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Tue Feb 5, 2013, 12:00 PM

The coming catastrophes and the Rawlsian veil of ignorance

A just society, according to Rawls, is a society whose structure, whose rewards and punishments, are set up before we know what position we will hold in it. The Rawlsian veil of ignorance cuts deeper than most people realize. Take for example old-fashioned meritocracy: grades, schooling, intelligence. Should intelligence be highly rewarded? Would you set up society to reward the smart heavily if you didnít know youíd be smart? Most of smart is your parents, in terms of nutrition, education and genetics. You donít choose your parents, you canít know that youíll be smart before youíre born. Smart is mostly not a choice, neither is healthy, nor a type A personality, and so on.

The great problem we have today in improving our society, in fixing our economy, is that so many people donít want to give up what they have. If you work in the health insurance industry in the US, an evil industry whose job is to deny care in exchange for money, for example, your job needs to go away. It is a job which does more harm than good. If you work in peteroleum extraction, well, most of those jobs need to go away. If you work in a large bank or brokerage, well, your job needs to change in a way that will deprive you of your high bonuses, and which will leave many bankers and traders unemployed, because banking done in a way that build society rather than tears it down probably doesnít need your skill set. We need a lot less accountants, a lot less administrators at universities, a lot less soldiers, a ton less spies, far fewer people working in the military-industrial complex, and on and on.


So they grasp tightly to what they have, and everyone fights to make sure that nothing really changes. Each person, with their little or big piece of the pie, fights viciously to keep it whether itís good for society or not. They are right to do so.

This is why we can only have change after catastrophe: after war and famine and revolution, because only in extremis, only when, as in WWII, people realize that everyone is in it together, will they be willing to take care of each other. And only in time of catastrophe, when so many have lost everything, will they be willing to change society. Catastrophe forms a Rawlsian veil on the future: you donít know, after the age of catastrophe, what your position in society will be. Not knowing that, it behooves you to make that society as equitable as possible...

(Read more: http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-coming-catastrophees-and-the-rawlsian-veil-of-ignorance/)

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Reply The coming catastrophes and the Rawlsian veil of ignorance (Original post)
PETRUS Feb 2013 OP
bemildred Feb 2013 #1
marmar Feb 2013 #2
freshwest Feb 2013 #3

Response to PETRUS (Original post)

Tue Feb 5, 2013, 12:23 PM

1. I think it's evolved in so to speak.

For the last couple million years, the main evolutionary pressure on humans has been other humans, everything else, we ate. So we have to learn different, it does not come naturally. And it's a conundrum, since our future prospects depend on getting control of ourselves as a species.

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