Volume 120, Issue 7, July 2023
Justice and Contribution: A Narrow Argument for Living Wages
This paper examines whether certain workers have a moral claim to decent wages for work that contributes to the social surplus in a fundamental way. This "fundamental" way refers to work whose fruits other members of society need to live acceptably good lives (not maximally good ones). The paper argues that what is due to this type of worker is based on the nature of the benefit that her labor produces for others in society and on the returned value that such labor should, by virtue of fair play considerations, command. The core of the argument in the paper is that such benefit is connected to an important dimension of human freedom, which is enabled by the absence of necessity to toil to secure subsistence in society. The paper also dwells on questions related to whose responsibility it should be to guarantee decent pay for contributions to society.