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Responding to Rawls: Toward a Consistent and Supportable Theory of Distributive Justice



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Responding to Rawls Toward a Consistent and Supportable Theory of Distributive Justice David Elkins I INTRODUCTION Distributive justice is concerned with the question of how benefits and burdens and in particular how economic resources should be allocated Contemporary discussions of distributive justice are dominated by Rawlsian methodology which proceeds from the presumption that talents and social position are undeserved and cannot support claims of entitlement While the distribution of such attributes is itself neither just nor unjust the justice inherent in a society is measured by the extent to which it is willing to neutralize such morally arbitrary factors in determining the distribution of economic resources Nevertheless as material incentives are ordinarily required in order to encourage productive economic activity a balance must be struck between the demands of equality and those of efficiency The question is where to strike that balance 1 John Rawls argued that positions that people take with regard to questions of distributive justice may be influenced by their knowledge of how they themselves would fare under various structures He therefore proposed investigating what principles would be adopted by individuals unaware of their own talents or social status what he referred to as the original position so that they would not be able accurately to predict how any particular structure would affect them 2 Behind this veil of Senior Lecturer and Distinguished Teaching Fellow Netanya College School of Law Israel Visiting Professor of Law SMU Dedman School of Law Ph D Bar Ilan University 1999 LL M Bar Ilan University 1992 LL B Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1982 This Article was supported by a grant from the SMU Dedman School of Law For their helpful comments I would like to thank Daniel Statman and my brother Jeremy Elkins I would also like to thank my wife Sharron and my mother Miriam for reviewing earlier drafts Any errors that remain are of course my own



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