Theory of justice is a book that fully describes political philosophy as well as ethics written by John Rawls and published back in 1971. The author strived to address the issue of distributive justice through the use of various aspect derived from social contract theory. Justice as Fairness was used helping Rawls develop some two well known principles of justice; these are the liberty principle as well as the difference principle. Generally speaking the author supported the attempts to reconcile equality and liberty. The influence to what Rawls held was from David Home and Immanuel Kant whom were responsible for justice issues and fair choices for individuals/parties involved in a given situation (Newman 92).
The manner with which each party behaves is shape by the justice principle. It is acknowledged that parties involved in an issue are usually faced with scarcity and are not philanthropic or purely self-centered. In such an arrangement the parties seek to arrive at a desired end but this is attained by working through corporation in a mutually agreed terms. This is fostered by choosing situation on the basis of veil of ignorance.
Despite the efforts made by Rawls in the theory of justice, there are various criticisms but the major persistent one is that Rawls' proposals would produce a society in which the most accomplished and talented people would be severely limited in the use of their gifts, and that limitation would be for the purpose of elevating people without such gifts (Nozick 14). The essay thus seek to establish if this was Rawls purpose while having in mind that socialism was not among his desires. Finally, the essay evaluates how Rawls' proposal would harm those people in the society deemed to be most gifted.
Rawls' Theory of Justice
Rawls' main point in "A Theory of Justice" is that justice must be fair. ÿAs he pushed his idea forward, he couldn't avoid the criticisms like Rawls is a socialist and his proposal will harm the most gifted people in society. To define Rawls' position, we have to see his ideas and measure where his political orientation stands and his desired society.
"A Theory of Justice" includes Rawls' three thoughts. First, he criticized the society's mean of Justice as an ethical and a political sense, because he thinks the modern society's justice is rooted from the utilitarianism. Then, Rawls suggested a model of justice as fairness society. It shows rules and methods to become Rawls ideal society. Last, Rawls talked about two principles of justice; Different Principle and equality of opportunity.
As I mentioned above, Rawls criticized utilitarianism. ÿUtilitarianism is an idea that says the principle of society is to maximize and achieve individual's interest, goods, and happiness and to achieve that interest; people are to be autonomous and selfish. Rawls disagreed because it implies that the happiness of a minority of people may be justly sacrificed to secure the happiness of the majority. Here, a minority could be the least advantaged people, who don't have power to secure themselves. For example, in 2008, well known insurance company, A.I.G., has compensated their top-valued employees with high bonuses. But the problem occurred because the government gave AIG over $170 billion dollars in bailout money to keep it from going bankrupt. Like the example, people who are advantaged will seek for other greater advantages. So Rawls claims that utilitarianism is incompatible to having equal advantages. He believed that removing utilitarianism would narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
In formulating Rawls' theory of justice as fairness, he draws a theory of social contract. Social contract is an agreement made when people unite into one society. Rawls asserted that agreed social contract must be made for the justice as fairness, and it should be made in original position, which is a hypothetical man whose choices are made from the standpoint of a veil of ignorance. Veil of ignorance is a method determining the morality, and it assumes re-fashioned and redistricted society. ÿSo for example, if you don't know how much income people around you make, you won't know the average income level of the society (Rawls 142).
If people make rules under this circumstance (the veil of ignorance), what would their decision be? When choosing the rules without the veil, people would know one another's status, such as ability and condition, thus they would try to maximize self-interest because of the utilitarianism (Nozick 81). But when choosing the rules with the veil, people would agree on maximizing the minimum. Maximizing the minimum is when the least advantaged ones will receive the most. In another word, the society will benefit less but won't be in deep trouble. Rawls believe the agreements under these conditions will make the society less unequal.
Overall, he defined the principle of justice in two ways. First is a Different Principle, which is that the social structure must be measured by its effect on the least advantaged people. So if the least advantaged people receive the most from social institute, it is a proper system for justice. Second is an equality of opportunity. He said that the least advantaged people should have an opportunity to reach the higher position in society. If there weren't opportunities for them, all the least advantaged people would have to born least advantaged.
He was criticized for making such proposal. He's goal wasn't socialism, but some people view him as a socialist because his proposal might limit some individuals from achieving desired wealth. According to Dictionary.com, socialism means assumption or arrangement of communal organization that sponsors the vesting of the possession and management all factors of manufacturing and delivery, of capital, labor, and land among others in the entire the people. Like it says, the public or common ownership controls the production and the distribution. They have performance-based wage system but Individuals get to have an ownership on their own property. In Rawls' assertion of Different Principle, social institutions distribute social benefits and the least gifted people will receive more.
The concern is that the social institution will develop into a government form and control. By comparing two models, they have the same structure. In the World of Idea, "Rawls' ideal society can accept a certain amount of inequality of distribution of wealth, as long as it does not upset the equilibrium of the society." (Rawls 234) So he does agree that the society will have some inequality. This inequality could mean gifted people won't receive as same as not gifted people or this could mean that the society as whole equilibrium will go down by lifting the least gifted people. However, the comparison of Different Principle and Definition of Socialism shows that Rawls does follow the socialism's model, but he twisted a little.
