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The Difference Principle The difference principle permits inequalities in the distribution of goods only if those inequalities benefit

the worst-off members of society. Rawls believes that this principle would be a rational choice for the representatives in the original position for the following reason: Each member of society has an equal claim on their society s goods. Natural attributes should not affect this claim, so the basic right of any individual, before further considerations are taken into account, must be to an equal share in material wealth. What, then, could justify unequal distribution? Rawls argues that inequality is acceptable only if it is to the advantage of those who are worst-off. A further motivation for the difference principle is this. Risk-minimization is a part of Rawls strategy in setting up the original position. All representatives are supposed to consider worst case scenarios, where on the lifting of the veil of ignorance they discover that they are at the bottom of society. Rawls argues that if this possibility is considered then all representatives will be concerned with ensuring the best possible circumstances for the worst-off members of society. Is this rational? Well, if we accept the difference principle then we must prefer a situation where all suffer to a small extent to one where all except one person experience extreme pleasure, the unlucky individual undergoing slightly more hardship than the people in the first example. The difference principle implies that risk-minimization is always the way to go, but this is simply not the case. If two people are told that, if they both consent, one will be given a large sum of money and the other will be pinched on the back of the hand, otherwise nothing will be done to either of them, then it is rational for each of them to risk the pinch. This is not to the advantage of the worst-off of the two, so is not endorsed by the difference principle. The Second Principle of Justice Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that (Rawls, 1971, p.303): a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society (the difference principle). b) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity Rawls' claim in a) is that departures from equality of a list of what he calls primary goods 'things which a rational man wants whatever else he wants' [Rawls, 1971, pg. 92] are justified only to the extent that they improve the lot of those who are worst-off under that distribution in comparison with the previous, equal, distribution. His position is at least in some sense egalitarian, with a proviso that equality is not to be achieved by worsening the position of the least advantaged. An important consequence here, however, is that inequalities can actually be just on Rawls' view, as long as they are to the benefit of the least

well off. His argument for this position rests heavily on the claim that morally arbitrary factors (for example, the family we're born into) shouldn't determine our life chances or opportunities. Rawls is also keying on an intuition that we do not deserve inborn talents, thus we are not entitled to all the benefits we could possibly receive from them, meaning that at least one of the criteria which could provide an alternative to equality in assessing the justice of distributions is eliminated. The stipulation in b) is lexically prior to that in a). 'Fair equality of opportunity' requires not merely that offices and positions are distributed on the basis of merit, but that all have reasonable opportunity to acquire the skills on the basis of which merit is assessed. It is often thought that this stipulation, and even the first principle of justice, may require greater equality than the difference principle, because large social and economic inequalities, even when they are to the advantage of the worst-off, will tend to seriously undermine the value of the political liberties and any measures towards fair equality of opportunity. 4.3 The Two Principles of Justice as Fairness These guiding ideas of justice as fairness are expressed in its two principles of justice: First Principle: Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all; Second Principle: Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: a. They are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; b. They are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society (the difference principle). (JF, 42-43) The first principle of equal basic liberties is to be used for designing the political constitution, while the second principle applies primarily to social and economic institutions. Fulfillment of the first principle takes priority over fulfillment of the second principle, and within the second principle fair equality of opportunity takes priority over the difference principle. The first principle affirms for all citizens familiar basic rights and liberties: liberty of conscience and freedom of association, freedom of speech and liberty of the person, the rights to vote, to hold public office, to be treated in accordance with the rule of law, and so on. The principle ascribes these rights and liberties to all citizens equally. Unequal rights would not benefit those who would get a lesser share of rights, so justice requires equal rights for all in all normal circumstances. Rawls's first principle accords with widespread convictions about the importance of equal basic rights and liberties. Two further features make this first principle distinctive. First, its priority: the basic rights

