Justifying government Question: How can the power of government be justified?
“Contractarianism” Contractarian answer: legitimacy of government lies in the consent of those who are to be governed. Hypothetical contract
Limits of contracts If we give our consent to something, are we obliged to accept whatever we have agreed? If we agree to X, does that make X fair? (Price-gouging, surrogacy, ‘desperate exchanges’),
Contractarianism (Rawls’ version) To which principles of justice would we agree if we were to choose them from behind a “veil of ignorance”?
Veil of ignorance If we had to choose the institutions of a society in which we were to live without knowing who we would be or which social position we would occupy, which institutions would we choose? ‘Original position’
Utilitarianism Would we choose utilitarianism as a basis for the principles of justice? Rawls’ answer: No
Why not utilitarianism? Utilitarianism might be attractive to egalitarians because it allows redistribution from rich to poor people if utility is increased thereby. But what about minority rights, forced expropriation, etc.?
Rawls’ 2 principles of justice 1)Each person has equal right to liberties compatible with similar liberties for everyone else. 2)Social and economic inequality must be (a) to the advantage of the least well off, and (b) ‘attached to positions and offices open to all’.
Rawls’ first principle Basic liberties: a)Political (right to vote and stand for office) b)Freedom of speech, thought, religion c)Freedom of occupation d)Right to own property e)Freedom from arbitrary arrest
Rawls’ second principle The ‘difference principle’: Inequalities are permitted only if the less well off will benefit from them. (‘Maximin’ principle) Examples of inequality: 1)Income and wealth 2)Positions of power in hierarchical organizations
What makes the ‘original position’ fair? Rawls’ ‘original position’ is characterized by equality amongst the parties thereto because they are ignorant on their personal characteristics. The parties to the OP must therefore choose social & political institutions impartially.
Four societies 1)Feudal (unequal opportunity according to birth) 2)Free market (unequal opportunity according socio-economic position) 3)Meritocratic (unequal opportunity according to distribution of natural talents) 4)Egalitarian.
Natural talents Does an individual deserve to keep the higher income she might earn from the natural talents she has? Rawls’ answer: no Compare Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain example
Desert and entitlement What do individuals deserve in Rawls’ schema?