Justice has always been regarded as one of the fundamental political virtues. No association of human individuals could subsist, says Hume, “were no regard paid to the laws of equity and justice”, and nearly every thinker who has turned to consider human society, has reached the same conclusion. Yet we are not at all clear what justice is, nor why it is so important. There are many other ideals which a society may cherish, and often reformers have felt impatient of having to compromise their aims merely for the sake of justice, and have not seen why the claims of justice should in any way override other political goods. I shall try to show why justice is, along with liberty, a peculiarly fundamental ideal, which is not merely co-ordinate with other ideals a society may value; but also that this notwithstanding, considerations of justice are not all-sufficient, and do not, and should not, always override all other political ideals.
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