Confusing ideals and ideas

There’s a lovely little article on the BBC about American thoughts on income inequality, that clearly thinks that its definition of a better world is very very clever and solves every problem.

“a just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you’d be willing to enter it in a random place”. And it’s really a beautiful definition.

He called it a veil of ignorance, because if you’re very wealthy, you might want the wealthy people to have lots of money and the poor to have very little; and if you are very poor, you might want the poor to have more money and the wealthy to have less.

But in Rawls’ definition, you don’t know where you’ll end up, you have to consider all the different options and therefore you have to think about what is good for society as a whole.

Oh, that is very clever. It’s basically saying that the only just distribution is one where everything is quite level and everyone has the same, because using the theory of a veil of ignorance, the only way for people to be happy is for there to be no difference in what each part of the distribution has.

Of course, it fails to take a great many things into account. Human nature for one; the simple concepts of risk and reward for another.

It says that ‘even’ lots of Americans want things to be equal and fair. What it doesn’t say is that ‘even’ Americans realise that there is absolutely no way to combine such a place and reality. And pretending otherwise is just fucking stupid.

But it sounds fair, and beneficial, and well meaning. And it has the advantage of making people who argue against it appear to be unfair, and malicious, and all round evil. When really people who point out that it’s stupid are just like the little kid, pointing out that the new clothes are suspiciously light on ‘existence’…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>