The Wage Setting Process


  • Thomas Christiano University of Arizona, United States



Fairness, Markets, Democracy, Imperfect Competition, Wages


I here defend a conception of fairness in labor markets. In particular, I argue that we should take a procedural approach to the evaluation of fairness in markets. The procedural approach defended here goes beyond the traditional procedural view that requires only the absence of force and fraud. It also avoids the pitfalls of other classical conceptions of fairness in the market, such as the idea of a just wage or just price. I contend that fairness in markets is analogous to fairness in the democratic process. I thus critique Joseph Heath’s discussion of fairness in labor markets: although I agree in part with his assessment of the just wage tradition, I argue that there is room for the analysis of fairness in markets. I lay out a conception of fairness that is based on the analogy with democracy. The basic procedural idea is that of equal power, understood in markets as a robust form of equality of opportunity and equal cognitive conditions. As such, the procedural idea of equal power argued for here can be given an interpretation within perfectly competitive markets and, furthermore, can be applied to imperfectly competitive markets. I thus draw out a number of institutional implications of this account for how the background institutions of society ought to be organized and how firms should be regulated and organized.

Author Biography

Thomas Christiano, University of Arizona, United States

Thomas Christiano is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Arizona and a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Toulouse. He has been a Laurence Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Princeton University Center for Human Values, a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of the Social Sciences at the Australian National University, and a Fellow of the National Humanities Center. He is the author of The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) and The Rule of the Many (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996). He is Co-Editor in Chief of Politics Philosophy and Economics. His research is in, and he has written many papers in, the areas of democratic theory, distributive justice, philosophy of international law and economic justice.




How to Cite

Christiano, T. (2018). The Wage Setting Process. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 11(2), 57–84.