Biz prof’s Cambridge book calls for economic justice
April 14, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu )Costly business license requirements hinder the ability of poor people to start their own companies. Professional licensing rules and drug patents drive up health care costs while zoning rules benefit affluent homeowners at the expense of the needy. All of these factors can contribute to poverty and economic insecurity.
But if communities contribute to the economic security of their members, by providing financial support in some cases, and if monopolies, cartels, licenses, and hierarchical organizational structures that favor the wealthy are eliminated, then everyone will have a better chance of thriving.
These are among the arguments offered in a new book due out in September and penned by Gary Chartier, La Sierra University associate professor of law and business ethics. Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England is publishing the 264-page volume titled Economic Justice and Natural Law. It is Chartier’s second book.
“It’s an attempt to work out an account of justice and economic life that draws on new classical natural theory,” Chartier said. Natural law theory, rooted in ancient Christian and classical sources, emphasizes that varying aspects of human welfare “are distinct and diverse, and that they all matter.”
The version on which Chartier focuses holds that reasonable human action is action governed by a set of principles. The most important is the Golden Rule, which calls us to avoid arbitrary distinctions among people. Explaining the focus of his title, Chartier says: “Justice is a matter of giving people what they’re due. What people are due might be what they merit, what they need, or what needs to be given to them to benefit others indirectly.” His book offers an account of how persons can do justice and of how communal norms, rules, and institutions can foster justice.
Poverty and economic insecurity are “best understood as primarily resulting from a whole range of contingent but wide-ranging choices made by the political and legal system. Law and policy benefit those with power and wealth, and marginalize those without,” Chartier said. “Changing the legal environment can play a vital role in dramatically reducing the extent of deprivation, and so of homelessness, in our society. Solving the problem of poverty is first and foremost a matter of eliminating the privileges the law confers on those with wealth and power.”
“Particular people and communities will have more opportunity to flourish if they can organize their lives on the basis of non-hierarchical, non-coercive voluntary action. Local self-determination and variety beat top-down, authoritarian control and imposed uniformity any day,” Chartier said.
“But communities can and should certainly use various forms of non-coercive pressure, including boycotts, shaming, and other norm maintenance mechanisms, to ensure that voluntary interactions respect the dignity and freedom of the participants, … and that people allocate some of their resources toward caring for vulnerable people in their own communities and others,” he said.
“Communities must take into account the equal basic dignity of persons and, perhaps paradoxically, both the value of separate property rights and the inherent moral limits on such rights; they must also acknowledge the crucial importance of democracy in the workplace.”
The book’s first chapter explores norms governing property systems. The second chapter offers general principles regarding the distribution of property and wealth in a community. The third chapter discusses justice at work and offers a multi-point case for democracy in the work place. Then, Chartier goes on to discuss a range of issues raised by situations in which the principles outlined in the book’s first half are not followed. For example, in Latin America and elsewhere, colonial powers arrived, evicted indigenous people from their property--and then allowed them to return as tenant farmers to their own land. Chartier offers principles designed to show how and when it is appropriate for people to regain land from which they have been dispossessed.
Scholars who work in law, ethics, political theory, and similar fields make up the book’s primary market, Chartier said. On the Cambridge University Press website, reviewers give Chartier’s work high marks. They hail from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, the Open University in England, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Queensland in Australia. “Chartier’s examination of issues, including at-will employment, peasants’ property interests in the land they work, workplace democracy, and urban renewal is probing and trenchant. This fine study reflects broad reading without descending into pedantry,” says UCLA philosopher and law professor Stephen R. Munzer.
This latest work follows the 2007 release of Chartier’s book, The Analogy of Love, which explores Christian beliefs, why they matter in today’s world and what those beliefs would look like “if love were self-consciously located at its center,” the book’s preface says. “These types of issues have been interesting to me for a long time,” he said. Imprint Academic in Exeter, England published the volume, which is currently in use as a textbook at La Sierra and which has been discussed with interest inside and outside the Seventh-day Adventist community.
Chartier said he has several other books in the pipeline, including a study of the topic of how societies can organize themselves without coercive state authority, a subject “near and dear to my heart,” Chartier said. He joined the La Sierra faculty on a full-time basis in 2001, but began teaching on campus in 1992. He is the second generation of his family to do so: his father, Stanley E. Chartier, served as a member of La Sierra’s business faculty during the 1955-56 academic year.
Chartier earned a doctorate in Christian theology and ethics from the University of Cambridge in 1991 and a law degree from UCLA in 2001. In addition to School of Business courses in business ethics and public policy, he team-teaches a Scientific Foundations course, Religion and Rationality, a senior-level religion course for Honors students, and a class on global poverty alongside School of Religion ethicist Charles Teel, Jr. “I’m interested in all kinds of stuff,” Chartier said. “My teaching in the business school has had to do with business ethics, public policy and spirituality. I’m all over the map.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University