M. Killian, ‘School Busing in Britain: Policies and Perceptions’, Harvard Educational Review, XLIX 2 (1979) pp. 185–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 24.
    As suggested by Lustgarten, Legal Control of Racial Discrimination, pp. 36–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Albert Weale 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert Weale
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Policy Research UnitUniversity of YorkUK

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