Economic Justice (5cr)

Master’s students Research Master's students
University of Helsinki - Economics
Hannu Vartiainen
Period 3
Contact teaching
Economicum building

In case of conflicting information consider the Sisu/Courses/Moodle pages the primary source of information.

In what sense does market economy reflect fairness? (does it at all?) Can the system be improved in this sense? Is there a fundamental conflict between economic efficiency and social equality? Can inherently moral notions such as justice be given an economic meaning?

The objective of the course is to draw a big picture of what economic justice means and how notions of fairness can be incorporated into economic analysis. Attention is paid on formation of social norms, which embody moral centiments such as justice, reciprocity, and envy. Elements of welfare economics are introduced and intellectual origins of ethical ideas like utilitarianism and egalitarianism are laid down. Influential fairness standards such as the golden rule and categorical imperative are studied. Particular attention is put on possible tensions between efficiency and equality. As an application, we study implications of justice on integenerational problems, e.g. climate change.

Outline of the course:

Week 1: Morality and social contract

Week 2: Evolution of social norms

Week 3: Power, symmetry, and distribution

Week 4: Utilitarianism and egalitarianism

Week 5: Market system and planned system

Week 6: Integenerational considerations

  • Schedule: can be found in Course Page and Sisu
  • Study materials: can be found in Moodle
    • For some courses, it is enough to register in Sisu and you can access directly the Moodle area, please note, however, that it may take up to two hours after registration to enter the Moodle area.
    • Log in with your UH username to be able to use all the features of the course workspace
    • More tips for enrolling in Moodle can be found here

Please register for the course in the UH Sisu with your UH username. Further instructions can be found here.

Aalto University Students
  • Code: no equivalent code
  • Target groups: MSc / rMSc
  • Credit points: 5
  • Credit transfer: apply for inclusion in Sisu

Further information on credit transfer can be found here.

Hanken Students
  • Code: no equivalent code
  • Target groups: MSc / rMSc
  • Credit points: 5
  • Credit transfer: apply for inclusion in Sisu

Further instructions on credit transfer can be found here.

University of Helsinki Students
  • Code: ECOM-452
  • Target groups: MSc / rMSc
  • Credit points: 5
  • AGERE students: Before taking and completing this course make sure that the credits can be counted towards your degree by checking which courses are/can be included in your curriculum. You can also contact your planning officer Simo Riikonen (
FDPE Students Students
  • TBA if the course is suitable for PhD students

After the course, the student should:

  • know the role of fairness in economic theory;
  • understand the nature of equality-efficiency tradeoff in economics;
  • know basic theories of fair allocation and elements of welfare economics;
  • understand axiomatic method in social choice and game theory;
  • be able to model formation of norms and know their underlying mechanisms;
  • apply models of fairness to economic problems such as intergenerational planning