This axis is devoted to the articulation of socio-economic objectives, the analysis of their interaction and the identification of institutional structures to achieve them. In economics, efficiency is presented as the first virtue of our institutions. It is generally accepted that this angle of analysis refrains from making value judgments. This is misleading. First, any efficiency analysis is based on implicit value judgments. Second, the values underlying the notion of economic efficiency are far from the only social objectives that matter. In the various projects envisaged, we propose to better articulate these objectives by analysing their interaction and identifying the institutional structures that make it possible to respect them in practice.

Axis directors: Dominic Martin and Denise Celentano

THEME I – Justice in economic policy

Led by: Peter Dietsch

Other contributors: Allison Christians, François Claveau, Clément Fontan, Pablo Gilabert, Axel Gosseries, Joseph heath, Justin Leroux, Frédéric Mérand, Wayne Noorman, Thomas Rixen, Miriam Ronzoni, Stéphane Rousseau and Patrick Turmel

Economic policy decisions today are made almost exclusively on the basis of the impact they will have on economic growth. The normative dimensions of these policies – think of their effect on the distribution of income and wealth, or on the ability of political communities to make sovereign decisions – are relegated to the background. By focusing on the two main macroeconomic policies, i.e. fiscal policy and monetary policy, this project aims to broaden our perspective to include considerations of justice. At the heart of this reflection is the question of the relationship between more narrowly defined economic considerations, on the one hand, and considerations of justice, on the other.

Project 1.1. – Tax justice

Led by: Peter Dietsch

Other contributors: Allison Christians, François Claveau, Frédéric Mérand, Thomas Rixen, Miriam Ronzoni and Patrick Turmel

Who pays taxes, why, and at what tax rate? Analysing the normative foundations of taxation will make it possible to formulate well-founded positions on aspects such as the progressivity of different types of taxation, the idea of wealth taxation that returns to the tax agenda in several countries, as well as the pricing of public services. In contrast to other normative perspectives on taxation, this project is keen to explore feasibility constraints on various tax reform proposals. In particular, the project is sensitive to the distinction between feasibility constraints that arise from a narrowly defined change in economic behaviour versus a change in compliance with tax laws (evasion/avoidance). Finally, this question establishes the link to the analysis of tax competition from an ethical point of view, as perhaps the main challenge to the functioning of taxation today.

Project 1.2. – The normative dimensions of monetary policy

Led by: François Claveau and Peter Dietsch

Other contributors: Clément Fontan, Frédéric Mérand and Stéphane Rousseau

The neoclassical paradigm in economics treats money as an epiphenomenon that, in the long run, has no influence on real economic variables. The aim of this project is to identify and analyze ethical issues that are obscured by this simplistic premise. Beyond the fundamental question concerning potential distributional biases in the creation of money, the project is divided into two parts. First, in continuity with collaborations in the past, we offer a critical perspective on central bank monetary policy since the 2008 crisis. Secondly, the project reviews various fundamental reforms of our monetary system, such as “helicopter money”, the adoption of a 100% bank reserve, or the creation of citizen accounts directly with the central bank.

THEME II – Economic inequalities

Led by: Peter Dietsch

Other contributors: Arash Abizadeh, Pablo Gilabert, Joseph Heath, Justin Leroux, Thomas Rixen, Miriam Ronzoni and Patrick Turmel

The literature on inequality in economics and philosophy is enormous. On the other hand, they communicate little with each other. In economics, research focuses on the issue of measuring inequality as well as on the identification and demarcation of different determinants of inequality. In political philosophy, the emphasis is rather on the question of justifying different types of inequalities, without these necessarily being linked to the underlying economic processes. The objective of the projects under this theme (in collaboration with the ethics and policy axis) is to fill this gap by establishing a link between the justification or not of inequalities and the economic processes that produce these inequalities.

Project 2.1. – Fair income

Led by: Peter Dietsch and Justin Leroux

Other contributors: Joseph Heath, Dominic Martin, Wayne Norman, Thomas Rixen and Patrick Turmel

Along with the theory of democracy, the theory of justice represents one of the key fields of contemporary political philosophy. On the other hand, many theories of distributive justice tend to be presented in abstraction from their economic foundations. The central objective of this project is to build a theory of fair income from the very functioning of our economy and the different institutions that influence the distribution of income such as the labor market. This analysis covers both labour income and capital income. Following the analysis of the determinants of income inequality, the project looks at desirable and feasible normative and institutional responses to these inequalities.

