Inequality

An interesting critique en passant of Rawls theories of equality and social justice (via Lawrence Solum’s “Legal Theory”:http://lsolum.blogspot.com/2003_08_01_lsolum_archive.html#106001152189726332 weblog) in a UK journal. For the full quote, see “more”. I can’t help recalling Kurt Vonnegut Jr’sfictional demonstration of this point. In his wonderful short story “Harrison Bergeron”—copyright but “stolen”:http://www.google.com/search?q=harrison+bergeron+vonnegut all over the net—the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, imposes a terrible punishment for the unequal distribution of beauty and grace.

” For myself, I think that one great mistake of contemporary academic philosophers, starting with Rawls himself, is the claim that our natural endowments are ‘arbitrary from a moral point of view’ and should not be allowed to have effects in the social world ” or, better, the effects they have should never be philosophically ratified. As Rawls wrote, we have to ‘nullify the accidents of natural endowment.’ This puts philosophy radically at odds with ordinary morality. Sometimes, of course, that is a useful conflict, but in this particular encounter, philosophy does not fare well. Our natural endowments make us what we are, and what we are necessarily has consequences in the social world, and some, at least, of these consequences must be legitimate. John Rawls deserved the honours he won by writing A Theory of Justice, even if his intelligence was an accidental effect of the natural lottery. Beautiful men and women may not deserve the sexual and marriage offers that they get (we have different, but not entirely different, ideas about intelligence and beauty); still, they cannot be obliged to share their wealth or, as Phillipe Van Parijs has suggested, to compensate the losers in love. This last is one of Anderson ‘s most telling examples, and she goes on to point out that those of us who are not beautiful have never organised to demand such compensation. There is something to learn even from political struggles that never happened! “

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