University of Kansas, Spring 2004
Philosophy 555: Justice and Economic Systems

Class notes: Rawls, chapter 5: “Distributive Shares”

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

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  1. Archimedian point (p. 230.3)
  2. the public sector
    1. one aspect: the extent to which the means of production are publicly owned—not in the sense in which companies “go public” by being listed on stock markets, but in the sense of being controlled by the government (p. 235.3)
    2. second aspect: public goods (p. 235.6)
    3. distinctness of the two aspects (pp. 238.9–239.2)
    4. public goods game
  3. § 43: background institutions
    1. allocation branch: ensure competitive markets (p. 244.1)
    2. stabilization branch: bring about full employment (p. 244.3)
    3. transfer branch: maintain social minimum (p. 244.4)
    4. distribution branch: levy inheritance and gift taxes for redistribution, and collect taxes for revenue (p. 245.4)
    5. proportional expenditure tax (p. 246.4)
  4. §§ 44–46: intergenerational justice
    1. Rawls says it’s a misconception that the greater wealth of the rich is to be scaled down until there is rough equality (p. 252.3). This does not mean that it’s a misconception that the greater wealth of the rich is to be scaled down to the maximal advantage of the worst off. But it’s the worst off over time, not just today.
    2. modification of the original position to result in a principle of savings (pp. 254.9–255.2)
    3. rejection of time preference (p. 260.5)
    4. lexical order: liberty, opportunity, savings, difference principle (§ 46)
  5. § 47: “precepts” of justice
    1. Rawls wants to show that the implications of his theory match certain intuitions that we have about distributive justice (p. 268.4).
    2. to each according to his contribution (or training, experience, etc.) (p. 269.4)
    3. to each according to effort (or risks, etc.) (p. 269.6)
    4. So, different conceptions of justice need not differ in the common-sense precepts they imply. But they may differ in the weights they give to those precepts (p. 270.2)
    5. why a society with fair equality of opportunity would give less weight to “to each according to his contribution” (p. 270.4)
    6. more weight for effort (p. 270.7)
    7. “to each according to his need” handled by transfer branch (p. 271.8)
  6. desert—legitimate expectations and intrinsic worth (p. 273.6)