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6 - Anyone for Desert?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2023

Adam Oliver
Affiliation:
London School of Economics and Political Science
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Summary

A concern that people ought to be given what they deserve, in both positive and negative senses, lies deep within the human psyche and strongly influences our sense of reciprocity. Views on the level of reward or punishment that a person deserves for their actions will differ across persons, places and time, but, I argue in this chapter, depend substantively upon some combination of intentions and outcomes. Using these characteristics, I propose a taxonomy of actions, ordered from most to least blameworthy, with, for example, it being suggested that for any particular level of harm an intentional yet unrealised harm is more blameworthy than an unintentional yet realised harm (a similar taxonomy can be developed for the positive domain of praiseworthy actions). The taxonomy is focused upon people’s actions towards others, but I finish the chapter with a discussion of desert in relation to people’s intentions towards themselves. Ultimately, I contend that the strength and sustainability of public sector services and welfare systems, not to mention our private relationships, rely upon the recognition that desert underpins our notion of justice.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Anyone for Desert?
  • Adam Oliver, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: A Political Economy of Behavioural Public Policy
  • Online publication: 16 February 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009282574.008
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  • Anyone for Desert?
  • Adam Oliver, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: A Political Economy of Behavioural Public Policy
  • Online publication: 16 February 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009282574.008
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Anyone for Desert?
  • Adam Oliver, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: A Political Economy of Behavioural Public Policy
  • Online publication: 16 February 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009282574.008
Available formats
×