John Rawls Refuted
Objections to the Theory of Justice
"That a handful of human beings should weigh everybody in balance, and give more to one and less to another at their sole pleasure and judgment, would not be borne unless from persons believed to be more than men, and backed by supernatural terrors." John Stuart Mill in Principles of Political Economy, Book 1, Ch. 2
Harvard Professor John Rawls (1921-2002) was famous for trying to provide philosophic underpinning to socialism.
Rawls is wrong.
"Original Position": a purely hypothetical situation in which one is placed behind a veil of ignorance and is asked to formulate basic principles of justice.
"veil of ignorance": persons are unaware of their "place, class position or social status within society". One is placed under the veil of ignorance in order to generate principles that will be fair to all regardless of one's social circumstances.
Rawls’ basic "contribution" was that if he can trick people into voting for socialism, it makes socialism legitimate. Is voting a philosophical technique? Did German voters voting for Hitler in 1933 philosophically validate Nazism? Apparently yes according to Rawls.
Rawls makes a wishful but false assumption that voters if they are ignorant enough will chose fair rules. But this has no evidence for it whatever. Are we going to take it on faith that these rules will be fair? That is not philosophy, that is religion. Why should we accept the outcome of Rawls's process? Let us construct sample "original position" thought experiments. Sample one is exactly like Rawls' original position with the decision makers mostly males (Rawls said the decision makers know their sex). The males chose as fair rules that it is just that any male may rape any female at any time. According to Rawls this is a just rule simply because of the process that created it. But is this true? Do we have to accept this or is it more reasonable to say that such a process must be restricted and checked? Rule making needs rules (meta-rules). Isn't an inspection of the rules themselves a more certain and philosophically correct method for determining if they are just? Rawls simply throws away any criteria for justice except process. Depending on the pool of voters we could get some bizarre rule making. For example, it should be expected that religious voters would have us spending all Sunday in church, that Muslims would be punishing minor infractions by cutting off hands, that cannibals would have us justly eating people, etc. The "original position" process does not seem to have justice as a forced outcome at all.
Rawls is a hypocrite because he does not believe that people will agree to fair rules in the real world. He does not trust people to normally agree to fair rules. But individual "social circumstances" would necessarily cancel out for agreement to be possible. Like a jury, people can put inclinations aside to reach a fair decision if told to. That is the basis of our whole judicial system. Obviously, people are just as capable of creating fair rules for others (taking themselves out of the mix) as they would be behind some fictional "veil of ignorance" whose effect is only to eliminate actual personal interests. Rawls does not trust the process he advocates for making fair rules! He doesn't believe the Original Position process works at all, but just wants to dictate the result, to assert a result he advocates. So Rawls rejects this process when it is real and possible but accepts it only as fantasy - that is the mark of a hypocrite and a liar. Rawls is a typical liberal fascist.
The reality of the Original Position would demonstrate several of the fatal flaws in Rawls' proposition: 1. the resulting rules would be stupefyingly unfair 2. no one would trust the cogitations of the unwashed masses who don't need a "veil of ignorance" to be ignorant. 3. No one would consider it philosophy. In other words, the whole enterprise is a farce.
Let us say you are a blind paraplegic with no family or friends and no bank account. Will you vote for a socialist system to steal from productive members of society to enrich yourself? Rawls’ original position is the same except that you are told you do not know for sure that you are a blind paraplegic, only that you have a good chance to be one ("the veil of ignorance" which prevents this thought experiment from actually being carried out by polls or surveys and moves Rawls’ whole enterprise into nonsense). Notice Rawls' socialism is a botched type of utilitarianism – not the greatest good for the greatest number but rather "the greatest good for the disadvantaged." It introduces extra arbitrariness into utilitarianism and that is surely bad (who decides who is the disadvantaged and how?) Furthermore, by making utilitarianism less universal he makes it less acceptable and less attractive and less justifiable.
Robert Nozick in AS&U does generally a pretty good job of destroying Rawls. Here I will note a question Nozick asked (AS&U page 168) that is not appreciated enough: why is it that leftists in discussing (re)distributive justice NEVER consider the property rights of givers and tranferrers or producers or owners? Nozick says he does not know the answer to the question but it is obvious that socialists never consider the ownership side of property because what they advocate is theft. Socialism is a thoroughly criminal enterprise and nothing more. They can never justify socialism if property rights are considered at all. They have no excuse for theft so they ignore property rights entirely, i.e. they are intellectually dishonest as well as practical criminals. In Nozick’s phrase, leftists consider all goods and services as "manna from Heaven" and the only issue for them is (re)distribution. "Fair rules for society" is not what Rawls is about – he aborts the search for fair rules by asking an entirely different question – to wit: "Would voters behind a veil of ignorance chose fair rules only of distribution?" However this is wrong. Rules about property cannot be fair unless they consider property rights. Stealing is unfair. Rawls’ original position by focusing only on distribution and imposing a veil of ignorance so merit and rights are ignored is a try at a Hobson's choice for socialism but is in fact unfair, evil, and criminal because by force it creates rules that ignore property rights, i.e. that are totally unfair by definition. Notice that Rawls' method is the only way possible to claim patently unfair rules are fair - that is by ignoring entirely the content of rules themselves.
The very rigidity of Rawls' system is dangerous. Note that the rules resulting
from Rawls' process are set in stone while normally governing rules are modified
and corrected by experience. This is a caution since a bad rule under Rawls
would be incalculably and permanently damaging. Rawls' apologists might argue
that he was only talking theory, however his Original Position is used to
justify real world socialism. So practical defects are fatal to this project.
Rawls’ "contribution" to philosophy was to con people with a process that generates criminally unfair rules and declare that they were "fair" rules because and only because they resulted from an impossible process. To do this Rawls had to be completely dishonest. Rawls' Original Position is "the means justify the ends" with restrictions that predetermined the ends he wanted, socialist tyranny.
Nozick committed fraud in his Lockean proviso discussion. Locke stated explicitly that God gave earth to man in common and that was the justification of the proviso, but Nozick and leftists do not believe in God. Nozick understood that land was unowned not owned in common but used the proviso anyway. This fraud is slick because leftists applaud the proviso which is the foundation stone of socialism and the right has a hard time arguing against its hero, John Locke.