Critics of the capitalist system have accused it of many faults. Some of these

perceived problems have been the subject of debate among economists.

Economists have argued over the economic merits of a system without conscious

direction under an overall plan. The justice of a capitalist system, too, has often been the subject of criticism and debate. But the problem of economic justice

under capitalism has, in the main, in recent years been debated by philosophers

rather than by economists. This is perhaps because this debate has, in principle,

assumed the economics of capitalism to be well understood and agreed upon, so

that judgements concerning the justice or absence of justice in the system could

be made purely on philosophical and ethical grounds. In this chapter1 I shall

argue that the common understanding of the economics of capitalism which has

served as the basis for the philosophical debate has in fact suffered from certain

serious weaknesses. When these weaknesses are corrected, I shall maintain,

hitherto overlooked key features of capitalism come into view which can be seen

to have important philosophical and ethical implications – implications totally

overlooked in the standard philosophical debates. In particular, I shall argue, an

adequate understanding of the economics of the capitalist system reveals the

crucial role played in this system by discovery. Once the economic role of discovery is properly understood, I shall maintain, most of the features of

capitalism which have provoked the charges of injustice become visible – even

without any new ethical argumentation – in a totally different light. In other

words the discovery theory of justice in capitalist society offers a defence of

capitalist justice not by articulating novel philosophical or ethical positions but

by offering a fresh economic understanding of how the capitalist economic

system actually works.