The Veil of Opulence

image credit: Jenny Erickson

Political decisions are made based on the perspective of the maker, even if that perspective has nothing to do with what that person is capable of achieving in the present. In this post Benjamin Hale asks us to consider how that “veil of opulence” is causing Americans, particularly politicians, to do away with fairness.

More than 40 years ago the philosopher John Rawls, in his influential political work “A Theory of Justice,” implored the people of the world to shed themselves of their selfish predispositions and to assume, for the sake of argument, that they were ignorant. He imposed this unwelcome constraint not so that his readers — mostly intellectuals, but also students, politicians and policy makers — would find themselves in a position of moribund stupidity but rather so they could get a grip on fairness.

Rawls charged his readers to design a society from the ground up, from an original position, and he imposed the ignorance constraint so that readers would abandon any foreknowledge of their particular social status — their wealth, their health, their natural talents, their opportunities or any other goodies that the cosmos may have thrown their way. In doing so, he hoped to identify principles of justice that would best help individuals maximize their potential, fulfill their objectives (whatever they may happen to be) and live a good life.

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Original article written by Benjamin Hale and posted in the New York Times, August 12, 2012.

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