1st Edition

Should Wealth Be Redistributed? A Debate

By Steven McMullen, James R. Otteson Copyright 2023
    298 Pages
    by Routledge

    298 Pages
    by Routledge

    A central contested issue in contemporary economics and political philosophy is whether governments should redistribute wealth. In this book, a philosopher and an economist debate this question. James Otteson argues that respect for individual persons requires that the government should usually not alter the results of free exchanges, and so redistribution is usually wrong. Steven McMullen argues that governments should substantially redistribute wealth in order to ensure that all have a minimal opportunity to participate in economic life. Over the course of the exchange, the authors investigate a number of important questions. Is redistribution properly a question of justice, and what is the appropriate standard? Has the welfare state been effective at fighting poverty? Can we expect government intervention in the economy to be helpful or counterproductive? Are our obligations to help the poor best met through government action, or through private philanthropy and individual charity?

    The book features clear statements of each argument, responses to counterarguments, in-text definitions, a glossary of key terms, and section summaries. Scholars and students alike will find it easy to follow the debate and learn the key concepts from philosophy, politics, and economics necessary to understand each position.

    Key Features:

    • Offers clear arguments written to be accessible to readers and students without a deep background in economics, philosophy, or political theory.
    • Fosters a deep exchange of ideas with responses from each author to the main arguments.
    • Provides in-text definitions and a glossary with definitions of key terms.
    • Includes section summaries that give an overview of the main arguments and a comprehensive bibliography for further reading.

    Michael Munger

    Opening Statements

    1. Redistribution to Expand Economic Opportunity
    Steven McMullen

    2. Justifying Wealth Redistribution: Can the High Burden be Met?
    James R. Otteson

    First Round of Replies

    3. Poverty, Moral Hazard, and the State: Reply to James R. Otteson
    Steven McMullen

    4. Difficulties with the Wealth Redistribution Argument: Reply to Steven McMullen
    James R. Otteson

    Second Round of Replies

    5. Distributive Justice, Economic Growth, and the Welfare State: Reply to James’s Reply
    Steven McMullen

    6. How to Care for the Poor, and How Not to: Reply to Steven’s Reply
    James R. Otteson


    Steven McMullen is Associate Professor of Economics at Hope College and Executive Editor of the journal Faith & Economics. He is the author of Animals and the Economy (2016) and Digital Life Together: The Challenge of Technology for Christian Schools (2020).

    James R. Otteson is John T. Ryan Jr. Professor of Business Ethics, and Faculty Director of the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, Business Honors Program, and Business Ethics and Society Program, at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent books are Honorable Business (2019) and Seven Deadly Economic Sins (2021).

    "Both McMullen and Otteson are adept at navigating the ethical and moral arguments in the abstract, but each is willing to take seriously the problems of implementation and practical consequence. I enjoyed the discussion, and I expect that you will also."
    Michael Munger, Duke University (from the Foreword)