The Problematic Role of Responsibility in Contexts of Distributive Justice



It would be surprising if our idea of ourselves as responsible agents did not have a significant place in our understanding of one another as members of a political community with common claims and obligations. We see this idea at work, for example, in disputes about the extent to which the poor are or are not responsible for their lot or smokers for their ill-health. Its most common use, it seems, is to explain and justify differences in shares of economic and other social goods. We see this use implicitly in the following letter to the Editor during the recent Presidential campaign. The author of the letter declares: