Can Rawlsian Democracy Coexist with Markets?
The most influential book in contemporary political philosophy remains, after nearly fifty years, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, supplemented and modified by his later Political Liberalism. As readers no doubt know, Rawls isn’t very friendly to the free market. This raises a problem for some people. They are political philosophers themselves and, like most members of the guild, they admire Rawls. But they also support the free market. What should they do? One way out would be to abandon either Rawls or the free market. (They might also abandon both.) But what if doing this doesn’t appeal to them? What if they want both Rawls and the free market? Then they need to show that you use Rawls to support the free market. In this week’s article, I’m going to look at an attempt to do just that: John Tomasi’s book Free Market Fairness. Tomasi is a distinguished political philosopher who teaches at Brown University
Rawls calls his system “justice as fairness,” and Tomasi tells us that “once it has been adjusted and corrected according to market democratic principles, it is the conception of liberal justice I find most compelling.” In order to understand Tomasi’s claim and to judge its success, it is important to grasp what market democracy means. It is by no means the same as the free market you will find in Mises and Rothbard. He favors a social minimum funded by taxation and also favors government support of education, e.g., through a voucher plan.
Even if Tomasi isn’t a full supporter of the free market, doesn’t his position differ entirely from that of Rawls, who expressly repudiates as inadequate the “system of natural liberty”? How then can Tomasi arrive at a Rawlsian defense of market democracy?
Tomasi’s answer is not the obvious one that will first occur to most readers. Rawls’s difference principle allows inequalities that make the wors
Article from Mises Wire