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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 22, 2017

Carmine Gorga
Pages 203-217

Return to Economic Justice
From Entitlements to Rights

The principles of economic justice outlined by Aristotle ruled the world up until 1776, when, undermined by Adam Smith and the Enlightenment, they were replaced by a program that eventually came to be called “social justice.” While the world of economic justice was composed of firm rules rooted in morality, the program of social justice responds to the ideals of freedom and refuses to be pinned down in any fashion. This paper suggests that if we recognize that we are currently facing a social, economic, and intellectual crisis of vast proportions, and we want to resolve the crisis, we had better undo what Adam Smith did: We need to restore morality to the social sciences and the understanding of hoarding to economics. If we do that, we return to the Aristotelian/Aquinian world of economic justice—not in a passive return to the past, but to perfect it with the explicit addition of the plank of participative justice. We are then in a position to integrate economic policy and practice as never before, with practice specified in economic rights and responsibilities. From a legal point of view, we set the stage for a transition from entitlements to properly earned rights.