Introductory Material
on Policy, Worldview, and Normative Economics


1.    Identify and contrast economic “liberal” and “conservative” viewpoints according to their differing perspectives on:

(a)  Whether the individual or society is more important

(b)  Distributive justice

(c)   Private property

(d)  Central planning vs. Markets

2.    One possible system of categories for organizing and making sense of the variety of economic (and political) ideologies relies on differences in notions about distributive justice. Contrast the “end-state” and “process” approaches to distributional justice. How are these related to liberal and conservative ideologies, and the various schools of macroeconomic thought?

3.    Discuss John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice as an attempted compromise between those who advocate end-state justice and those who advocate process justice. Specifically,

(a)  What principles does Rawls argue must be determined when people set up a social, political, and economic system? What choices does Rawls argue that people in the “original position” will make with regard to these? Why?

(b)   Does he succeed? What criticisms of Rawls’ theory can you offer?

4.    Robert Nozick, in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia, argues the end-state theories of distributive justice are fatally flawed. He argues that only a theory of justice that focuses on entitlements and property rights is viable.

(a)  What arguments does Nozick give to support private ownership? In what ways is Nozick’s approach consistent with classical liberalism and the neoclassical vision?

(b)  Nozick argues that only the entitlement approach is “natural,” and that history demonstrates that redistribution is inconsistent with personal freedoms. Explain.

(c)   What criticisms of Nozick’s theory can you offer?

5.    Compare and contrast the ideas of process (entitlement theories) and end-state theories of distributional justice.

6.    Identify and discuss liberal, socialist, conservative, classical liberal (libertarian) and totalitarian ideologies in terms of the assumed appropriate roles of government in markets and social choices. Explain carefully.

7.    How does Thomas Sowell identify the constrained and unconstrained visions? How are these different world visions related to the economics of liberals, socialists, conservatives, and libertarians?