Over at the Brothers Judd they’re ripping on the philosophy of John Rawls. There are so many flaws in the work it’s hard to understand why it’s been so influential, although of course given the state of modern academia it might well be popular because of the flaws.
I was introduced to it years and years ago and it never made sense to me. What struck me was the presumption of Rawls that egalitarian societies were better for the unfortunate. One can see this in Rawls’ second principle, that
social and economic inequalities are permissible only if they are to the greatest benefit of the “least advantaged” or “worst off”
Why “greatest”? If I were behind the veil of ignorance and accepting of Rawls’ basic “sense of justice”, I’d still go for societal features that had the greatest absolute benefit to the unfortunate, not the greatest relative benefit. In the Rawlsian view, the unfortunate should forgoe benefits if those benefits would be greater for the more fortunate. That’s pure spite. What rational person would refuse the offer “I’ll give you $1000 if I can give your neighbor $2000”? Yet that’s precisely what Rawls’ second principle states. It seems just a bit bogus to me to basis what is putatively a theory of justice on pure spite.