Do People Deserve their Economic Rents?


  • Thomas Mulligan Georgetown University, United States



Rather than answering the broad question, “What is a just income?”, in this essay I consider one component of income—economic rent—under one understanding of justice—as giving people what they deserve. As it turns out, the answer to this more focused question is “no”. Despite their prevalence, people do not deserve their economic rents, and there is no bar of justice to their confiscation. After briefly covering the concept of desert (§1) and explaining what economic rents are (§2), I analyze six types of rent and show that each is unjustified from the point-of-view of desert (§3). I conclude (§4) by drawing some political and economic lessons from the preceding analysis, and by describing how these considerations can help us create a more just and efficient economy.

Author Biography

Thomas Mulligan, Georgetown University, United States

Thomas Mulligan is  a  visiting  scholar  at  Georgetown  University’s Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics, where he conducts research in, primarily, economic justice and collective decision-making. He is the author of the 2018 monograph, Justice and the Meritocratic State.




How to Cite

Mulligan, T. (2018). Do People Deserve their Economic Rents?. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 11(2), 163–190.