A traditional overall distinction between the various versions of retributive theories of punishment is that between positive and negative retributivism. This article addresses the question of what positive retributivism – and thus the obligation to punish perpetrators – implies for a society in which the state has many other types of obligation (e.g. obligations to provide its citizens with some degree of health care, education, protection, etc.). Several approaches to this question are considered. It is argued that the resource priority question constitutes a genuine and widely ignored challenge for positive retributivist theories of punishment.