John Rawls’ Argument for Equality
John Rawls’ Argument for Equality
John Rawls (1921-2002) was an American political philosopher who provided illuminating answers to some of the issues that contribute towards good governance. The scholar refers to the argument by different scholars on how individuals abide by the laws of a country. Rawls refers to John Locke’s statement that anyone who benefits from the government’s supplies such as traveling on the highways agrees to the law and acts by its requirements. Rawls, nevertheless, fails to understand how only passing on road shows that a person adheres and is satisfied with the laws of a country. Rawls also refers to Immanuel Kant’s argument that a law is just if all members of the society agree to its requirements. Rawls also gives a counterargument to Kant’s opinion claiming that the view is a contrast to actual social norms. Rawls feels that his theory of justice provides a solution to the contradictions and argues in the framework that the suitable way to think of justice is to identify the principles that all people would agree to in a situation of equality.
Rawls gives a differing opinion from the way many societies create the principles that define the collective life. Sandel (2009) asserts that coming together to create regulations that define how justice ought to prevail in the society or to create a social contract the participating parties would settle on choices that favor their desires. Sandel (2009) writes that “People would support unlike principles that reflect their respective interests, social positions, religious beliefs, and moral interests” (119). The author believes that coming together to create social contracts that seek to establish equality would not result in a suitable outcome considering that the society brings together people who are either rich or poor while some are influential and well connected. Rawls informs that some members of the community are ethnic, racial, or religious minorities thereby widen the chances of settling on a compromise when trying to adopt features that would promote equality. The scholar argues that the setting would lead to the adoption of regulations that reflect a superior bargaining power of particular individuals over others. Rawls, therefore, implies that there is no reason to believe that a social contract created in this manner would be a fair agreement.
Rawls’ opinion is that people would settle on proper ways of achieving equality suppose they gather to choose the guiding principles behind a veil of ignorance. Rawls informs that the veil of ignorance temporarily bars people from recognizing anything about their state thereby not recognizing their ethnicity or race, gender or class, and religious beliefs or political views (Sandel, 2009). Choosing the guidelines that determine social justice and equality behind a veil of ignorance prevents people from considering their merits and a disadvantage – whether they are of sound health or not, whether one has an education or not widens the possibilities of arriving at the right solutions (Sandel, 2009). The argument by Rawls is that choosing while behind the veil of ignorance increases the likelihood of choosing from an original position of equality.
Rawls challenges members of the public to consider what principles they would choose if they were in a position to create elements that promote social justice and equality using the behind the veil framework. He does not believe that all individuals gain motivation by their self-interest and that sometimes people put aside their religious and moral convictions thus leading to the settlement of misleading guidelines (Rawls, 1985). Rawls believes that in their right senses, people would not settle on utilitarianism which is the doctrine that something is good if they are beneficial or useful to the majority (Rawls, 1985). Choosing while behind the veil gives individuals the opportunity to settle on a system of equality that would favor them when end up being a member of an oppressed group or as rich as Bill Gates. Individuals who choose social contracts that foster justice and equality while behind the veil fully understand that they would be part of a society where they want to pursue their desires (Sandel, 2009). Choosing from behind the veil according to the scholar gives people the chance to avoid being victims a not settle on laissez-faire as a libertarian form of leadership and people’s life that would give citizens the freedom to do what they want, and where they acquire respect from others (Sandel, 2009). Rawls recommends settling on social contracts while behind the veil by giving an example where a member of a minority ethnic or religious group would not want to face oppression even if that would satisfy the majority. The political philosopher argues that people while choosing behind the veil would consider everything that they want rather than favoring one side.
The scholar provides some suggestions that people should consider when choosing the guidelines that govern the economic and social inequalities. The academician suggests that to avoid crashing in poverty and to create an equitable opportunity to everyone, it is essential to consider equal distribution of wealth and income. The scholar feels that it would be improper to disregard a particular community because of its religious or ethnic affiliation while sourcing other areas with valuable resources that create an opportunity for growth (Sandel, 2009). Rawls permits the existence of the existence of difference principle which informs about a scenario some people earn a little bit higher because their jobs require advanced knowledge and expertise. The theorist gives the example of the case where a doctor receives more than a bus driver but calls on the government to identify other areas that would make the poor earner equal to the higher earners such as creating equal access to health services (Sandel, 2009). The author proceeds to inform about Rawls’ principle which tells about a case where higher pay for medical providers leads to improved healthcare in impoverished areas.
The Argument from Moral Arbitrariness
Rawls argues from the concept of moral arbitrariness by looking at feudal aristocracy which is one of the prominent theories of justice. He informs that nowadays many people do not have hopes in the feudal and caste systems terming these structures unfair because they distribute wealth, income, power, and opportunity based on a person’s birthplace (Sandel, 2009). The idea of moral arbitrariness implies that when a person is born into a noble family, they get opportunities and rights that are not available to individuals who come from less privileged families (Sandel, 2009). Rawls feels that market societies provide some solutions to the arbitrariness to some degree and that they open opportunities to those with the right talents as well as offer equality before the law. The scholar points out that the idea that citizens attain equal liberties and may experience equal distribution of resources corresponds to the libertarian theory of justice (Sandel, 2009). Apart from advancing how the free markets function, achieving fairness in rectifying the social and economic disadvantages such as providing education and proper childhood health nutrition regardless of family background or class may help to eradicate moral arbitrariness.
Rawls’ argument on the difference principle generates one chief complaint. The contradiction focuses on introducing incentives to instill the desire to put a little effort into something such that one receives high pay yet they do not offer the services that help the less fortunate to advance (Sandel, 2009). Rawls respond to the contradiction by stating that the difference principle allows income variations to act as the incentives, provided that they work to improve the welfare of the less privileged. Rawls mentions that increasing CEO’s pay just to increase the GDP would not suffice like if the incentives create economic prosperity to those at the bottom line (Sandel, 2009). Some groups feel that Rawls’ theory of justice fails to consider the notion of effort thereby making it ineffective. Critiques question the claim by the theory that people’s natural talents do not come from the effort they put in developing the ability or behavior. Reviewers feel that people like Michael Jordan and Bill Gates put a lot of effort in their actions to enhance their talents. Rawls respond to the criticism by stating that even the ability to nurture one’s talent by applying energy depends on the social circumstances and the state of the family (Sandel, 2009). The opposition that effort plays a significant role in developing natural talent serves as the strongest objection to Rawls’ argument thus showing that the theory by the scholar requires further scrutiny to identify its strengths and weaknesses.
The argument by Rawls is that settling on social contracts that build social equality depends on the way people select the guidelines that define societal and economic practices. The scholar recommends that it is wise to settle on the decisions when behind the veil to avoid making choices that favor the wants of a particular group while disregarding the majority. Rawls advocates for the formation of free markets as well as distributing resources on equal basis as ways of achieving a society where the minority groups enjoy similar benefits.
Rawls, J. (1985). Justice as fairness: Political not metaphysical. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 14(3), 223-251.
Sandel, M. (2009). Justice: What’s the right thing to do? New York, NY: penguin books.
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