John Rawls: Lesson 2

Two Principles of Justice

?What ensures the equality of power and knowledge that the original position requires?|veil of ignorance

?If the knowledge of particulars is allowed, then the outcome is biased by _____________________ contingencies|arbitrary

?Is Rawls’s hypothetical agreement morally a more powerful thing than an actual contract?|yes

?What principles would emerge from an original position of equality, behind a veil of ignorance?|equal basic liberties for all citizens; difference principle to ensure social and economic equality.

?What exactly is the difference principle?|only those social and economic inequalities are permitted that work to the benefit of the least advantaged members of society

?Paying doctors high wages leads to better medical care in poor areas. Does the difference principle allow this?|yes

?Paying doctors high wages leads to more cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills. Does the difference principle allow this?|no

?What about Bill Gates or Michael Jordan?|if their wealth arose as part of a system that, taken as a whole, works to the benefit of the least well off, then the difference principle allows their massive wealth

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.

?What is the main idea about the argument from moral arbitrariness?|”the distribution of income and opportunity should not be based on factors that are arbitrary from a moral point of view” (153).

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.

?What does Rawls offer in response to the meritocratic/market system?|the difference principle

?”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).|least

Using the four rival theories of justice, enter in the correct type of distributive justice:

?Feudal or caste system|fixed hierarchy based on birth

?Libertarian|free market with formal equality of opportunity

?Meritocratic|free market with fair equality of opportunity

?Egalitarian|Rawls’s difference principle

?Which one doesn’t base the distribution of income and wealth on contingencies?|Egalitarian

?Looking back now, what two arguments adopt the egalitarian position?|argument from moral arbitrariness; argument from the original position

?How are these arguments similar?|both set aside contingent facts about persons and their social positions

?How many objections are given to Rawls’s case for the difference principle?|2

?What are they?|Incentives and Effort

?How does the difference principle respond to the incentive objection?|Rawls’s difference principle allows incentives, provided the incentives improve the lot of the least advantaged members of society

“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).

?What is Rawls’s reply to the effort objection?|effort is influenced by contingencies for which we can claim no credit

?What is another reason to object to the effort objection?|Effort alone doesn’t deserve reward. A poor worker, even if he tried really hard all day long, doesn’t deserve rewards greater than a good worker who only spent 2 hours on the same task

Rejecting Moral Desert

?“Distributive justice is not a matter of rewarding ___________________” (160).|moral desert

?”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)?|no

?Why?| there is a distinction between moral desert and entitlements to legitimate expectations

?If I win the lottery, am I entitled to the winnings?|yes

?But do I deserve the winnings?|no

?Is distributive justice about rewarding virtue or moral desert?|no

?Can a rich dude complain about a tax system that helps the disadvantaged?|no

?Why?|distributive justice isn’t about rewarding virtue or moral desert

?One on how many grounds does Rawls reject moral desert being the basis for distributive justice?|2

?What are they?|winning the natural lottery isn’t my own doing; having a society value certain qualities is also arbitrary