Rawls—Justice as Fairness:
“The principles of justice for the basic structure of society are the object of the original agreement. They are the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association.”
Rawls calls the way he fleshes out the relationship between these principles and justice “justice as fairness.”
Neo-Kantian reinterpretation of Social Contract Theory plus an account of distributive justice.
Original position—no such thing as an actual SON...the SC is hypothetical...in the OP, hypothetical contractors place themselves behind the veil of ignorance...where they are risk-adverse...
“The original position of equality corresponds to the state of nature in the traditional theory of the social contract. This original condition is not, of course, thought of as an actual historical state of affairs.”
“The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. This ensures that no one is advanctaged or diasadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of naturalk chance or the contingency of social circumstances. Since all are similarly situated and no one is able to design principles to favor his particular condition, the principles of justice are the result of a fair agreement or bargain.”
Original Position = Status Quo
In the OP no one knows:
- his class position
- his place in society
- his social status
- his fortune
- his abilities
- his intelligence
- his strength
- his conception of the good
- his psychological propensities
“Justice is Fairness” does not merely mean “Justice and Fairness are Identical”
“No society can, of course, be a scheme of coopetation which men enter voluntarily in a literal sense; each person finds himself placed at borth in some particular position in some particular society, and that nature of this position materially affects his life prospects. Yet a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair.”
Parties to the original position/initial situation are to be thought of as both rational and mutually disinterested.
“Rationality must be interpreted as far as possible in the narrow sense, standard in economic theory, of taking the most effective means to given ends.”
Would you rely on utilitarian principles if you were in the original position?
“Since each desires to protect his interests, his capacity to advance his conception of the good, no one has a reason to acquiesce in an enduring loss for himself in order to bring about some greater net balance of satisfaction. In the absence of strong and lasting benevolent impulses, a rational man would not accept a basic structure merely because it maximized the albebraic sum of advantages irrespective of its permanent effects on his own basic rights and interests.”
How might a utilitarian respond? Hint: Utility and Rights
“People in the original situation would choose two rather different principles: the firsty requires equality in the assignment of basic rights and duties, while the second holds that social and economic inequalities, for example inequalities of wealth and authority, are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone.”
“These principles rule out justifying institutions on the grounds that the hardships of some are offset by a greater good in the aggregate.”
“It may be expedient, but it is not just that some should have less in order that others may prosper.”
“The intuitive idea is that since everyone’s well-being depends upon a scheme of cooperation without which no one could have a satisfactory life, the division of advantages should be such as to draw forth the willing cooperation of everyone taking par in it, including those less well situated.”
People would choose whatever position would leave them in the best possible position even if they end up in the worst possible scenario.
Rational contractors would not gamble with their liberties or primary goods.
Examples: Religious Intolerance and Racial Discrimination
Contractors would choose the two following principles:
- P1 (Equal liberty)—“each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others.”
- P2 (The Difference Principle)—“social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.”
The principles of justice are by definition the result of a fair agreement or bargain. Hence, they are just.
Rational agents in the OP would also seek to nullify as best as possible the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstances.
The maximin principle: “rank alternatives by their worst possible outcomes: we are to adopt the alternative the worst outcome of which is superior to the worst outcomes of the others.”
The basic liberties:
- political liberty
- freedom of speech
- freedom of assembly
- freedom of the person
- right to property
- freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure
The distribution of wealth and income need not be equal, but it must be to everyone’s advantage.
The first principle (basic liberties) is prior to the second (economic liberty).
“This ordering means that infringements of the basic equal liberties protected by the first principle cannot be justified…by greater social and economic advantages.”
Rawls’ general principle: all social values—liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect—are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to everyone’s advantage.
The primary goods—things every rational person would want:
Social primary goods:
- rights and libertiespowers and opportunities
- income and wealth
- self-respect and dignity
Natural primary goods:
The naturally gifted are not to gain merely because they are more gifted, but only to cover the costs of training and education and for using their endowments in ways that help the less fortunate as well.
In justice as fairness, people agree to share one another’s fate. In designing institutions they undertake to avail themselves of the accidents of nature and social circumstance only when doing so is for the common benefit.
On this view, “injustice…is simply inequalities that are not to the benefit of all.”
“The general conception of justice imposes no restrictions on what sort of inequalities are permissible; it only requires that everyone’s position be improved.”
Rawls calls “justice as fairness” an “egalitarian conception of justice”
“First we may observe that the difference principle gives some weight to the considerations singled out by the principle of redress. This is the principle that undeserved inequalities call for redress; and since inequalities of birth and natural endowment are undeserved, these inequalities are to be somehow compensated for. Thus the principle holds that in order to treat all persons equally, to provide genuine equality of opportunity, society must give more attention to those with fewer native assets and to those born into the less favorable social positions.”