- Capitalism and Alternatives -

No way!

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on November 03, 1999 at 14:09:50:

In Reply to: A few words on Rawls (notes here) posted by Stoller on November 03, 1999 at 13:02:50:

: Now, while I'd be the first to admit that the 'Original Position' is a useful theoretical device, let it be clear that Rawls was a VERY QUALIFIED 'egalitarian':


: While the distribution of wealth and income need not be equal, it must be to everyone's advantage, and at the same time, positions of authority and offices of command must be accessible to all.(1)

: Interesting how inequality gets in the back door!

: That sounds just like any 1776 commonplace, does it not?

: And:


: It will be recalled that the general conception of justice as fairness requires that all primary social goods be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution would be to everyone's advantage.(2)

: Rawls grants an 'unequal distribution' of power and money to anyone---as long as some kind of improvement goes to the poorest sections of society. Not dissimilar to the trickle-down swindle...

: I would not champion Rawls as a utopian socialist hero if I were you. He's a damn liberal---the American variety, no less.

: _____

: BTW, the 'state' is what would keep the bourgeoisie from EXTERMINATING the proletariat should they attempt to implement wide-scale socialism...

: _______________
: Notes:
: 1. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press 1971, pp. 61.
: 2. Ibid., p. 150, emphasis added.

Oh, BS barry. It's clear to me, VERY clear, that to say "Any inequality must be to the benefit of the poorest individuals" is essentially equivalent to saying 'no inequality, or almsot none.' That is a far, far more stringent condition than what you make it out to be. The poor are always better off with good public education, nationalized health care, union-dominated factories, state control of most of teh emans of production (this reduces unemployment), free housing (which necessitates state intervention in the housing business), free medicine, subsidized food, and other goods that are incompatible with a market system. You get my drift?

Notice, Rawls is not saying that the benefit from inequality must go to the average memebr of society. Whether or not substantial inequality benefits the average citizen, and I don't believe it does, that is a utilitarian argument not a Rawlsian one. A liberal would claim THAT, that the average citizen is better off, not that the poorest are bettr off; that's too unrealistic and ridiculous for even Bill Clinton to say. The poorest of teh poor are better off with substantial inequality? Give me be break?

The relationship to trickle down economics are purely superficial and analogoical. The Republicans never claimed that their economics would help starving welfare mothers, grape pickers or the homeless. For good reason, they didn't make a pitch to these people, because they knew that theri programs were going to screw them. Trickle down economics claimed to benefit the middle class, not the indigent. In fact, it benefited the rich and some drug-dealing Nicaraguan terrorists named teh contras, but that's anotehr matter.

How can you be against whatever policy benefits the most destitute and needy in society? As far as I am concerned, their welfare must be the supreme consideration, and whatever system gives them the ost advamntage is the preferred one. So in this way I'm a Rawlsian; I'm also a socialist, because I beleive that they will be benefited only if a very large portion of the economy is under common and democratic control. As Nehru once said, "Democracy and socialism are merely means to an end". In this case, my end is the same as Rawls'. What is your end that you seek, if it's not the happiness of thsoe who need it most, the curing of the ills of teh suffering? Perhaps your argument is that private ownership whatever its benefits is an affront to human dignity and freedom. YEs, the argument's been made before that "it's better to be poor in freedom than to be rich in slavery', most recently by the Guinean dictator Sekou Toure. I can see the argument, but I can't really agree; I still claim that socialism is a means to an end, not the end itself.

Let's look at this carefully. What system is it that benefits THE MOST IDNIGENT? Whether teh average Cuban or teh average American is better off is an interesting question. But I don't think there's much question that the poorest of the poor in Cuba are better off than the poorest of the poor in Harlem. The most indigent are benefited almsot in proportion to how socialist and welfare-minded the government is. Say what you will about teh Eastern European regime,s tehy were very good (for all their many other faults) at taking care of the most destitute./ Under a Rawlsian framework, then, their economic systems would necessarily be preferable to the United States.

I hope you'll consider the points I've raised and why I consider Rawls to eb a far thing indeed from being a liberal. I bewlieve in the rawlsian goal, which I believe would necessitates social ownership of probably 80-90% of the means of production (just hazarding a guess). Maybe private ownership of some scientific labs, small farms, a few other things.

If Rawls himself does not support a socialist economy, then that hsi his own judgemnt call of which economic system satisfies hsi condition;
I woudl tehn disagree with him about his judgment call, but not about his Difference principle. We woudl share teh same end, but different means.

And by the way, speaking of 1776; the Declaration of Independence is a subversive, revolutionary document that was Ho Chi Minh's inspiration. Jefferson, though not a democrat, was certainly anti-capitalist, he favored a republic of small farmers. I think that if America had mroe clsoely followed teh revolutionary spirit fo its early years, and not gotten sidetracked into capitalism, we'd be much better ooff today. teh problem is not with the principles of 1776; it's taht thsoe principles were lost and subverted by capitalism.

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