Volume 27, 2011
Poverty, Justice, and Markets
You’ve Earned It!
A Criticism of Sher’s Account of Desert in Wages
Desert is a notion ubiquitous in our moral discourse, and the importance of its dictates is perhaps clearest when dealing with the distribution of material resources. George Sher has provided one account of desert in wages, answering the question, “How do workers deserve their wage?” Sher relies on the violation of preexisting “independent standards” that dictate how much of a certain good we think people are entitled to in general. When these standards are violated, they call for an offsetting response at a later point in time in order to restore the moral equilibrium. I argue that this formalization of desert is flawed at the theoretical level and that it has further difficulties when applied to wages in particular. Lastly, I offer some brief remarks about what I think are the criteria for establishing desert in wages.