August 25, 2008 § 34 Comments
Suppose I designed a computer program which very accurately predicted the outcome of criminal trials based on various factors about the accused: hair color, zip code, that sort of thing. The accuracy is very good, lets say, but not perfect.
Now suppose this computer program were used to actually try criminals: that is, those accused of criminal acts are actually sentenced based solely on the output of this computer program. Obviously, those cases where the program gets the wrong result and sentences an innocent man are unjust.
I would argue, though, that all cases of using this program to actually try criminals are unjust, independent of whether or not it produces the “right” outcome.
I would further suggest that, similarly, when an employer sets a man’s wages based on market rates alone, this is always unjust, even when it produces the “right” outcome.
Market rates for things do, of course, constrain what is possible. But life is full of options. If it isn’t possible for someone in the position to be an employer of full-time employees to do this thing justly, it is always possible for him to do something else entirely. The set of things which can be done justly has always been a subset of the things which can be done at all. Ahem.