Capitalist economies are undergoing rapid changes, leading to new grievances and the revival of old challenges in a new guise. Firstly, economic inequalities could approach the levels of the Belle Époque, injecting new life into questions about the justifiability of capitalism. Secondly, technology could fundamentally change the labour market, providing new opportunities but also raising doubts about the possibility of employment for all.
In this seminar, we explore recent proposals by political philosophers that address these challenges to capitalism. And we will quantitatively analyse fiscal reform proposals aimed at realising them. For instance, early defenders of capitalism, including David Hume and Adam Smith, saw capitalism as a tremendous improvement over feudalism. But critics today point out how current institutional structures are incompatible with social justice. We will focus on this comparison to diagnose which type of reforms could be needed to achieve a just system. Such proposals include those related to Rawls’ property owning democracy, which would comprise sweeping tax and expenditure reforms. Having established those reform proposals and their philosophical underpinnings, we will look at the fiscal policy literature. This will allow us to quantitatively assess their financial impact and relate them to the current debate.
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Philosophy and Economics Programme, University of Bayreuth
Winter 2019/20, with Carsten Jung