8. Deserts

Desert based theory of justice is often confused with rights-based theory of justice. Both the principles of justice reject any presumption in favour of equality. However the notion of deserts suggests different basis of material distribution than a right based principle of justice. Ideologically, principle framework of justice is mostly advocated by conservative thinkers. (Heywood, 2004: 301) A desert is a just reward or punishment, reflecting what a person is ‘due’ or ‘deserved’ for his/her action. Therefore principle of deserts argues that people deserve certain share of economic benefits in accordance to their action and therefore distributions should be proportionate to that. (Knowles, 2001: 232-233.) There are certain standard norms for distribution of resources under the principle of desert. They are: ‘contribution’, ‘effort’ and ‘compensation’. (‘Desert’ available at, retrieved on 12/10/2014.) Accordingly, individuals should be rewarded in accordance to their contribution in the social product; they should be rewarded according to the effort that they expend in their work activity; and people should also be rewarded according to the costs they incur in their work. The underlying theme is that, people freely apply their abilities and talents, in varying degrees, to socially productive work and therefore they deserve varying levels of income by providing goods and services desired by others.