Rawls had an opposed idea of utilitarianism. Since the principle of utilitarianism is to maximize individual's interest, Rawls suggested an opposite direction, which will limit individuals from achieving interests. If the individual's interests are being prohibited, their ability and motivation can be restricted. In utilitarianism, people can open their own restaurants as much as they want and it interacts with their own abilities. In socialism, they cannot, because the social institutions control the production and distribution so individual's interest is going to be restricted at some point. Rawls' criticism toward maximizing individual interest can limit gifted people.
Rawls' second principle of justice, the equality of opportunity, says social and economic inequality should be arranged so that both can be everyone's advantage. He believed that the innate inequalities should be removed. If this inequality is removed and there's an opportunities for everyone, think about the high paying jobs, such as doctor. The high demand on certain jobs will make surplus and achieving the goal would be more competitive. In this case, the most gifted and advantaged people will suffer because of the high competition. This idea, equality of opportunity, was originated from socialism (Rawls 77).
Rawls' methods of becoming a justice society as fairness, he asserted that a man who designs a society should in the perspective of the veil of ignorance. The reason why he suggested the veil of ignorance is to make rules fair. But the veil of ignorance blinds personal's view and makes them equal. It is restricting people from having own interests.
Persistent and validity of criticism
According to Newman 17 although Rawls has been hailed to be one of the best American philosopher after John Dewey for his work that advocated for just society in working towards making the lives of the least fortunate better; he has been constantly criticized for working against those individuals who are more gifted in the society. His second principle held that the existing social-economic inequality is to be in such a way that the greatest benefits opt to be allocated to the group that is faced with lost of disadvantages this is difference principle. "Inequalities in the distribution of society's material resources are acceptable only to the extent that they work to the advantage of society's least fortunate members" (Kukathas & Pettit 124). Additionally, positions in various posts ought to be open to each and every citizen through fair equality of opportunity.
According to Rawls, justice partially refers to what a community and individuals opt to deserve. I bet the proponent of theory of justice had in mind the various situations that human being had no control over. These include the place of birth, the genes within individuals, opportunities and abilities, possession of resources and factors of productions. This goes without saying that the distribution of prospects and abilities is largely deemed to be far beyond personal control.
It is worth remembering that this does not always hold as individuals can do something on their own towards changing the prospect as well as the capabilities (Nozick 244). Rawls' intentions were not socialism but a situation where the least advantaged are catered for. In my view, although Rawls concentrated on elevating those least advantaged he forgot to tackle the consequences that would be faced by those having more talent thus giving room for his critiques to take him to task.
From the free market point of view, competition is necessary for bridging the gap of economic and social inequality.
It is worth noting that Rawls principles of justice and equality have potential harm to those individual who are deemed to possess more talent, potential and prospects as well as capabilities. When the least fortunate individuals in a society are fully catered for as Rawls holds, then those having more talent will 'suffer' economically as the former will not strive to work hard to lift themselves but wait for the advantaged ones to 'save' them. This in turn makes them suffer more because the system may not allow for further expansion of their business hence higher rates of unemployment making the society as a whole worse off (Nozick 179).
Similarly, it is worth to note that when a community strives to elevate the prospects and capabilities of those least disadvantaged, then there are chances that other factors of production needed by those who have the talent especially acquisition of labor would be very expensive. When it takes extra coins for those possessing some factors of production to acquire other factors, the effect eventually is that the goods and services will be much expensive for the society.
The one who is going to bear such pains would be none other than those having more talent as they will be forced to continue catering for the later former category of individuals in the society.
Having in mind that this, coupled with other activities that make running businesses expensive make persons having more talent close down their business and sit on their talent. This eventually means they will not enjoy the fruits of their labor as they are forced to sit on their talents (Kukathas & Pettit 26). On the same line of reason as capitalist, such an arrangement will make competition to be obsolete in the economy. This translates to production of goods and services that are poor in quality. Whether such goods and services are affordable or not, the reputations of those who are talented or possessing the factors of production will be harmed and may force them to close down.
From the review of John Rawls' theory of justice, it is evident that there are two principles he brought forth; the principle of liberty and that of difference. These were developed having in mind the various situations that human being had no control over such as place of birth, prospects and capabilities hence there was need to strike a balance between those who have and those who have not. Nonetheless, John Rawls' principles have received a persistent criticism that it will create a society in which it aimed to uplift the lives, prospects and capabilities of the least advantaged ones at the expense of those possessing more talents. It has been argued that Rawls principles are those of socialism but he clearly stated that his ideas and purpose were not. To distinguish this has proved to be a hard task but it is evident that he twisted from socialism.
It is apparent that although Rawls' proposal had positive intentions, he obviously did not anticipate the negative consequences it would have had to the more talented individuals. The theory with no doubt will jeopardize the efforts of this groups of individuals as they will be made to 'suffer' more in the name of elevating the least fortunate one in the society. For instance, acquisition of other factors of production may be much expensive and might force them to close down which will eventually have a multiplier effect as the less privileged one would loss jobs and closer of business, creating a lazy society and blockage of full utilization of their potential.