Rawlsekianism Reloaded Part IIb: The Principles of Justice

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Ben says:

    I’m mainly commenting to say oh dear if someone figures out how to get rid of the “original just acquisition” problem from Nozick the quick ‘n easy mortal blow to his ideas will be gone. So good on ya for trying; it seems like an important question regardless of the sheer achievement of reconciling two thinkers who offered explicit critiques of the other.

    Some picked nits, though:

    – Health and little kids. Behind the veil of ignorance nobody knows if they’re going to be a six-week-old or require medical attention in order to live (this needn’t be end-of-life cases or emergency attention after an accident; it includes chronic lifelong conditions like diabetes that are fatal without treatment). And in the original position these people would have to be dealt with, since satisfaction of their needs is a requirement for them to exercise the basic liberties you analyze. So what happens? Is there a basic liberty to health and child care that can lay claim to coercing others? Why not? How do you deal with health and youth which require claims on others in order to exercise their basic liberties?

    – “(There may be other reasons for not repealing the second amendment in America, but a city that successfully manages to effect absolute gun control is not therefore unjust)” This is utterly opaque to me. I get the restrictions on raising arms against the state and self defense, but it’s not clear how there can both be a liberty to possess weapons and a just absolute gun control ban.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ben says:

      Reading your comment, these are the first two questions that popped into my head:

      Will we allow abortion in this society?

      What if you’re a fetus?Report

      • Avatar Ben in reply to Jaybird says:

        Also, too, part of this morass: pregnant women, or women-who-know-they-will-be-pregnant, or the-about-to-be-born. We don’t know if we be them under the veil of ignorance, and at the original position they need the help of others in order to even begin to start to exercise the basic liberties delineated above. So lump them in with the above groups.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ben says:

          Wait, we could enter society knocked up???

          I’d prefer a different society behind that veil, please.Report

          • Avatar Ben in reply to Jaybird says:

            I’m not sure exactly how the veil of ignorance would treat these groups (I don’t think anyone does), but I’m pretty sure at least one of those groups has to be considered, and I’m also pretty sure that they each are functionally the same in the nit I’m picking. So you can consider yourself an about-to-be-born baby, if that’s more comforting to you.

            And this isn’t even the hard stuff: all this contractual business is really threatened conceptually by people who are developmentally disabled. Check out Frontiers of Justice; it sounds awful but the first third is a really well written tour de force of contractual theories of rights since Hobbes. Well worth it.Report

  2. Avatar Murali says:

    And in the original position these people would have to be dealt with, since satisfaction of their needs is a requirement for them to exercise the basic liberties you analyze.

    Rawls doesnt really deal with stuff like this. He wants to consider stuff within the normal range. But since I’m aiming for a more general theory, I will see what can be done.

    Is there a basic liberty to health and child care that can lay claim to coercing others?

    Let’s deal with health and childcare separately.

    Before I begin though, I want to note that the mere fact that in principle we need to secure the basic needs does not imply that we need to establish a coercive right to it.

    So therefore, once we decide that children need to be taken care off, it doesnt follow that we mandate childcare centres at every work place. Of course the state may (or even probably) have to step in in the case of orphans or where parents are too poor to support the child, but these are limited cases. These can be provided for with a means tested social safety net. But if you’re worried about negligence, the legal institution of parenthood in which children have rights against their legal guardians/parents and parents/legal guardians have legal duties towards their own children/wards is sufficient.

    For the case of diabetes, again, I’m not opposed to the welfare state in principle, I just want the welfare state to be hyper-efficient. Because the marginal dollar taxed is actually detrimental to the worst off, a hyper-efficient welfare apparatus is the most beneficial to the worst off. Diabetes, especially in adults, is fairly manageable. Different people value enjoying sweets and living till you’re 80 differently

    The principles of justice do not concern themselves with how long you actually end up living, they only concern themselves with the primary goods. It is up to individuals how they use these primary goods to carry out their life plans.

    I hope, Ben that the above is sufficient.

    but it’s not clear how there can both be a liberty to possess weapons and a just absolute gun control ban.

    There are ways to do this.

    1. This is the spaghetti western solution. Guns can be allowed in Rural areas, but are to be handed over to the authorities for temporary safekeeping or checked into an armskote when entering sub-urban and urban areas. In rural areas where the local wildlife can come after your livestock, guns are a necessity. For hunting hobbyists, their guns can always be kept at the armskote at the hunting lodge. For collectors, a complete restriction (ban) on ammunition inside urban and sub-urban areas as well as requiring that the weapon’s trigger guard be locked is what I had in mind.

    2. This is the high tech solution. Cryptographic security. All guns are secured with an encrypted locking mechanism. Attempts to disable the system will alert the police. All weapons will have RFID tags as well as GPS trackers. All security measures will need to be rechecked and serviced regularly. Failure to do so will have legal consequences.

    The key thing here is this: ownership is a bundle of rights which can come apart. In this case, they have the right to exclude. No-one can use another’s gun without permission. The key thing is that the use rights are limited. My claim is just this: such limitations on the liberty to use guns are not necessarily unjust.Report

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