And now, the standard Aretaevian longwindedness towards the same topic:
The modern intellectual justification for liberalism is founded upon the work of John Rawls (A Theory of Justice), in which he argues that one should prefer, and advocate for the society in which, after basic political liberties, one should prefer to live in (decision made as a an pre-corporeal soul, before birth, with full knowledge) GIVEN that one doesn't know to what station and skills one will be born. While the basic question is brilliant, there are at least four moves that Rawls makes that are suspicious.
- Rawls makes the error that Sonic Charmer addresses above: He separates economic liberty as lower-importance, and places political liberty as higher importance. This, by itself guarantees his outcome. It's as if the theory was designed to give an outcome, and the move of making economic liberties 2nd-class citizens in the firmament of rights is the key move. If you remove this cheat, the whole theory falls, or at least fails to deliver what he's selling.
- Rawls concludes that something like a minimax principle should apply -- one should prefer to live in that world where the least well off are comparatively the best well off as compared to in other systems (given libery constraints). This sounds decent....except that it's clearly wrong. One should prefer a max-EV calculation. I want a system where my expected utility is maximized...and of course, while it's obvious from basic economics (diminshing marginal utility) that $1 for a very poor is worth more than $1 for the very rich....it's not obvious that $1 for the very poor is worth $3 to a middle class person. In the standard argument....It is massively non-obvious that I'd prefer to live in a society of everyone making $10/day, as oppose to a society in which almost everyone makes $1000/day, but 1 person makes $5/day. One should play Max EV, not Minimax....minimax is for folks who don't understand risk.
- Rawls misunderstands economics, and plays fixed-pie games in the rest of his analysis. Anyone talking fixed-pie is completely effing nuts. Aretae's 1st law: Rates, not States.
- Even if Rawls were largely correct on his other issues...his other issue is that he's unreasonably privileging folks who live right now. Any deceint analysis of Minimax also addresses folks who live in the future...whose welfare is almost completely determined by policies of today.
Rawls errs 4 times...all on economics. He should probably have ahistorically taken econ 101...at GMU.