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The ‘Deserving’ Rich? Inequality, Morality and Social Policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 August 2010

Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
Institute of Applied Social Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT


There is a long tradition in social policy of discussing and critiquing the notion of ‘deservingness’ in relation to ‘the poor’. This paper will apply such debates to ‘the rich’ to consider the grounds on which this group might be considered ‘deserving’. The paper identifies three sets of arguments. The first set of arguments concerns the appropriateness of rewarding merit/hard work/effort/risk-taking etc. The second concerns more consequentialist/economic arguments about providing incentives for wealth creation. And the third considers the character and behaviour of the rich. As well as discussing the potential criteria for deservingness, the paper will also debate whether the degree of income and wealth gained by the rich is deserved. Finally, the paper will discuss the social policy implications, including taxation policies, which emerge from this debate.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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