Tom Cutterham examines how, facing pressure from populist movements as well as the threat of foreign empires, these gentlemen argued among themselves to find new ways of justifying economic and political inequality in a republican society. At the heart of their ideology was a regime of property and contract rights derived from the norms of international commerce and eighteenth-century jurisprudence. But these gentlemen were not concerned with property alone. They also sought personal prestige and cultural preeminence. Cutterham describes how, painting the egalitarian freedom of the republic's "lower sort" as dangerous licentiousness, they constructed a vision of proper social order around their own fantasies of power and justice. In pamphlets, speeches, letters, and poetry, they argued that the survival of the republican experiment in the United States depended on the leadership of worthy gentlemen and the obedience of everyone else.
Lively and elegantly written, Gentlemen Revolutionaries demonstrates how these elites, far from giving up their attachment to gentility and privilege, recast the new republic in their own image.
Mulligan sets forth a theory of economic justice—meritocracy—which rests upon a desert principle and is distinctive from existing work in two ways. First, meritocracy is grounded in empirical research on how human beings think, intuitively, about justice. Research in social psychology and experimental economics reveals that people simply don’t think that social goods should be distributed equally, nor do they dismiss the idea of social justice. Across ideological and cultural lines, people believe that rewards should reflect merit. Second, the book discusses hot-button political issues and makes concrete policy recommendations. These issues include anti-meritocratic bias against women and racial minorities and the United States’ widening economic inequality. Justice and the Meritocratic State offers a new theory of justice and provides solutions to our most vexing social and economic problems. It will be of keen interest to philosophers, economists, and political theorists.