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Local Justice in America

Local Justice in America

Jon Elster EDITOR
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    Local Justice in America
    Book Description:

    Notions of justice and fairness are central to the American belief that the pursuit of a healthy and productive life is the right of all citizens. Yet in the real world there are seldom sufficient resources to meet the needs of everyone, and institutions are routinely forced to make difficult decisions regarding who will be favored and who will not.Local Justice in Americais an insightful look into how selections are made in four critical areas: college admissions, kidney transplants, employee layoffs, and legalized immigration.

    This volume's case studies survey the history and modern rationale behind seemingly enigmatic allocation systems, chronicling the political and ethical debates, occasional scandals, and judicial battles that have shaped them. Though these selection processes differ significantly, each reflects a bitter struggle between opposing-and equally intense-principles of local justice. For example, are admissions officers who use special points to foster student diversity less fair than those who rely exclusively on scholastic achievement? How did the system of personal discretion among doctors selecting transplant patients come to be viewed by the public as more inequitable than compassionate? Does the use of seniority as a gauge in layoffs violate equal opportunity laws or provide employers with their only objective and neutral criterion? How have partisan interest groups repeatedly shifted immigration quotas between the extremes of xenophobia and altruism?

    In framing chapters, editor Jon Elster draws upon these studies to speculate on the unique nature of the American value system. Arguing that race matters deeply in all considerations of local justice, he discusses how our society's assessment of neediness balances on the often uneasy compromises between the desire to reward deserving individuals and the call to strengthen opportunities for disadvantaged groups. Well informed and stimulating,Local Justice in Americaspeaks directly to policy debates in the fields of health, education, work, and immigration, and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the fundamental social issues that affect our daily welfare.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-185-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Jon Elster
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: The Idea of Local Justice
    (pp. 1-24)
    Jon Elster

    Local justice deals with decentralized in-kind allocation of scarce goods and necessary burdens. In the present volume we discuss the allocation of three goods-college admission, kidneys for transplantation, and immigration rights—and of one burden, viz., layoffs from work. In my earlier book,Local Justice,I also considered, albeit much more briefly, the following:

    military service in wartime

    demobilization from the army

    allocation of sperm for artificial insemination

    selection of adoptive parents

    award of child custody

    admission to kindergarten

    division of household work

    allocation of prison space

    rationing in wartime

    The task of this introduction is to introduce the basic...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Allocation of College Admissions
    (pp. 25-80)
    Patricia Conley

    The study of the procedures and criteria employed in the college admissions process has great normative implications, given the importance of education in contemporary American life. Access to higher education significantly shapes an individual’s life chances; competition for admission to the university is competition for professional success and social position.¹ Because admission is an indivisible good that cannot be divided among several individuals, hard choices must be made. Increasingly, the choices must also be justified to the public and to the applicants. As the admissions process is becoming more open, admissions officers are forced to be more explicit and consistent....

  7. CHAPTER THREE Scarce Medical Resources: Hemodialysis and Kidney Transplantation
    (pp. 81-152)
    J. Michael Dennis

    This chapter tells the story of the distribution of scarce medical resources for saving the lives, or improving the quality of life, of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients in the United States. The aim is to account for the clinical, organizational, and political factors that influence how many lives and which lives are extended or improved.

    Hemodialysis and kidney transplantation are examples of organ substitution therapy. These procedures substitute an artificial or healthy human kidney for the patient’s diseased kidneys. Today there are over 200,000 ESRD patients in the United States who survive by virtue of hemodialysis and transplantation, and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Layoffs: Principles and Practices
    (pp. 153-226)
    Stuart Romm

    Very few people who work for organizations are exempt from the possibility of being laid off. In this chapter I consider how criteria of age, race, sex, seniority, and ability are used or prohibited in layoff decisions, focusing on surveys of employer practices, relevant statutory and case law,¹ and case studies of corporate practices derived from confidential interviews. The focus will be on firms in the private sector.

    Although many workers in recent years have lost their jobs due to a total shutdown of the operations of their employer, I do not consider this topic. The local justice project is...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE U.S. Immigration Policy and Local Justice
    (pp. 227-290)
    Gerry Mackie

    Immigration policy is a matter of local justice. In the United States, both the first-order determination of how many to admit and the second-order determination of whom to admit are governed by Congress. In this respect, immigration differs from other central issues of local justice. In similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, second-order determinations are delegated to relatively autonomous cabinet-level agencies. Even in the United States, however, immigration principles differ from policies that aim at global justice in that, practically, they are not compensatory, except with respect to refugees. Also, immigration policy does not involve cash transfers, but rather...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion: Local Justice and American Values
    (pp. 291-316)
    Jon Elster

    In this conclusion I pull together some of the themes from the previous chapters—to suggest some generalizations about the structure of the American value system. I should state at the outset that what follows is very much a freehand sketch. Although I try to back up my claims with findings from the case studies, these do not offer anything like hard evidence. Many of my beliefs about what Americans think about fairness are little more than impressions. Although shaped by exposure to a large variety of local justice issues and their resolutions, my beliefs could also be distorted by...

  11. Index
    (pp. 317-328)