Project 2.2. – Global justice

Led by: Peter Dietsch and Pablo Gilabert

Other contributors: Arash Abizadeh and Miriam Ronzoni

The borders of countries represent one of the fundamental obstacles to a fairer world. Different institutional structures rest on these borders in policy areas as diverse as climate, immigration, trade, and the production and distribution of essential medicines. Navigating the traditional poles of the global justice debate between cosmopolitanism on the one hand and a perspective more rooted in the notion of the nation-state, the project aims to shed light on the economic issues underlying different policy areas. A key premise of such an approach is that it considers that our theories of global justice should demonstrate sensitivity to existing economic institutions and practices.

Project 2.3. – Distributional impact of ecotaxation

Led by: Justin Leroux

Other contributors: Joseph Heath and Pierre-Olivier Pineau

Ecotaxation is the introduction of taxes and other economic instruments to change the behaviour of citizens and businesses in order to reduce their environmental footprint. Carbon tax, pricing of water services, variable tolls to reduce congestion, extended producer responsibility to limit the use of polluting materials; There are many examples. The projects will aim to evaluate the distributional impacts of these various practices on citizens and to propose evaluation criteria to counter their possible regressivity. Particular attention will be paid to the issue of revenue recycling from the carbon tax in Canadian provinces.

THEME III – Ethical behaviour in an economic context

Led by: François Claveau and Justin Leroux

Other contributors: Amandine Catala, Peter Dietsch, Pablo Gilabert, Axel Gosseries, Joseph Heath, Dominic Martin, Wayne Norman, Clare William Roberts, Stéphane Rousseau, Patric Turmel and Rafael Ziegler

While the other two research themes of the axis focus on social institutions and their importance from a normative point of view, this last theme puts different economic actors at the centre of the analysis. Whether it is the individual (e.g. in its investment decisions), the company (especially from the point of view of its social and environmental responsibility), the government (e.g. as regulator of economic activity), or the ‘think tanks’ (in their role of producing information for the public), the different projects of this theme propose to analyze the ethical obligations of different social actors.

Project 3.1. – Responsible investment

Led by: Justin Leroux

Other contributors: Peter Dietsch, Clare William Roberts, Stéphane Rousseau and Rafael Ziegler

The objective is to establish a guide to responsible investment practices. Above all, it will be a question of allowing investors to classify the different assets according to their “ethical” dimension, so that they have a tool to evaluate their investment portfolios according to this criterion and to explore the tensions between return, risk, and the “ethical” nature of their different assets. The project aims not only to contribute to the theoretical foundation of the notion of responsible investment, but also to enter into dialogue with stakeholders in the field, i.e. financial management firms.

Project 3.2. – Organizational ethics

Led by: Justin Leroux and Dominic Martin

Other contributors: Peter Dietsch, Pablo Gilabert, Axel Gosseries, Joseph Heath, Wayne Norman and Rafael Ziegler

This project concerns the articulation between the behavior of companies and the regulation of business practices. In particular, it will be a question of confirming or denying, from an ethical point of view, the validity of policies regulating practices considered anti-competitive. When it comes to companies whose mission is to serve the public interest (production and private distribution of essential goods such as water or electricity), or which exploit common goods (water, again, but also mineral resources, for example), it will be necessary to analyze pricing practices and profit sharing with society. Finally, the project aims to reflect on the ownership structures and governance modes of companies in relation to the role they should play in society.

Project 3.3. – The epistemology of think tanks

Led by: François Claveau

Other contributors: Amandine Catala and Peter Dietsch

Think tanks, i.e. independent organizations dedicated to the analysis of public policy, have a property that seems to disqualify them from the outset as a credible source of knowledge claims: they are ideologically positioned. To a large extent, their conclusions are predetermined by this positioning. Why would it be rational to change our degree of belief in a proposition if it is asserted by an agent whose conclusions are predetermined? More generally, what can be the contribution of think tanks to our collective quest for knowledge if their ideological positioning is inevitable? This research project combines conceptual research with empirical research to answer the latter question.