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The Virtues of Economic Rescue Legislation: Distributive Justice, Civil Law, and the Troubled Asset Relief Program

Henry S. Kuo

Abstract

This study constitutes an ethical analysis through the lens of distributive justice in the case of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was enacted in the midst of the Great Recession of 2007–2009. It begins by engaging with the visions of justice constructed by John Rawls and Robert Nozick, using their insights to locate the injustices of TARP according to their moral imaginations. However, this study argues that Rawls’ and Nozick’s theories of justice primarily envision the nature of law as being restrictive of vice, not as instructors of virtue. Thus, it resources the legal philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas to demonstrate how the positive pedagogy of law can enable a more just construction of economic rescue legislation, one that not only prevents future repetitions of economic vices and injustice, but is also formative for a society that prizes economic justice and virtues. In doing so, the study proposes two criteria for a more just consideration of economic rescue legislation that embraces law’s positive pedagogy.


Corresponding author: Henry S. Kuo, Department of Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy, Greensboro College, Greensboro, NC, USA, E-mail:

Acknowledgements

This article is a substantially revised version of a paper that was awarded the 2014 Chan Prize in Religion and Economics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Thus, the author extends his gratitude to the Lionel Chan Family Endowment and the Graduate Theological Union. Additionally, he is grateful for constructive suggestions from the two anonymous peer reviewers and from Carol S. Robb, the Margaret Dollar Professor Emerita of Christian Social Ethics at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union.

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Published Online: 2020-11-18
Published in Print: 2021-10-26

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