Impartiality, Solidarity, and Distributive Justice

John E. Roemer

in The Egalitarian Conscience

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780199281688
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603747 | DOI:
Impartiality, Solidarity, and Distributive Justice

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This essay considers the role of impartiality in theories of distributive justice. Impartiality is modelled by Rawls in his famous thought experiment of a veil of ignorance, where individuals reason about principles of justice without knowing fundamental aspects of themselves — such as talent or family background. It is argued that the veil of ignorance delivers recommendations that are inconsistent with prioritarianism, that is, the view that priority should be given to ameliorating the disadvantage of the worst off. Hence, prioritarianism, which is after all far weaker than strict egalitarianism, cannot be justified by appeal to a veil of ignorance. The veil of ignorance achieves impartiality, but impartiality needs to be conjoined with a principle of solidarity in order to justify the redistribution of wealth. The resource allocation rules that jointly satisfy impartiality, priority, and solidarity are described.

Keywords: justice; Rawls; veil of ignorance; prioritarianism; impartiality; solidarity

Chapter.  13800 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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