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Adoption as an issue of local justice

  • Monica Duffy Toft and David P. McIntyre

The focus of this paper is adoption, specifically adoption as an issue of local justice. Local justice, as conceived by Jon Elster, is a way of thinking about how scarce goods and burdens are allocated by local, low-level institutions; and encompasses such issues as military service, college admission, organs for transplantation, donation of sperm, child custody, and adoption. There are three principle elements to local justice: scarce goods, institutions that allocate them, and the individuals who step forward as allocative candidates. Over time, the individual will bring his or her needs before a succession of institutional providers, while the institutions will find before them a succession of individuals who need, want, or merit the scarce good being allocated. In many instances, such as the allocation of organs for transplantation, allocation may be a matter of life or death; while in other instances, the consequences of not receiving the good may not be life threatening, but nonetheless affect an individual's future life plans (e.g. admittance into Harvard). Thus allocative decisions can be evaluated according to their importance along two different axes. The first contains decisions which are ‘important’ because they involve life and death outcomes, such as the allocation of kidneys, while other decisions are ‘important’ not because they carry with them life-and-death outcomes, but because they influence the lives of a vast number of individuals. Selection choices for college admission are among this latter type of important decision.

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European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie
  • ISSN: 0003-9756
  • EISSN: 1474-0583
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie
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