“I know why u homies want to make like John Rawls
You just wish that u were Marxists but u haven’t got the balls”
[Gilbert Ramsay et al, The Philociraptor Rap]
This post is in part a good excuse to cite the epigraph above, which deserves to be much better known. In a somewhat (ahem) direct way, it touches and encapsulates much of my attitude to Rawlsian liberalism.
For a more _academic_ presentation, you might want to read my two papers that, by a bizarre coincidence, came out on the same day last week:
“Why the ecological crisis spells the end of liberalism: The ‘difference principle’ is ecologically unsustainable, exploitative of persons, or empty”, in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.
“The difference principle is not action-guiding”, in CRISPP 14:4 (pp.487-503).
(Also, my shortly-forthcoming piece on “Beyond an ungreen-economics-based political philosophy: Three strikes against the difference principle”, in the International Journal of Green Economics (2011) Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.167–183. And, of related interest, my “Religion as sedition: On liberalism’s intolerance of real religion”, in Ars Disputandi vol.11, just published last month: http://http://www.arsdisputandi.org/publish/articles/000394/article.pdf .)
For a more popular, shorter, political ‘bloggish’ presentation of the same ideas, see my “No red without green: why any socialism must be an eco-socialism” in the Compass ebook ‘Good Society/Green Society? The Red-Green Debate’. One place that you can find this is 1 scroll down, at: http://www.compassonline.org.uk/news/item.asp?n=13232.
Finally, if you want to see how annoyed all this kind of thing makes Rawlsians, then have a read of my http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rupert-read/philosophical-and-political-implications-of-spirit-level-response-to-gerry-ha – and the comments thereto. What I point up there is that the Rawlsian difference principle is willing to allow substantial inequalities, because doing so will allegedly be best for the worst off. But if Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett, Michael Marmot, Danny Dorling et al are right, then the more substantial the inequalities, the worse off _everyone_ will be, _especially_ the worst off.
We might call this an empirical refutation of the difference principle…
So, homies, where do we/you go from here?