On the question of economic justice, political debate tends to swing between two poles. The Left wants to reduce economic differences based on the notion of distributive justice, while the Right emphasizes social mobility based on equality of opportunity. A plumber today might not be just an ordinary employee, but actually, with the right career moves, the boss of a plumbing company. Does the plumber, however—or for that matter the builder, elderly care worker, or shelf-stacker—need to move into a higher social class for their job to be seen as worthwhile? Theirs is work that needs to be done and that is valuable to us all.
We should move our focus from today’s one-sided emphasis on redistributive justice versus social mobility. Instead, we should talk about contributive justice—that is, the individual’s right to contribute to the common good based on their skills and abilities. For this to happen, our perception of what constitutes a contribution must change. Any salaried job that adheres to national workplace norms should be regarded as valuable and worthwhile.
To grasp the reasoning behind this statement, a shift is required. Let me illustrate what I mean by taking a closer look at the challenges facing my own native country Sweden.