The Canons Of Distribution; The Feasibility Of The Application Of The Canon Of Efforts In Nigeria

Nicholas Rescher wrote extensively on the principles of Distributive Justice. Distributive justice embodies how the resources, utilities, and benefits of a community should be shared or allocated among the individuals of that community. He wrote extensively on the seven principles of distributive justice which he referred to as "Cannons" of Distributive Justice and concluded that none of the cannons was perfect in all ramifications. This essay examines one of these cannons with respect to the feasibility of its application to an overpopulated country like Nigeria .

The social, political, and economical frameworks that each society has, result in different distributions of benefits and burdens across the individuals in the society. Debates about which framework or distributions are morally preferable constitute the topic of distributive justice. Principles of distributive justice are therefore best thought of as providing a moral compass for the political processes and structures that affect the distribution of benefits and burdens in societies, and any principles which do offer this kind of moral compass on distribution, notwithstanding the nomenclature they employ, should be considered principles of justice.

Distributive principles differ in several dimensions. They vary in what is considered applicable to distributive justice (income, wealth, opportunities, jobs, welfare, utility, e.t.c); in the nature of the beneficiaries of distribution(individual persons, groups of persons, reference classes, e.t.c); and on what basis the distribution should be made ( equality, needs, efforts, e.t.c) In The Canons of Distributive Justice by NICHOLAS RESCHER, he identified and discussed the merits of seven main canons/principles for the income and wealth within a society.

These canons are:

i). canon of equality

ii).canon of need

iii).canon of ability/achievement

iv).canon of efforts/sacrifice

v).canon of productivity

vi).canon of social utility

vii)canon of supply and demand

Although NICHOLAS RESCHER claimed that there were serious objections regarding any use of these canons as ultimate for all circumstances, closer scrutiny of these canons indicates that one of these principles has a good prospect of bringing about an almost fair and just system in the distribution of the income and wealth within society and as such may be fairly appropriate for an overpopulated country like Nigeria.

In this regard, the canon of Efforts/ sacrifices seems to have a good prospect as a suitable principle for an overpopulated country like Nigeria. The principles of Efforts/sacrifices entail that the resources of a society should be shared according to people’s efforts and sacrifices contributed to the commonwealth. Commonwealth in this regard means a society or a country. This principle is premised on the puritanical principle espoused by theorists of a “puritan ethic” who hold that God helps [and man should help] those who help themselves. In essence, this principle connotes that man should be rewarded in accordance with the efforts and sacrifices done him.

The application of this principle in Nigeria will entail that only individuals or citizens who had contributed positively in one way or the other are to be the ones to benefit in the distribution of the country’s resources. Resources must be pointed out to include not only food but also others necessities such as; job opportunities, governmental positions, admission into tertiary institutions,e.t.c. The absence of a distributive principle based on efforts can be said to be one of the reasons why Nigeria is still stagnant if not backward. Effort/sacrifices can be regarded as one of the tenets of innovation and creativity. People prefer relying on “breadwinners” to putting their efforts into use which will in turn increase the country’s GDP[ gross domestic product].

In the same vein, this principle will have a good prospect of eliminating tribalism, nepotism, favoritism, “connection”, undue advantage, and influence [ cankerworms and diseases that have stalled the progress and growth of Nigeria ]since everyone will be rewarded according to the quantum of efforts or sacrifices he/she has made. For instance, a first-class graduate will have a hundred percent guarantee of securing a job. This will in turn motivate undergraduates to be serious with their studies and finish with good grades. The illegal tradition of bypassing students who do not make merit list into the merit list in tertiary institutions, thus denying students who have labored effortlessly and tirelessly their admission will deteriorate. Edmund Burke lauded this principle when he posited that “ it is an invariable law that a man’s acquisition is in proportion to his labors”.

One of the serious criticisms that may be marshaled against this principle is that efforts or sacrifices are not one-sided. One may also be quick to ask; "what about those who commit crimes for a living, are they not also making efforts?’" In all honesty, we can not shy away from this objection. No principle mentioned up there is 100% perfect or ultimate. But what makes a principle have a better prospect or prognosis than others is when its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. In line with this narrative, the distributive principle of the society’s resources based on efforts or sacrifices seems feasible if applied in an overpopulated country like Nigeria.

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