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  • reits_r_us reits_r_us Apr 29, 2011 3:27 AM Flag

    OT John Rawls

    Kind of off topic and yet more discussion has taken place with the longest threads on this board re. this very issue....and that is moral philosophy...the stuff that polity is based upon.

    I know yawn you might think. I travel(by car) a lot and I am always listening to some audio book and between the release of a new Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novel(the CIA's 007 of a newer generation) I listen to discussions in moral philosophy...I know.."Reits you really don't have a life ;-)"

    I am presently reading "Justice" by Michael Sandel. He is a philosophy professor at Harvard and speaks to the issue of Justice in society through the lens of 18th, 19th and 20th century philosophers.

    I was especially interested in the current topic of equity in society re. the redistribution of wealth according to philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002).

    Many of the points in the book are highlighted in this link:

    I found myself being drawn to the idea stated by Rawls that it is fair that we are born with inequities according to station and ability. Examples: being born to wealth or with the abilities of athleticism or intellect. We had no say in the matter and therefore it was not unjust that we were born with privilege.

    It was unfair according to Rawls to not use these abilities for the betterment of those without them. Hence the idea of redistribution of wealth and talent.

    I find it fascinating that someone has the courage especially in education(Sandel) to expose the lie..that just because you are born an American and given enough practice and effort you can do anything or become anything you want to become.

    I totally agree.

    Trust me no matter how much I practiced I sucked at basketball. This short white boy cannot jump. My dream to become an NBA player never had a chance. I also suck at languages(foreign). My brain is not wired for much for my dream to be a Wycliffe Translator.

    The list goes on to nuclear physicist, astronaut, etc, etc. You get my point. There are certain things we are constrained from doing by place, station, economics or ability no matter how much we were told that we could be anything we wanted...all we needed was a willingness to try...well Sister Mary Martha..slap your hand with the ruler!!

    Anyway I understand Rawl's point that, as it pertains to Justice, a sharing of ones goods or talents with others is a noble end and is in fact "just".

    As discussed by Rawls it is admittedly an end obtained in a Utopian society because of man's greed. I haven't yet heard it explicitly stated but in order to enact this redistribution I imagine a mandatory force of law would be necessary.

    I am waiting to discover how this is deemed justice since Rawls also argues for individual rights or liberty although I don't believe he places this in front of the greater good scenario.

    Well what are your thoughts? Is redistribution "just"? Would it be considered more just on a voluntary cf. to a non-voluntary basis or is redistribution "justice" without regard to either employment(Rawls)

    I like Rousseau's statement, "Given men as they are, philosophy imagines how laws might be"

    Have a good one!!

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    • I agree olee, it can't be good for political freedom when those in the military begin to see themselves as seperate from the rest of society.

    • The immense spending on the military is due to the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

      They are part of the oligarchy, much like the robber barons and banking cartels.

      A true democracy has an army of citizen soldiers, not a professional army.

    • In other words, all government spending regardless of the object, is redistribution? Spending on B-1 bombers is no different than spending on agricultural subsidies?

      If that's the case, then how can redistribution be a bad thing? It would be the equivalent of saying that government ("absolutely speaking") is bad. The alternative to government is anarchy, no?

      That government as such is bad is a modern idea. You certainly won't find that in Aristotle.

    • yourbestfriendintheworld yourbestfriendintheworld Apr 29, 2011 11:20 AM Flag

      Dude makes some sense.

      The general argument against it promultages the fallacy that redistribution's only goal is to make everyone equal. It falls into a large class of fallacies such as the fallacy of the excluded middle, hasty generalizatoin, etc., in which the arguer ignores many states of the system in order to pretend that only the existing state and a fantasy scary state are available to be implemented.

      The idea is to regulate the extremes and let the system operate naturally in the better-behaved portion between the extremes.

      When the system has positive feedbacks, which cause those who start out with little to end up with even less, and those who start out with much to end up with almost everything, it's up to the intelligent actors in the system to act against that damaging feedback. Implement active negative feedback at the edges of the system. Bumpers, rails, berms, brakes, whatever. The best are gradual ones that create soft equilibria, rather than hard ones that cause shocks.

      Progressive taxation is one of the most brilliant inventions of man, although it's not done quite well enough. There should be a much larger number of brackets, or better yet an algebraic continuum; and the upper end should be very steep. But people tend to be afraid of math, and allow themselves to be convinced that only having 3 or 4 brackets is a good idea, when all it does is limit the amount of tax on incomes that are nearing infinity, which amounts to a massive giveaway to the richest among us, resulting in the rapid redistribution of wealth up the curve instead of down it.

      We need to reverse that. The system is utterly broken so long as it continues. And if it continues unchecked, eventually the wealthy will have the power to abolish our democracy, or worse, turn it into an empty facade (there are those who say this has already happened).

      • 1 Reply to yourbestfriendintheworld
      • Good topic. I would like to know how the philosophers have defined "redistribution." For example, if we are taxed in order to support a gigantic military, is that redistribution? and if not why not? Keep in mind this gigantic military organization is kept sitting around for years between wars, not formed to counter an imminent threat. When taxpayers pay their tab they can't tell the difference between the money that goes for the military and the money that goes for food stamps.

    • It was once thought "just" that those born with wealth and power should rule over "lesser men".

      Has any man ever defined "just" to his own disadvantage?

    • Ah, that brings me back to my college days.

      The fact is that our society is based on a social contract. Doesn't matter if the society is ruled by a tyrant or a republic, the social contract is there.

      Societies that do not have social contracts, such as hunter-gatherer societies are extremely violent. No such thing as rule of law. You find a stranger, you kill him. The modern day version are the gangs in the ghettos.

      Rawl's version is the ideal social contract. Most social contracts are biased towards race or class. His version is truly just.

      Reits, you do not understand the advantages you have. Even though I have never seen you, I know.

      1. You are a white male born in America.
      2. Your parents were middle class or upper middle class and help you with your medical school education.
      3. You grew up in a nice neighborhood.

      There are advantages that you were born with, not your personal achievement.

      • 1 Reply to olee2116
      • ", you do not understand the advantages you have. Even though I have never seen you, I know."

        You are right Olee...I do often take for granted the abilities and station in which I was born through no effort of my own. I was born to a blue collar family, immigrants(Norway) with an incredible work ethic. I attended private Catholic schools, but had to work since 15 to pay for extras including my 8 years of college.

        It is so easy to think that what I have is mine and since I worked for it you have no "right" to it. I "chose" to give away much of my wealth and have always thought that was the correct and only way wealth should be redistributed. I am not alone. The USA is the most "giving" nation in the world. Statistics show Americans give more to charitable causes than all other countries combined. Yet we still see much poverty in our country and around the world.

        I think Rawls speaks or at least his ideas could be expanded to the entire world community. Where does redistribution end? Do we need to address an international social contract? The UN certainly has failed. I know there are efforts through organizations such as Peace Corps and World Relief and many others to teach the impoverished how to "fish" for themselves, but without their own social contracts, as you said, their societies are governed by those with the biggest guns.

        It is so easy to think that what I have I deserve because of the efforts I have employed. To some extent that is true. Rawls has helped me to understand better that many of those efforts would have been impossible without being born with the station and ability to perform them.

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