Monday, April 03, 2006

Which Pattern: Paisley or Checkered?

Pattern ethics as applied to social justice, in the view of John Rawls, is the best way so far to effectively equalize social positions to a degree which is necessary to make just rules for conduct and opportunity. What this means in terms of redistribution, is that those people in society who are disadvantaged by the natural lottery - they're born with some socio or economic or physical deficiency - will receive enough economic compensation (ie. welfare, "free" health-care, "free" education, public services) to be on equal terms with all other members of the society and able to compete for greater economic reward against anyone else.

So basically, in order for people to be able to compete, we need to handicap the top competitors. But we do that in a way that does not create an undue burden for the top "class", yet is satisfactory to the underclass. It's an enticing proposal. But it's sort of a watered-down, Marxism lite. From each according to ability, to each according to need - with rules.

And the problem lies, first in the fact that no consensus of opinion in the underclass would occur to define the handicapping parameters in question, and second in the fact that this sort of patterning of efficacy would certainly impede the liberty of top-class individuals.

One might argue that topclass would need to sacrifice some liberty in order to enhance underclass' liberty, not out of altruism, but rational self-interest. Ie., a wealthy entrepreneur can't become wealthy without her workers, who need to be healthy. She needs them just as they need her, thus, she should expect to pay - through taxation - for her workers' health-care needs.

But on closer examination, this argument falls apart, because if a certain portion of society is never allowed to pay the full cost of its life-choices, it will become dependent upon the rest of society, and never be allowed to reach the 'greater economic reward' that it so justly deserves to compete for. The workers would always be in a position of very little economic choice relative to their topclass masters, because they'd need their masters to be rich enough to be able to afford to subsidize their life-choices. And that's the truth because, in order to pay higher taxes, the topclass would raise prices, creating further pressure on limited economic means, or lower wages, which would have the same effect.

to be continued.....

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