Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hayek Against (and For) Rawls

Andrew Lister (Queens University) has posted a new paper on:

The Mirage of Social Justice: Hayek Against (and For) Rawls” [pdf]
(Forthcoming in Critical Review, Fall 2012).

... one is naturally surprised to read Hayek saying that the differences between himself and John Rawls are "more verbal than substantial", and that Rawls and Hayek agree on "the essential point," which is that principles of justice apply to the rules of institutions and social practices, but not to distributions of particular things across specific persons. [....] Hayek claimed that people had misread Rawls, ignoring his point that if a distribution results from just institutions it is just no matter what it is. Yet it clearly seems that for Rawls, justice in institutions was itself defined at least partly in distributive terms. If one thinks of the familiar contrast between old, or classical liberalism and new, or social justice liberalism, Rawls is clearly a social justice liberal. So how could Hayek have claimed to be in agreement with Rawls? This is the historical and interpretive puzzle I want to address in my lecture tonight.

[....] at the level of normative principle, Hayek is in many ways a Rawlsian. I will outline four main areas of convergence: the importance of 'pure procedural justice', the irrelevance of merit, the use of a veil of ignorance, and the principle the inequalities should benefit everyone."

Andrew Lister is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Studies, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. See his blog here.


Greg Ransom said...

In the last part of Rawls's _A Theory of Justice_, Rawls admits the whole project rests on _the sense of justice_.

As Hume and Hayek emphasize, this is a social inherited and socially evolved and socially grounded way of interpreting things, and depends in the first instance on a understanding of negative rules of just conduct.

Ultimately Hayek doesn't take seriously Rawls's distributive justice gestures, because these cannot be grounded in any coherent actionable principles, when it is admitted _even "behind" the vail of ignorance"_ that the Hayek/Mises critique of collectivist planning is a fact of social science, and that a productive output capable of sustaining the great society can only be achieved following the negative rules of just conduct (e.g. those listed by Hume, including of property) which provide the framework for a private property money economy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

OTOH perhaps