Rawlsian property owning democracy, asset-based social policy, housing policy, social investment


This paper discusses a fundamental issue that continues to haunt Western welfare states: despite rising levels of social expenditures and a rigorous social investment-oriented social policy, poverty and acute social inequalities persist. Using the concept of Property Owning Democracy (POD) advanced by John Rawls, this paper argues that an asset-based housing policy might be able to improve social justice and reduce poverty. Using Singapore’s housing system as an example, this paper illustrates the connection between asset building and POD, and suggests that Singapore’s housing system, to some extent, fulfills the requirements of Rawls’ theory of justice in terms of maintaining an ex ante ownership of productive resources by all citizens through a nation-wide public housing program that provides early access to state-produced home ownership. The result is comparatively more dispersed property ownership and wealth that better meets the requirements of the theory of justice.

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