INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL THEORY

7. Principles of Distributive Justice: Needs, Rights and Desert.

Need based theories are mostly propounded by socialist thinkers and argues that any criteria of distribution should be based on human needs.1 There are obvious challenges in evaluating ‘needs’ because different people has different needs. (Knowles, 2001: 196.) However, principle of need underpins a moral implication stating that all people are entitled to satisfy human needs otherwise their existence will not be possible. Justice in socialist society is an illustration of ‘justice based upon needs’. Karl Marx in his ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ (1875) argues that in communist society, principle of distribution will be founded upon the norm ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. (As discuss in Miller, 1999: 203-5) Principle of needs assumes that basic needs such as foods, water, shelter, healthcare, etc. are often integral to human existence and therefore their satisfaction should be the foundation of every human society. In other words, needs-based theory of justice is egalitarian in its approach and implication. Rights Rights-based principle of justice outrightly rejects ‘needs-based’ justice and any presumption of equality. On the other hand, rights-based theory of justice argues that material benefits should in some way correspond to personal ‘worth’. Under this principle, a person is entitled to have what he/she worth off. (Heywood, 2004: 299) In other words, an individual should get the labour of his/her own hard work or fruit of his/her skills or talents. In other words, any outcome of distribution, inequality, is justifiable if they are sourced from their own talent and hard work. So, a rights-based justice is simply procedural and does not concern about outcome of the distribution. It also endorses neither equality nor inequality and therefore non-egalitarian. (Ibid)