A few years ago I wrote a paper on Hayek and Rawls (ungated early version here). This, plus teaching a course on libertarianism, led me to the early 20th century University of Chicago economist Frank Knight. One of the points of commonality between Hayek and Rawls is their scepticism about desert as the basis for social institutions. This scepticism owes much to Frank Knight. Rawls cited Knight’s 1923 essay “The Ethics of Competition” in the discussion of desert from A Theory of Justice, and in an earlier essay cited Hayek, who in turn cited Knight. Knight is remembered as one of the founders of Chicago economics, and thus indirectly one of the fathers of free market fundamentalism. He was indeed a teacher / colleague of both Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Yet Knight was a fierce critic of what he took to be bad, simplistic arguments for laissez-faire, chief among them the view that by distributing income according to marginal product the competitive system rewards the deserving. Knight didn’t deny that marginal productivity explained the distribution of income, he just denied that reward according to marginal product was ethically important, in itself. Hayek and Friedman had essentially the same view. The virtue of reward by marginal product is efficiency, not fairness. It’s surprising, then, to read that neoliberalism teaches that markets reward the deserving. I posted about this earlier, but now I have a paper on the topic forthcoming in PPE. It’s called “Markets, Desert, and Reciprocity,” but its subtitle could be “Knight, Hayek, Friedman, and Rawls (vs. Bell, Nozick, Sandel, etc.)” The final section includes some discussion of the reciprocity objection to proposals for an unconditional basic income.
I’ve written a longish review of Jerry Gaus’s The Order of Public Reason (CUP, 2010). The review is called “The Classical Tilt of Justificatory Liberalism,” because I raise some doubts about whether justificatory liberalism does incline in favour of classical liberalism, as against social justice liberalism. However, the main purpose of the essay is just to lay out Gaus’s overall argument about how the authority we claim over each other’s conduct in ordinary social morality can be justified. The answer, perhaps not surprisingly given the title of the book, is “only if this morality is publicly justifiable,” (where “publicly justifiable” has its technical sense of “being acceptable to each and everyone one of a range of reasonable but conflicting points of view,” rather than the ordinary meaning of “being justifiable in public, without need for (noble) lies”). The book also argues that, correctly understood, our everyday moral practices (e.g. feeling and expressing resentment, indignation, forgiveness, and so on) presuppose a recognition of others as free and equal persons. And the book reconciles the explanatory / evolutionary / Humean perspective on morality with the justificatory / Kantian perspective on morality. All that for the low price of CDN $60.78 (low on a per page basis, that is; it’s 549 pages long, not counting appendices etc.). This is a very ambitious book because it aims to synthesize a wide range of material from diverse fields in the service of a general argument that unfolds over the course of the whole book (comparable to A Theory of Justice, in that respect). My main aim was to state that overall argument in a radically condensed form. And of course to question the classical tilt.
One of the things I’ve done this year is to rework the main portions of my paper “Public Justification and the Limits of State Action“, as a chapter for my book manuscript about public reason and political community. This chapter addresses a common objection to Rawls’s “political liberalism,” which is that if reasonable disagreement about the nature of the good life requires the state not promote or discourage any of these rival conceptions, but there is room for reasonable disagreement about justice as well as about the good life, then the state may not implement controversial conceptions of social justice, or do much of anything.
Continue reading Public Reason vs. Social Justice?
Not yet back in town, but in the meantime, some work to report:
“The ‘Mirage’ of Social Justice: Hayek Against (and For) Rawls” Slightly revised text of a lecture I gave at Balliol College, May 10, 2011. Thanks to last year’s POLS 456 class for stimulating these thoughts about why Hayek was really a Rawlsian (or would have been, if he’d consistently applied his basic normative ideas). I will be reworking this paper for publication as part of a symposium on Hayek, so comments are welcome.
“Justice as Fairness and Reciprocity.” A paper about the relationship between justice and reciprocity, starting from the disability critique of Rawls’s contractualism, moving on to global justice. Also based on a lecture I gave this year at Balliol. The paper will be published in the journal Analyze & Kritik.
Two recent conference papers I’ve written are available online. The first was for the MPSA annual meeting in Chicago, is called “Epistemic Proceduralism and the Scope of Democratic Authority,” and is about the role of public justification in David Estlund’s theory of democracy. The argument is quite a bit different than in my Representation article – I’m less worried about the objection that the principle of public justifiability might not itself be publicly justifiable, and more worried about the scope of political authority the principle will permit. The paper also begins with what I think is a better explanation of what I take to be Estlund’s basic idea, and why it is important.
The second is called “Justice and Reciprocity,” and is for the CPSA meeting going on this week in Montreal.
The journal Representation has just published a symposium on David Estlund’s Democratic Authority. Estlund’s book was previously the subject of a reading group on the blog Public Reason. The contributors to the symposium were participants in that discussion: Ben Saunders, Jonathan Quong and myself, along with a reply from Estlund.
I’ve posted a new paper on SSRN about “Justice and Reciprocity.” Here is the abstract:
This paper addresses the question of when and why duties are conditional on compliance on the part of others, by examining the role of reciprocity in Rawls’s theory of justice. In particular, it argues that the idea of reciprocity and the relational nature of distributive justice can help explain three otherwise puzzling aspects of Rawls’s view: (1) his claim that justice has to be “congruent” with the good; (2) his claim that the justification of a political conception of justice depends on showing that an overlapping consensus of reasonable comprehenisve doctrines is possible, even after the freestanding argument for the political conception has been successfully completed (3) his claim that there are no global duties of distributive justice, beyond the non-comparative duties of aid and reparation. Each of these arguments has been the subject of controversy partly because of a lack of attention to reciprocity, the paper argues, and the relational nature of Rawls’s non-luck-egalitarian position.
Under (1) the paper addresses the debate between Samuel Freeman and Brian Barry about congruence. Under (2) the paper addresses the criticisms Jurgen Habermas and Brian Barry made of Rawls’s political liberalism, specifically, their criticisms of Rawls’s two-stage model of justification. Under (3) the paper discusses arguments by Michael Blake, Arash Abizadeh, Andrea Sangiovanni, Joe Heath, and again Sam Freeman. Reciprocity is the thread that holds it all together.