Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
to agents that their economic position will not be dire even if they end up among
the worst-off.
Let us look at the other two distributions, and the reasoning which might lead to
them. Maximax – maximise the maximum – is the reasoning leading to distribution
D. This is highly risky. One thing you might have noticed is that per capita income
is higher in A than C, and thus one might think the average utilitarian would opt
for A over C. However, we talk of expected utility: a maximiser wants to get the
highest income possible – everybody, and not just a risk-taker, wants to earn 250.
Each person knows under distribution D they have only a one in four chance of
earning that amount of money. They have a one in four chance they will end up with
4 units of income. Does their desirefor 250 units outweigh their aversionto earning
only 4 units? Given certain facts about human psychology – for example, that the
utility from an extra amount of income diminishes the more income you have – they
will reason that greater weight should be attached to the avoidance of lower incomes
than the enjoyment of higher incomes. We come now to distribution A. It is
relativitieswhich concern someone who opts for A. Rawls argues we are not envious,
and therefore we are not concerned with what other people earn, so relativities are
unimportant. It might, however, be argued that if one of the primary social goods
is self-respect any inequality will undermine it: there is no easy answer to this, and
it does seem that for ‘real people’ – as distinct from people in the original position

  • self-worth is (to some extent) attached to income or social status.
    Finally, we need to consider the distinction between distributions B1 and B2.
    Two concepts are relevant here: close-knitness and chain-connection. The
    distribution table does not capture the first concept, which is empirical in character:
    if we maximise the position of the worst-off the likely consequence is that the
    prospects of the next-poorest class will be improved. Chain-connection, on the other
    hand, pertains to the principle that the prospects of each class should be improved
    so long as the position of the worst-off is maximised and each succeeding class is
    as well off as possible consistent with maximising the income of the worst-off. This
    argument is intended to address the criticism that a small gain for, say, unskilled
    workers is achieved at a significant cost to semi-skilled workers. Since agents in the
    original position have knowledge of economic theory, including empirical studies
    of economic behaviour, they will choose the difference principle in the knowledge
    that income redistributions are close-knit and chain-connection is, therefore,

Nozick: a libertarian theory of justice

Robert Nozick advanced an alternative to Rawls’s egalitarian theory of justice; one
that lays stress on the importance of private property rights. In his book Anarchy,
State, and Utopia(1974) Nozick seeks to defend the notion of the state against
philosophical anarchists who argue the state can never be justified: but what he
defends is a minimal state. A minimal state is a monopoly provider of security
services. A more extensive state – one that intervenes in the economy and supplies
welfare benefits – cannot be justified. ‘Utopia’ would be a world in which diverse
lifestyles and communities would flourish under the protection of the minimal state.

84 Part 1 Classical ideas

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