Jump to content

SDG230 Distributive justice and taxation

Course description for academic year 2024/2025

Contents and structure

Objectives and content:

The course is a part of the Norwegian West Coast SDG educational initiative: Knowledge for Ethics and Sustainable Development

Distributive justice is about how goods are to be distributed in society. Taxation is money individuals have to pay to the state in order to facilitate different ends. One important end for the tax system is to redistribute goods in accord with society’s idea of justice. However, taxation is coercive and a highly contentious issue; people in the public as well as academic experts hold very different views when it comes to questions of taxation.

In this course, we present different theories of justice and tie these to a discussion of justice in taxation. The theories discussed in the course include Libertarianism, Liberal egalitarianism and Liberal socialism. These theories have different ideas about what should be taxed and what the overall tax level should be, whether taxation should be proportional or progressive, and whether the tax system is an appropriate means to alter people’s behavior, for example to reduce carbon emissions. We discuss these general questions and enter into specific debates about corporate tax, income tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax as well as other tax measures.

Empirically we will focus on the Norwegian tax system, and compare it to the tax system of the UK and the US. However, we will also look at how issues of taxation must be located in an international context. Tax havens constitute a fundamental threat to national governments ability to realize their idea of justice through measures of taxation. We will discuss recent proposals of how the loopholes in the national tax regimes can be closed in order to ensure the fiscal autonomy of the nation state.

Learning Outcome


The student acquires:

  • A general overview of key concepts and controversies in theories of distributive justice
  • An understanding of the most important questions and dilemmas about taxation.
  • A broad understanding of the various tax measures and the relationship between these.
  • A broad understanding of SDG 10 Goal


The student acquires:

  • An ability to identify and critically evaluate different theoretical positions and ways of argumentation about justice and taxation.
  • An ability to convey features of the theoretical positions as well as the various arguments about different issues in taxation.
  • More generally, an ability to take a justified stand on one of the most contentious ongoing debates in modern society.
  • The capacity to identify the relevant literature on distributive justice and taxation


The student acquires:

  • An ability to assess the relevance of concepts and positions in the literature of distributive justice and taxation for the current political controversies.
  • An ability to assess various ways arguments are presented on issues of distributive justice and taxation.
  • An ability to understand key elements of the tax system and the importance of this system for individuals as well as for businesses.

Entry requirements


Recommended previous knowledge

Good proficiency in English.

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.

Compulsory learning activities

1 group essay and 1 individual essay


Individual school exam, 5 hours,

Grading scale is A-F where F is fail.

Examination support material


More about examination support material

Course reductions

  • ESB230 - Rettferdig fordeling og rettferdig skatt - Reduction: 7.5 studypoints