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date: 04 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Supplying public goods generates costs and benefits that can be allocated among individuals in different ways. Yet leading theories of justice within liberalism fail to offer concrete guidance on how these allocations should be assessed. This chapter critically examines a number of principles of distributive justice that might be used for this purpose. It argues that the appropriate principle will depend on whether the public goods in question are “essential public goods” (ones that are required by justice) or “discretionary public goods” (ones that are not). While a number of principles have previously been put forward for both categories, the chapter concludes that none of them are free from counter-intuitive implications. Further work is needed in order to arrive at a satisfactory way of assessing the distributive consequences of public good supply.

Keywords: public goods, distributive justice, essential public goods, discretionary public goods, liberalism

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