and liberties are not to be traded off against other social goods like economic efficiency. The first principle disallows, for instance, a policy that would give draft exemptions to college students on the grounds that educated civilians will be more valuable to the economy. The draft is a drastic infringement on basic liberties, and if a draft is implemented then all who are able to serve must be equally subject to it. The second distinctive feature of Rawls's first principle is that it requires fair value of the political liberties. The political liberties are a subset of the basic liberties, concerned with the rights to hold public office, the right to affect the outcome of national elections and so on. For these liberties Rawls requires that citizens be not only formally but also substantively equal. That is, citizens similarly endowed and motivated should have the same opportunities to hold office, to influence elections, and so on regardless of their social class. This fair value proviso has major implications for how elections should be funded and run, as described below. Rawls's second principle of justice has two parts. The first part, fair equality of opportunity, requires that citizens with the same talents and willingness to use them have the same educational and economic opportunities regardless of whether they were born rich or poor. In all parts of society there are to be roughly the same prospects of culture and achievement for those similarly motivated and endowed. (JF, p. 44) So for example if we assume that natural endowments and willingness are evenly distributed across children born within the different social classes, then within any type of occupation (generally specified) we should find that roughly one quarter of people in that occupation were born into the top 25% of the income distribution, one quarter were born into the second-highest 25% of the income distribution, and so on. Since class of origin is a morally arbitrary fact about citizens, justice does not allow class of origin to turn into unequal real opportunities for education or meaningful work. The second part of the second principle is the difference principle. The difference principle requires that social institutions be arranged so that inequalities of wealth and income work to the advantage of those who will be worst off. Starting from an imagined baseline of equality, a greater total product can be generated by allowing inequalities in wages and salaries: higher wages can cover the costs of training and education, for example, and can provide incentives to fill jobs that are more in demand. The difference principle requires that inequalities which increase the total product be to everyone's advantage, and specifically to the greatest advantage of those advantaged least. Consider four hypothetical economic structures A-D, and the lifetime-average levels of income these would produce for representative members of three different groups: Economy A B C D Least-Advantaged Group 10,000 12,000 20,000 17,000 Middle Group 10,000 15,000 30,000 50,000 Most-Advantaged Group 10,000 20,000 50,000 100,000

Here the difference principle selects Economy C, because it contains the distribution where the leastadvantaged group does best. Inequalities in C are to everyone's advantage relative to an equal division (Economy A), and a more equal division (Economy B). But the difference principle does not allow the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor (Economy D). The difference principle embodies equalitybased reciprocity: from an egalitarian baseline it requires inequalities that are good for all, and particularly for the worst-off. The difference principle gives expression to the idea that natural endowments are undeserved. A citizen does not merit more of the social product simply because she was lucky enough to be born with gifts that are in great demand. Yet this does not mean that everyone must get the same shares. The fact that citizens have different talents and abilities can be used to make everyone better off. In a society governed by the difference principle citizens regard the distribution of natural endowments as an asset that benefits all. Those better endowed are welcome to use their gifts to make themselves better off, so long as their doing so also contributes to the good of those less well endowed. In justice as fairness, Rawls says, men agree to share one another's fate. (TJ, 102) The Difference Principle "The difference principle is a strongly egalitarian conception in the sense that unless there is a distribution that makes both persons better off (limiting ourselves to the two-person case for simplicity), an equal distribution is to be preferred [page 76, emphasis added - RDP]." In other words, there should be no differences except those that can be justified on grounds of efficiency. John Rawls' principles of justice. Rawls argues that self-interested rational persons behind the veil of ignorance would choose two general principles of justice to structure society in the real world: 1) Principle of Equal Liberty: Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all. (Egalitarian.) 2) Difference Principle: Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity. (1) is egalitarian, since it distributes extensive liberties equally to all persons. (2b) is also quite egalitarian, since it distributes opportunities to be considered for offices and positions in an equal manner.

