Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Fairness and Justice

I've been looking over rebuttals to the Rawls position of Justice and Fairness. Let me explain.

John Rawls said that if people had no idea which position in society they would have, then given the choice they would define society to avoid being put in a low and miserable position. He calls it 'the original position'. He's starting from a non-existent point of view, as opposed to the current state, and extrapolating from his guesswork.

You were wrong, John. If you need proof of that, go into any bookmaker's and watch people placing bets. Bookmakers earn a huge amount of money. And yet people still take that risk. Some do it because they think they know better; they may be right, on an individual basis. Some do it because they want a flutter. Humanity is not risk-averse. A society based on being averse to risk will choke in its own fear.

What you were doing was setting up a paper tiger and saying 'people will choose not to be eaten by the tiger'. No we won't. We'll ignore the tiger. Or we'll set fire to it in effigy. Or, as it's paper, we don't even need the effigy.

If I had the original position? I would not assume I was an average person. I would assume that I was me, no matter what the /system/ was. Your model cripples society by enforcing mediocrity as the new standard. Of course the low and the miserable will want resources spent on them. What will you do once you have spent the resources once? Tax and spend again?

For a 40% tax rate, people stay in the country and complain about how much they pay. For a 50% rate, they go abroad. I would be so angry under your model that I would leave the second time you suggested taxing me in favour of 'fairness'. No matter what rate you put it at.

No, I'm not a libertarian. I believe that the state should exist and be fairly hefty, because decent capitalism depends on near-perfect knowledge, and on values such as guilt and happiness being the same for most people. Obviously not the case IRL.

I'm conservative, although I'm not a Tory. I believe that on a small level, libertarian policies work. On a large level, they reinforce people not caring. I am a better and more generous person because the NHS exists. I have grown up thinking it is appropriate to have a safety net and a ladder back up to the high wire.

I don't believe we should be spending most of our money and resources building an elevator back up there, John. We'd only be able to reach halfway, and then we'd have to move the tripwire down.

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