Faculty forum to examine growing U.S. inequality

October 30, 2014
Doudna Hall

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education will host its second faculty forum of the fall semester on Thursday, Nov. 6, from 5-6:30 p.m. in 136 Doudna Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

At the forum, Dr. Brian Peckham, associate professor of economics in the department of social sciences at UW-Platteville, will be giving a lecture entitled “What Should We Do about Growing U.S. Inequality?” Dr. Claudine Pied, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at UW-Platteville, will be responding.

Extending and amplifying a faculty forum lecture that he gave two years ago, Peckham will survey the various policy options for responding to the clear trends over recent years toward growing inequality in U.S. income distribution.

Peckham stated that since the appropriate policy response to these developments must depend on judgments about their fairness or equity, he will first seek to apply three leading theories of social justice – those of Robert Nozick, John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin – to the problem of evaluating the normative character of current U.S. income inequalities.

“These, as well as other similar theories, do not provide adequate accounts of the necessary conditions for just income distributions,” Peckham said. “Knowledge of at least some of those conditions does, however, allow identification of injustices, such as the illegitimate exploitations of others. Growing economic inequality presents a clear and present danger of increasing the frequency of the injustice of unwarranted exploitation, especially of the poor, the weak and other victims of natural handicaps, among other hazards.”

To deal with these threats, Peckham will advocate immediate remedies, such as reforms in the U.S. tax code to increase its progressivity and investments in early-childhood education, as well as long-term (perhaps utopian) efforts to build up what he will call a liberal egalitarian culture.

“Informed by the social philosophy of John Stuart Mill, such a culture would move us toward a society cleared of the economic and moral conditions favorable to unjust exploitation,” said Peckham.

Following Peckham’s presentation, Pied will respond. A 30-minute question and answer period will follow her response. Refreshments will be served.

Written by: Connie Spyropoulos, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, spyropoulosc@uwplatt.edu


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