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Picture a perfect society. What does it look like?

Perfect Society

By Nameless writerPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Picture a perfect society. What does it look like?
Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

You have been selected along with a group of strangers to create a just society. To prevent any manipulation of the system for personal gain, you have all been placed under a "veil of ignorance." This means that you are unaware of certain details about each other and yourselves, such as age, sex, profession, talents, wealth, and beliefs. According to the political philosopher John Rawls, this lack of information should motivate you to consider what is most fair for all members of society. Rawls introduced this thought experiment, known as "the original position," in his 1971 work "A Theory of Justice," in an attempt to establish principles that would support a realistic utopia. This ideal society would ensure that everyone has the necessary resources and opportunities to freely pursue their goals. Rawls believed that these principles could only be achieved in a democratic system, as he viewed existing social structures, influenced by free market philosophies and welfare capitalism, as leading to unjust concentrations of wealth and power.

He also criticized Marxist models as extreme reactions to capitalism, with unrealistic assumptions about economies and human nature. Rawls proposed a new form of democracy where all individuals are considered equal in value and can live according to their own desires. Despite the radical nature of his vision, Rawls believed that individuals, under the veil of ignorance, would unanimously agree to his concept of a fair society. Let us now engage in this thought experiment. The initial step in designing our society involves determining the distribution of primary goods, which include basic liberties, opportunities, and wealth necessary for pursuing most objectives. Rawls advocated for an "equal scheme of basic liberties" for all, encompassing freedoms such as speech and association. Citizens would be granted equal political liberties to participate in voting and seek candidacy for public office.

Next, Rawls posits that the architects would establish what he terms as "fair equality of opportunity." This requires that society be structured in a way that prevents unfair deprivation of the necessary resources for individuals to compete for desirable jobs and other roles. Following the agreement on equality of liberty and opportunity, Rawls suggests that our justice-architects would recognize the advantages of permitting certain wealth disparities.

For instance, increased profits can serve as motivation for innovation, productivity, and investment. However, Rawls also contends that our designers would aim to restrict wealth gaps through what he refers to as "the difference principle." According to this principle, wealth inequalities are permissible only if they benefit the least advantaged members of society, thereby improving their circumstances compared to strict equality conditions. These principles serve as the cornerstone of Rawls' vision of a just society, which he believed could be realized through the concept of "property owning democracy."

This framework would ensure equal opportunities for education and healthcare, while relying on governmental regulations to ensure a fair distribution of property and wealth. Rawls acknowledged that fully implementing this approach would necessitate significant changes in existing democracies. Nevertheless, he believed that his principles could inspire immediate enhancements. For instance, Rawls advocated for restrictions on campaign spending and political contributions to diminish the influence of wealth in politics. He also supported policies aimed at combating discrimination and providing robust social safety nets, such as unemployment benefits, to improve the situation of the most disadvantaged individuals.

While Rawls' work has faced criticism from some philosophers, such as Ronald Dworkin, who argue that the difference principle unfairly links societal progress to the status of the least advantaged, even if their circumstances are a result of their own choices. In contrast, Martha Nussbaum contends that Rawls' hypothetical scenario fails to take into account the complexities of real-life situations. She argues that the standard distribution of primary goods may not adequately address the specific needs of individuals with disabilities.

Furthermore, critics assert that the idealized architects in Rawls' thought experiment do not accurately reflect the diverse interests and dynamics present in actual societies. Nevertheless, since its inception, this thought experiment has had tangible effects. Rawls' call for social and political equality, as well as a more just form of capitalism, has influenced numerous political philosophers, activists, and policymakers. This emerging perspective on justice continues to challenge individuals to transcend their biases and envision a truly equitable society.


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Nameless writer

"A weaver of words, crafting tales that dance on the edge of reality, inviting readers to lose themselves in the symphony of imagination"

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