IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories

  • James Konow

This paper evaluates numerous positive and normative theories of justice in positive terms, i.e., in terms of how accurately they describe the impartial fairness preferences of real people. In addition, the paper proposes and defends an integrated justice theory based on preferences over four distinct and sometimes conflicting forces. These forces frame the analysis of the individual theories and inspire four corresponding theoretical classes: equality and need, utilitarianism and welfare economics, equity and desert, and context. This synthesis enables one to treat justice rigorously and to reconcile results that often appear contradictory or at odds with alternative theories.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Literature.

Volume (Year): 41 (2003)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 1188-1239

in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:41:y:2003:i:4:p:1188-1239
Note: DOI: 10.1257/002205103771800013
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  2. Paul Anand, 2000. "Procedural Fairness in Economic and Social Choice: Evidence from a Survey of Voters," Open Discussion Papers in Economics 27, The Open University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics.
  3. Kritikos, Alexander & Bolle, Friedel, 2001. "Distributional concerns: equity- or efficiency-oriented?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 333-338, December.
  4. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  5. Jeremy Clark, 1998. "Fairness in Public Good Provision: An Investigation of Preferences for Equality and Proportionality," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(3), pages 708-729, August.
  6. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  7. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  8. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  9. Schokkaert, Erik & Lagrou, Leo, 1983. "An empirical approach to distributive justice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 33-52, June.
  10. Malthus, Thomas Robert, 1798. "An Essay on the Principle of Population," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number malthus1798.
  11. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
  12. Charness, Gary & Grosskopf, Brit, 2001. "Relative payoffs and happiness: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 301-328, July.
  13. Konow, James, 1996. "A positive theory of economic fairness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 13-35, October.
  14. Gaertner, Wulf & Jungeilges, Jochen & Neck, Reinhard, 2001. "Cross-cultural equity evaluations: A questionnaire-experimental approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 953-963, May.
  15. Skyrms,Brian, 1996. "Evolution of the Social Contract," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521555838.
  16. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  17. Schokkaert, Erik & Capeau, Bart, 1991. "Interindividual Differences in Opinions about Distributive Justice," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 325-45.
  18. Holm, Hakan & Engseld, Peter, 2001. "Choosing Bargaining Partners - An experimental study on the impact of information about income and gender," Working Papers 2001:10, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 30 Jul 2001.
  19. Overlaet, Bert, 1991. "Merit criteria as justification for differences in earnings," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 689-706, December.
  20. Max H. Bazerman, 1985. "Norms of distributive justice in interest arbitration," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(4), pages 558-570, July.
  21. Michael R. Ransom & Gordon B. Dahl, 1999. "Does Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit? Tithing Donations and Self-Serving Beliefs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 703-727, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:41:y:2003:i:4:p:1188-1239. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.