(2a) is not egalitarian but makes benefit for some (those with greater talents, training, etc.) proportionate to their contribution toward benefiting the least advantaged persons. (1) obviously echoes, without exactly duplicating, libertarianism in its commitment to extensive liberties. What does the Difference Principle mean? It means that society may undertake projects that require giving some persons more power, income, status, etc. than others, e.g., paying accountants and upperlevel managers more than assembly-line operatives, provided that the following conditions are met: (a) the project will make life better off for the people who are now worst off, for example, by raising the living standards of everyone in the community and empowering the least advantaged persons to the extent consistent with their well-being, and (b) access to the privileged positions is not blocked by discrimination according to irrelevant criteria. The Difference Principle has elements of other familiar ethical theories. The "socialist" idea (see Distributive Justice) that responsibilities or burdens should be distributed according to ability and benefits according to need is partly contained within the Difference Principle. We may reasonably assume that the "least advantaged" have the greatest needs and that those who receive special powers (hinted at under "social inequalities") also have special responsibilities or burdens. However, the merit principle that the use of special skills should be rewarded is also included in the Difference Principle. What (2a) does not permit is a change in social and economic institutions that makes life better for those who are already well off but does nothing for those who are already disadvantaged, or makes their life worse. Example: policies that permit nuclear power plants which degrade the environment for nearby family farmers but provide jobs for already well-paid professionals who come in from the big cities. The principles of justice 2.1 The first principle of justice There are two principles of justice, and the first one has priority over the second. The first principle is the liberty principle. It states: ... each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others (TJ, 60). This principle is straightforward, and is familiar from much liberal thought. The idea is expressed with much force by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty. The idea is simply that each individual should have as much liberty as they possibly can, but that liberty cannot infringe on the liberty of other individuals. The basic liberties guaranteed by the principle are: ... political liberty (the right to vote and to be eligible for public office) together with freedom of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience and freedom of thought; freedom of the person along with the right to hold (personal) property; and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law (TJ, 61).

The first principle, then, guarantees the negative liberty of the citizens. The citizens of a Rawlsian society are to be free from unwarranted state interference with their lives. Again, Rawls draws on the traditions of classical liberalism, which stresses individual liberty. Historically, the ideas implicit in the first principle of justice have their ancestry in Locke. In contemporary political thought the ideas are argued for most forcefully by libertarians such as Nozick. But libertarians are certainly not the only ones who affirm the importance of individual liberty; indeed, the idea has become so ingrained in our culture that virtually everyone accepts it in some form. Hence, Rawls's first principle of justice is fairly uncontroversial. 2.2 The second principle of justice The controversy begins with the second principle of justice, and this controversy is huge. The second principle is also called the difference principle, and it specifies how economic advantages should be distributed. It has two parts. Firstly, there is the difference principle proper, the principle for the distribution of acquired wealth in society. This is basically the principle to regulate taxation and redistribution. The second part of the second principle is the principle of equal opportunity. It regulates access to coveted social positions - basically jobs and positions of authority. In Rawls's words: The second principle applies, in the first approximation, to the distribution of income and wealth and to the design of organizations that make use of differences in authority and responsibility, or chains of command (TJ, 61). The first part of the second principles is: economic and social inequalities are to be arranged so as to make them maximally advantageous to the least advantaged in society. In other words, they must be such that under any other scheme the lot of the worst-off would be even worse. The only justification for any economic inequality is, then, that it is to the maximal advantage of the least well off. Rawls's strong egalitarianism is evident. The second part of the second principle states that all social positions such as jobs must be open to all, and furthermore, that measures must be taken so individuals actually have equal opportunities for reaching those positions. The second part of the principle is thus not only anti-discriminatory. It recognizes that the abolition of formal discrimination is not sufficient. It is also necessary to level the playing field, so to speak. There must be measures which ensure that those whose starting place in society is less favorable have an equal chance to achieve an important position in society. The difference principle might be called the principle of positive liberty. Intuitively it is based in the idea that negative liberty by itself is insufficient; because of natural inequalities, a great number of individuals will be unable to exercise their negative liberty in any meaningful sense unless the contingencies of nature are taken into account. The negative liberty of the first principle is almost pointless for someone who lives on the street and has to beg to survive. The difference principle ensures that no one will be in that position. Historically, the conception of positive liberty has a distinguished ancestry from Rousseau and Kant. Marx, of course, has a special place in this history, but it must be noted that Rawls's thought is Kantian, not Marxist. ustice DIFFERENCE PRINCIPLE = Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity . I.e., social and economic inequalities can be acceptable under two conditions only =

[a] inequalities are tolerable only insofar as they bring benefit to the least advantaged and [b] inequalities must be ameliorated via offices and positions open to all