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ThatBritGuy:
but I think it makes one significant mistake, which is to assume that given a rational choice, everyone will decide that inequality is bad.

If I understand correctly, Rawls gets around this by postulating an uncertainty with regard to an individual's status in the society in question. That seems to me to transform the problem into a version of ultimatum game, which makes a certain level of fairness (in this context "equality") advantageous.

I'm not at all sure how useful Rawl's proposition would be as a tool of argumentation, but it does pose the question as to how would one organize a society so as to promote decisions in favor or greater fairness.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Fri Oct 1st, 2010 at 03:50:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the criticism still applies. The Rawlsian argument works for rational people. It won't work on aggressive narcissists because they simply ignore anything that gets in their way.

I'm reminded of stories about industrial owners who literally didn't care when employees were injured or killed in accidents. A normal reaction would be to tend to the injured, but these people were more likely to rage about lost profits.

You can't argue rationally with people like that. You can only try to keep them away from any kind of power and influence.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Oct 1st, 2010 at 05:53:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG
I'm not at all sure how useful Rawl's proposition would be as a tool of argumentation, but it does pose the question as to how would one organize a society so as to promote decisions in favor or greater fairness.

The one mechanism that physical and/or social evolution seems to have provided us for such purposes is compassion, which is uncertain, at best, even within immediate families. The further one moves from the family the less certain one can be that compassion will be forthcoming.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Oct 1st, 2010 at 10:15:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but I do think we have great potential for compassion.

Note the often demonstrated need to dehumanize the other, before violence can be used as means to resolve a conflict. Note also that for a long time a big problem in training soldiers was to get them to actually shoot an enemy soldier they could see (the US army seems to have largely solved this by now). And thirdly note that our compassion often crosses art-boundaries, demanding that we use the proper rituals when killing animals.

If compassion can be suppressed, then it should also be possible to nurture it.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 3rd, 2010 at 04:36:40 PM EST
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