Friday, January 21, 2011

John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice, Part I: Theory": A Summary

What kind of government do you want to live under? Yes, of course you asshole, we all want to be absolute dictator, but that's not how social contracts work. So let's try again - what kind of government does everyone want to live under?

Utilitarianism sounds like a sweet-ass basis for government. Why shouldn't a government try to satisfy as many rational desires of its constituents as possible? After all, democracy is all about the 'will of the people', and utilitarianism takes that vague phrase and literally fucking maximizes it. There's no denying, that's badass.

Except that when a government tries to maximize utility, it has to collapse everyone into one imaginary pool o' pleasure- suddenly running a government is like running a business in Burma - maximize profit/desire/magic/LeBron James/whatever you're after at all costs, and that's not the purpose of a government. Governments exist precisely because people are different, and have to be distinguished; if we were all the same it would be easy as fuck to resolve disputes.

Look, if you want fairness you're going to need a democracy, and you're going to need a system that applies to everyone equally. Why? Because here's the hard part - even though, we're all different, we all have to play by the same rules. You're not special, bro - or, if you still need the kindergarten version, we're all special, which is essentially the same thing with a fine layer of bullshit glazed over. So we have to find a social contract that everyone can agree to no matter what.

It seems like some people get a really, really shitty deal, doesn't it? Why the fuck would they agree to a social contract that puts them in that situation - and how could you know they would? Well, if you'll just step right over here behind this veil and we'll see.

What if you were one of those bros in a shitty situation? Or, even better, what if you had no fucking clue who or what you'd be? Sure, maybe now you want a government where one bro has all the power and gets all the bitches, but what if you didn’t know you were going to be that guy? What if you had to design a society and then someone else got to decide who you would be? What then?

Well, you'd sure as fuck want to guarantee yourself basic rights. Everyone wants those - we want the most extensive system of basic rights we can possibly guarantee everyone - that seems simple enough. But what can we say about those poor motherfuckers who end up poor? What system would they want?If they're anything like everyone, they want as much as they can possibly have - and if you knew you might be poor, you'd want to be as unpoor as possible. So if there has to be inequality, it should be distributed in such a way that the worst well-off are best-off. You know how poor everyone was in communist Russia? They were way the fuck poorer than America's poorest, which is why it's fine that in America, we have inequality. Is it perfect? No. But we're on our way.

Look, justice is about fairness. We have to provide fair opportunities, access to all social positions for everyone. If there is to be inequality, everyone must have access to all levels of the inequality - otherwise, there is no justice. 



  1. Cheers, bro. This is a fuckin' great piece.

  2. People want to consume like capitalists, but work like socialists.

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  4. Duder, thanks a million! I couldn't make one damn lick of sense out of what Rawls says in his theory. It all seems superficial and completely against human nature. I thought he was full of shit and couldn't understand a damn word of what he was trying to convey until I read I just think he's full of shit, but at least I understand.


  5. Yeah man I feel you on this. Rawls is all about Bros before hoes. A bro has gotta be well looked after and able to pursue any type of hoe he wants.

    We cant sacrifice a player to the game, there be enough of those bitches to go around, no bro need to try to lock down more than his fellow bros and take that punani from them. The only way a bro could ever get more is if he be putting in the work being the wingman, hooking up his bros with the flyest hoes.

    Rawls is all about the fist-bump dude.

  6. @The Chairman: Awesome way of putting it haha.

  7. Hell Yea, makes total sense this way!

  8. Ok so on the difference principle. Everyone wants to be as 'unpoor' as possible but how exactly do they achieve this since they dont know what their future situation is going to be?

    Example? or Further examples?

  9. Great exposition. I don't see why people have such a hard time with Rawls, however. There is something to the idea that if you take JUST ONE STEP BACK FROM YOUR SELFISH PERSPECTIVE you would see that OTHER PEOPLE LIVE DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU AND HAVE TO DEAL WITH SHIT YOU'VE NEVER EVEN IMAGINED COULD HAPPEN.

    Veils of ignorance for the win.

  10. Great article, bro.
    Was just thinking about the priority of fair equality of opportunity over the difference principle. Do you think that's plausible? Or even right?