John Rawls: Lesson 2

Two Principles of Justice

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The difference principle arose out of the thought experiment of being in an original position of equality, behind a veil of ignorance. The difference principle can also be argued from a moral argument independent of the thought experiment. The difference principle can be argue from the facts of moral arbitrariness.

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Feudal aristocracy: accident of birth

Market society: formal system of equality of opportunity – Libertarianism. “Runners start from different starting points.”

Meritocracy society: providing equal educational opportunities. “Runners start from the same starting point, but the fastest runners will win the race.” Natural distribution of abilities and talents. It’s the natural lottery.

“There is no more reason to permit the distribution of income and wealth to be settled by the distribution of natural assets than by historical and social fortune” (qtd. in Sandel).

From a moral standpoint, both market and meritocratic systems are arbitrary. Some critics say that the only way to make a meritocratic/market system fair is to level equality.

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Translate this: ”The difference principle represents, in effect, an agreement to regard the distribution of natural talents as a common asset and to share in the benefits of this distribution whatever it turns out to be…The basic structure of society can be arranged so that these contingencies work for the good of the _________________ fortunate”(qtd. in Sandel).
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Using the four rival theories of justice, enter in the correct type of distributive justice:

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“It is important to notice that allowing wage differences for the sake of incentives is different from saying that the successful have a privileged moral claim to the fruits of their labor. If Rawls is right, income inequalities are just only insofar as they call forth efforts that ultimately help the disadvantaged, not because CEOs or sports stars deserve to make more money than factory workers” (158).

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Rejecting Moral Desert

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Translate this: ”If distributive justice is not about rewarding moral desert, does this mean that people who work hard and play by the rules have no claim whatsoever on the rewards they get for their efforts” (160)?
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