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How Much Do We Deserve?

How Much Do We Deserve?

An Inquiry into Distributive Justice

Bridges the gap between scholars in economic, theological and ethical disciplines, for concerned laity and clergy

Author: Richard S. Gilbert

Price: $18.00

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Economics and theology are about as far apart as two disciplines can get, but Gilbert has mastered them both and brings them together here to shed new light on the comprehensive injustice arising from the gap between rich and poor in this country. Draws on richly diverse ethical and religious sources, including Judeo-Christian, Buddhist and humanist traditions.

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Foreword

Introduction

How Should We Slice the Pie?

Distributive Injustice in Practice

Human Rights and Economic Rights

Liberty and Responsibility

What Is a Fair Share?

Community and Individualism

Through the Eye of a Needle

Muddling toward the Beloved Community

Policy Implications for the United States

The term economic justice has been called an oxymoron, an inherently contradictory phrase. The study of economics-sometimes called "the dismal science"-seems totally divorced from moral analysis. This "soft" science deals with a world of hard data and difficult choices. Since the time of Adam Smith, it has been said that "if all the economists in the world were placed end to end they wouldn't reach a conclusion." At this juncture, however, we must arrive at some economic conclusions, lest the United States evolve into a nation at war with itself.

The secularization of the Western world has resulted in a level of specialization that places economic analysis in the hands of one group of experts and moral analysis in the hands of another. To be sure, economics and ethics seem strange bedfellows. The quantification of economics now dominates normative inquiry. I recently heard a professor at the University of Rochester's Simon School of Business Management lecture on the economics of health care. At one point, he made an unflattering comparison between the Canadian and U.S. health systems. I asked him how the 44 million uninsured Americans fit into the equation. He demurred, saying that this was a policy question, as if economists live in an abstract world, somehow apart from (and perhaps above) the decisions that affect the lives of real people. In The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers shares the philosophy of the late Joseph Campbell about the values that mark a society:

[There was] a time when . . . spiritual principles informed the society. You can tell what's informing the society by what the tallest building is. When you approach a medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest thing in the place. When you approach an eighteenth century town, it is the political palace that's the tallest thing in the place. And when you approach a modern city, the tallest places are the office buildings, the centers of economic life.... That's the history of Western civilization.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the world's richest man, clearly finds that religious activity does not measure up to economic activity. Gates is quoted in a 1998 issue of The Christian Century as saying, "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion isn't very efficient. There is a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." And so, at the beginning of this new millennium, it is not poets but entrepreneurs who are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

"At a time of stagnating wages for the poor, spiraling energy costs, and deteriorating environmental conditions, Dick Gilbert offers a different vision of justice for all, concern for the common good, and stewardship of the environment grounded in religious teachings from the major world religions. Gilbert critiques the politics of tax cuts for the rich, free markets, equality of opportunity, and the ethic of unbridled competition. He suggests specific solutions to economic disparity including increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Living Wage Campaign, progressive tax reform, and use of the negative income tax. His book is thoroughly researched and morally grounded."

—The Rev. Dr. William J. Gardiner, Director for Anti-racism and Social Justice, Department for Faith in Action, UUA

"Motivated by the glaring economic disparities of the 'new American apartheid,' Gilbert confronts and clarifies the tensions created by economic affluence and 'the iron law of maldistribution.' He thoroughly and convincingly argues that the 21st-century vision of the Beloved Community will be shaped by embracing economic justice as a human right."

—Rev. Dr. Fredric John Muir, Annapolis, MD

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