12.20.2020 – basic liberties

basic liberties
extensive, equal for all
greatest benefit

A joke told by either John Cleese or Bill Bryson goes like this (or was it Julian Fellowes?).

If three Englishmen found themselves alone on a desert island the first thing they would do is form a club that would allow them to exclude any other members.

I was thinking about this as the news cycle on Reagonomics is starting to build.

The idea of ‘Trickle-Down’ is now 40 years old and reports and studies are being released that it just didn’t work.

Rich people got richer.

They kept on to their money.

There was no trickle down.

Just recently, according to one source, since the start of the pandemic, just 651 American billionaires have gained $1tn of wealth.

Okay, truth be told, IF I WERE A RICH MAN, would I handle it any better?

Watching Dick Cavett reruns on YouTube there is a clip where Mr. Cavett is having a conversation with Orson Welles.

Mr. Cavett asks Mr. Welles what he would do if he was suddenly given a very large amount of money.

Mr. Welles thundered immediatly like a fast ball off a bat, “Give it all away of course!”

Then he was quiet for a moment.

“Easy to say when it hasn’t happened,” Mr. Welles said in a slow voice.

“Most likely be different if I truly had the money.”

Reading the articles and discussions I came across the writings of John Rawls.

In 1971 Mr. Rawls published his treatise, A Theory of Justice in which he advanced the concept of the “original position”.

Mr. Rawls suggested, if a society gathered to debate the principles of justice in a kind of town hall meeting, but no one knew anything about themselves. “No one knows his place in society,” wrote Rawls, “his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like.”

IF this could happen, Mr. Rawls stated, “people would adopt two main principles. First, there should be extensive and equal basic liberties. Second, resulting social and economic inequalities should be managed to “the greatest benefit of the disadvantaged”.

Inequality could only be justified to the extent it provided material benefit to the least well-off.

This template, hoped Rawls, would make intuitive sense to everyone who imagined themselves into the “original position”.

Intuitive sense.

Intuitive sense that economic inequalities should be managed to “the greatest benefit of the disadvantaged”.

Mr. Rawls was embraced by many.

Mr. Rawls and this theory was also debunked.

One critic said that Mr. Rawls’ methodology was problematic.

This critic wrote, “Rawls was too trusting in the US constitution and not aware enough of the dark side of politics and power.”

This was back in 1970.

The dark side of politics and power seems to be doing as well today as economic inequalities.

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