Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 28, 2017

The Difference Principle, Capitalism, and Property-Owning Democracy

Andrew Lister

Abstract

Jason Brennan and John Tomasi have argued that if we focus on income alone, the Difference Principle supports welfare-state capitalism over property-owning democracy, because capitalism maximizes long run income growth for the worst off. If so, the defense of property-owning democracy rests on the priority of equal opportunity for political influence and social advancement over raising the income of the worst off, or on integrating workplace control into the Difference Principle’s index of advantage. The thesis of this paper is that even based on income alone, the Difference Principle is not as hostile to property-owning democracy as it may seem, because the Difference Principle should not be interpreted to require maximizing long run income growth. The main idea is that it is unfair to make the present worst off accept inequality that doesn’t benefit them, for the sake of benefitting the future worst off, if the future worst off will be better off than they are anyway.

Acknowledgements:

I wrote the first draft of this paper while I was an Honorary Fellow at the Hoover Chair for Social and Economic Ethics, Université Catholique de Louvain. I would like to thank the participants in the Vives Seminar, Axel Gosseries, Ãsbjørn Melkevik and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful criticisms and comments.

References

Anderson, E. (1999). ‘What is the Point of Equality?’, Ethics 109 (2): 287–337.Search in Google Scholar

Arneson, R. (1999). ‘Against Rawlsian Equality of Opportunity’, Philosophical Studies 93: 77–112.Search in Google Scholar

Arnold, S. (2013). ‘Right-wing Rawlsianism: A Critique’, The Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (4): 382–404.Search in Google Scholar

Ashby, N.J. and Sobel, R.S. (2008). ‘Income Inequality and Economic Freedom in the U.S. States’, Public Choice 134: 329–346.Search in Google Scholar

Attas, D. (2009). ‘A Transgenerational Difference Principle’, in A. Gosseries and L. Meyer (eds.). Intergenerational Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 189–218.Search in Google Scholar

Bartels, L.M. (2008). Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (New York: Princeton University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Bertram, C. (1998). ‘Institutionalizing the Difference Principle’, http://eis.bris.ac.uk/$$\sim$$plcdib/bertram1.pdf (accessed on September 20, 2017).Search in Google Scholar

Brennan, J. (2007). ‘Rawls’ Paradox’, Constitutional Political Economy 18: 287–299.Search in Google Scholar

Carens, J.H. (1981). Equality, Moral Incentives, and the Market: An Essay in Utopian Politico-Economic Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, G.A. (1992). Incentives, Inequality, and Community Vol. 13 (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press).Search in Google Scholar

Compton, R.A., Giedeman, D.C., and Hoover, G.A. (2014). ‘A Distributional Analysis of the Benefits of Economic Freedom’, European Journal of Political Economy 33: 121–133.Search in Google Scholar

Corak, M. (2013). ‘Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility’, Journal of Economic Perspectives 27 (3): 79–102.Search in Google Scholar

De Haan, J., Lundström, S. and Sturm, J.-E. (2006). ‘Market-Oriented Institutions and Policies and Economic Growth: A critical survey’, Journal of Economic Surveys 20 (2): 157–91.Search in Google Scholar

DiQuattro, Arthur. (1983). ‘Rawls and Left Criticism’, Political Theory 11 (1): 53–78.Search in Google Scholar

Dollar, D., Kleineberg, T. and Kraay, A. (2016). ‘Growth Still Is Good for the Poor’, European Economic Review 81: 68–85.Search in Google Scholar

Dollar, D. and Kraay, A. (2002). ‘Growth is Good for the Poor’, Journal of Economic Growth 7: 195–225.Search in Google Scholar

Estlund, D.M. (1998). ‘Liberalism, Equality, and Fraternity in Cohen’s Critique of Rawls’, The Journal of Political Philosophy 6 (1): 99–112.Search in Google Scholar

Freeman, S. (2011). ‘Capitalism in the Classical Liberal and High Liberal Traditions’, Social Philosophy and Policy 28 (2): 19–55.Search in Google Scholar

Gaspart, F. and Gosseries, A. (2007). ‘Are generational savings unjust?’, Politics, Philosophy & Economics 6 (2): 193–217.Search in Google Scholar

Goodin, R. (1995). Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Growth is Good. (2000). The Economist, 27th May, p. 82.Search in Google Scholar

Gwartney, J., Lawson, R., and Hall, J. (2016). Economic Freedom of the World: 2016 Annual Report (Vancouver: Fraser Institute).Search in Google Scholar

Hall, J.C., and Lawson, Robert A. (2014). ‘Economic Freedom of the World: An Accounting of the Literature’, Contemporary Economic Policy 32: 1–19.Search in Google Scholar

Hayek, F.A.v. (1976). The mirage of social justice Vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Search in Google Scholar

Leonhardt, D. (2017). ‘Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart’, The New York Times, August 7.Search in Google Scholar

Macpherson, C.B. (1973). ‘Rawls’s models of man and society’, Philosophy of Social Science 3: 341–347.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, D. (1997). ‘Equality and Justice’, Ratio 3: 222–237.Search in Google Scholar

Piketty, T., Saez, E., and Zucman, G. (2017). ‘Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States’, working paper.Search in Google Scholar

Ravaillon, M. (2001). ‘Growth, Inequality and Poverty: Looking Beyond Averages’, World Development 29 (11): 1803–1815.Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (1996). Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (1999a). A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press ).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (1999b). Collected Papers (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univeristy Press).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (2001). Justice as Fairness : A Restatement. Edited by Erin Kelly. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Reiff, M.R. (2012). ‘The Difference Principle, Rising Inequality, and Supply-Side Economics: How Rawls got Hijacked by the Right’, Revue de Philosophie Economique 13: 119–73.Search in Google Scholar

Rousseau, J.J. (1913). The Social Contract & Discourses (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd).Search in Google Scholar

Scheffler, S. (2003). ‘What is Egalitarianism?’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 31 (1): 5–39.Search in Google Scholar

Schemmel, C. (2011). ‘Why Relational Egalitarians Should Care About Distributions’, Social Theory and Practice 37 (3): 365–390.Search in Google Scholar

Tomasi, J. (2012): Free Market Fairness (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Van Parijs, P. (2003). ‘Difference principles’, in S. Freeman (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Rawls (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press), pp. 200-40.Search in Google Scholar

White, S. (2014). ‘Democratic Equality as a Work-in-Progress,’ in J. Mandle and D. Reidy (eds.). A Companion to Rawls (New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons), pp. 185–99.Search in Google Scholar

Williams, A. (1998). ‘Incentives, Inequality, and Publicity’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 27: 225–247.Search in Google Scholar

Williams, A. (2011). ‘Linguistic protectionism and wealth maximinimization’, in A. Gosseries and Y. Vanderborght (eds.). Arguing about Justice: Essays for Philippe Van Parijs (Presses Universitaires de Louvain), pp. 395–403.Search in Google Scholar

Williamson, T. and O’Neill, M. (2009). ‘Property-Owning Democracy and the Demands of Justice’, Living Reviews in Democracy Vol. 1.Search in Google Scholar

Young, I.M. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Zwolinski, M. (2011). ‘Classical liberalism and the basic income’, Basic Income Studies 6 (2): 1–14.Search in Google Scholar

Zwolinski, M. (2015). ‘Property Rights, Coercion, and the Welfare State: The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income for All’, The Independent Review 19 (4): 515–529.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-9-28
Published in Print: 2018-6-26

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston