International Trade Theory and Policy
by Steven M. Suranovic

Trade 125-3

Seven Fairness Principles

Normative or fairness principles are multifaceted.  There isn't just one definition. If there were just one norm, it would be much easier to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, what should be from what should not be.  However, instead there are several definitions that can be applied in different situations.  This is one of the reasons fairness can be so confusing. As you will see, it also explains why fairness may seem to mean different things to different people and why well-intentioned people may come to opposite conclusions concerning public policy initiatives.

Below I describe seven distinct fairness principles.  Within these seven principles there are three fundamental elements that seem to motivate them: equality, reciprocity and optimization. Different ways of combining these elements helps account for the multiplicity of fairness principles.

International Trade Theory and Policy - Chapter 125-3: Last Updated on 8/2/01