What is a Fair Society? It Depends on Whether You Feel Lucky.

The Veil of Opulence

Benjamin Hale

By BENJAMIN HALE, an assistant professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a co-editor of the journal Ethics, Policy & Environment.

More than 40 years ago the philosopher John Rawls, in his influential political work “A Theory of Justice,” implored the people of the world to shed themselves of their selfish predispositions and to assume, for the sake of argument, that they were ignorant. He imposed this unwelcome constraint not so that his readers — mostly intellectuals, but also students, politicians and policy makers — would find themselves in a position of moribund stupidity but rather so they could get a grip on fairness.

Rawls charged his readers to design a society from the ground up, from an original position, and he imposed the ignorance constraint so that readers would abandon any foreknowledge of their particular social status — their wealth, their health, their natural talents, their opportunities or any other goodies that the cosmos may have thrown their way. In doing so, he hoped to identify principles of justice that would best help individuals maximize their potential, fulfill their objectives (whatever they may happen to be) and live a good life. He called this presumption the “veil of ignorance.”

The idea behind the veil of ignorance is relatively simple: to force us to think outside of our parochial personal concerns in order that we consider others… .  Read more from the NYTimes… .

Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It)

By DAN ARIELY , best-selling author and the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. His latest book is The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.

We asked thousands of people to tell us how equal income distribution would have to be for them to enter society at a random place. The vast majority — rich, poor, GOP and Democrat — imagined a far more equal nation.

The inequality of wealth and income in the U.S. has become an increasingly prevalent issue in recent years. One reason for this is that the visibility of this inequality has been increasing gradually for a long time–as society has become less segregated, people can now see more clearly how much other people make and consume. Owing to urban life and the media, our proximity to one another has decreased, making the disparity all too obvious. In addition to this general trend, the financial crisis, with all of its fall out, shined a spotlight on the salaries of bankers and financial workers relative to that of most Americans. And on top of these, and most recently, the upcoming presidential election has raised questions of social justice and income disparities, bringing the issues into focus even more…. . Read more from TheAtlantic… .

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