“Fair Enough? Fairness Reasoning and Demand for Redistribution” in Jonas Pontusson and Noam Lupu (eds.) Unequal Democracies. Cambridge University Press.
Fairness concerns are ubiquitous in the realm of redistributive politics. Yet it is not easy to pinpoint what fairness is and what a positive analysis of fairness might look like. This chapter builds on research across the social sciences to provide a parsimonious approach to the study of fairness “in action.” In Western democracies, I argue, reasoning about the fairness of redistributive social policies implies two types of fairness evaluation: (1) how fair is it for some to make (a lot) more money than others in the marketplace, (2) how fair is it for some to receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes? Each question calls to mind a different norm of fairness: the proportionality norm, which prescribes that individual rewards be proportional to effort and talent, and the reciprocity norm, which prescribes that co- operative behavior be rewarded more than uncooperative behavior. Agreement with these two norms is quasi-universal. Where people differ is in their beliefs about the prevalence of norm-violating outcomes and behaviors, i.e. the extent to which what is deviates from what ought to be. These fairness beliefs provide individuals with a proto-ideology through which to interpret the world and pick policies that increase the fairness of the status quo. Accounting for the nature and empirical manifestations of fairness reasoning provides a new understanding of the demand side of redistributive politics in times of rising in equality.