Justice is the focus of a well-managed society, according to philosopher John Rawls. Rawls is responsible for the Original position or the difference principle. To understand the difference principle, you must first understand the “Veil of Ignorance”. Rawls states that the principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. The questions that he asks are; how would a person want to organize society if the person were placed in what Rawls called the original position. (May, and Delston 26) But this is hard for a person to understand because they are not aware of themselves, their position in society, race, gender and so on.
They do have some knowledge of scientific facts and psychological facts. The people in this position behave in a rational way without hate or being selfish. Behind, the veil of ignorance there would be a more unrestricted dispersal of fortune. Rawls believed in the Maximin; where this would maximize the riches for the least well-off person in society.
In what way does this work in the real life? The veil of ignorance can be explained by a literal veil. Say you have a singing competition in which the judges sat on one side of the veil and the competitors on the other. They would sing for the judges without the judges seeing them. It would not matter about your appearance or social class. This would give the judges a less biased choice of the winner. The competition would solely be about the singers’ abilities and not looks.
The veil of ignorance would allow a natural disbarment of goods, and we will try to bargain with our specific desires. And that’s where the problem would start. It is hard to eliminate all influence of power and bias. You are then bargaining without the person information; social class, natural talents, your race, or gender. This is a mental shut off. There is no literal veil.
The difference principle, considers the distribution of income among social classes.; only if those inequalities benefit the worst off. Rawls states that, “Any inequalities must be to the maximum benefit of the disadvantaged.” (May, and Delston 27) Who would be in charge of the veil? Perhaps it would be the decision makers. The decision makers could decide how to disrupt earnings. For the well to do, people, it is like they won the lottery. The lottery being a good up bring and your family having money, but you have no moral right to these things; you were just at the right place at the right time. Since you do not own your qualities, then you should share your earnings. You would keep a certain amount and distribute the rest. You would get more earnings if you use your given talent and work hard to deliver you knowledge and then you could receive a bonus for your work of the greater good. Then the decision makers could make sure that everyone receive the same pay and bonuses for the extra work and moral effort. This would motivate people to use their talents for the greater good. This way the decision makers can insure that we have could better schools, hospitals and health care. This is not an easy goal to obtain in any society. It is as simple as agreeing to some basic rules and the any use of power that comes from these rules is valid.
American culture is the perfect example of trying to eliminate social and economic equalities. Think about American culture in the 1940s. Women were just starting to establish themselves in an employed environment. Not many people had money leading up to World War 2, and the rich were thriving. If only the well to do could disburse even a small fraction of their earnings, the less fortune could have obtained a better living situation. And thus have a better quality of life. I think that we are starting to close the gap. The gap was starting to close, but has started to decline due to the recession in. According to Tim Henderson, “In 2016, there were 30 states where at least half of the households were middle class, up from 28 in 2013. But that’s still down from 43 states in 2000.” (Henderson)
The difference principle almost matches with the utilitarian principle or a “Robin Hood” principle. The story of Robin Hood, is an ethical principle; to steal from the rich and give to the poor, which is the utilitarian principle. This meaning that you may steal from the rich, which may not be moral, right, and give it to the poor. But it does align with the idea that it would provide the greatest happiness for the most people possible. There may be a little suffering, but it is for the greater good.
In the difference principle everyone starts with the average and is given the same opportunities to succeed. There is not one social group taking from the other. It is for the whole well being of our society.
John Rawls and Robert Nozick’s are two of the greatest modern day philosophers. Rawls argued that equality was the moral benchmark and Nozick argued that liberty upsets the natural balance of produced goods in our society. As Rawls points out the equal distribution of resources, Nozick points out that resources are produced are people and that they should have a right to the things that they are producing. (Duignan Anarchy, State, and Utopia) This seems to Nozick as unjust because some people are not working voluntarily for the greater good. So the goods may be equally distributed, but not for the greater good, but because they are made to redistribute. The question to be answered is: Is equality, so important to us that we think that we should and are justified in interfering with people’s liberty?