Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Memorandum,
Oslo University, Department of Economics

No 08/2006: Resources versus capabilities: a critical discussion

Hilde Bojer ()
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Hilde Bojer: Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo, Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway

Abstract: This paper discusses the concept of "resourcism'" as an alternative to the capability approach. It argues that the term economic resources covers too many different concepts for the term "resourcism" to be useful when analysing distributional justice. In particular, the "resourcism" of Dworkin is radically different from that of Rawls, because resources in Dworkin's usage are not the same as Rawls's "income and wealth". The term "economic goods" is proposed as a more precise term than resources. Furthermore, it is argued that, since all theories of distributional justice concern the distribution of economic goods, they are all in some sense "resourcist." The paper then discusses in the concept of resourcism defined by Thomas Pogge (2004), and concludes that his concept of resourcism is not logically consistent. Pogge also maintains that the just distribution of economic goods should take into account only standard human needs. The paper argues that taking natural human diversity into account is both possible and desirable as far as valuable human functionings are concerned, and that Pogge's criticism of the capability approach in this respect therefore is unfounded. Finally, it is argued that the relation between capabilities and access to economic goods merits investigation.

Keywords: resourcism; capability approach; distributional justice; Dworkin; Rawl; economic goods

JEL-codes: D31; D63; I31

16 pages, April 15, 2006

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