Inspired by the “Greatest Conservative” and “Greatest Liberal” publication, Tyler Cowen discusses John Rawls:
The bottom line is that you can’t get lexical orderings out of a moral theory unless you build them in upfront. And without lexical orderings, well, Rawls, like many illustrious minds before him, does not succeed in sidestepping the dirty mess of aggregation. The critical moral question is how we should compare the interests of some people to others in a real world setting; don’t expect to find an easy way out of that one.
And just to prove that economists can indeed be witty:
Matt Yglesias adds commentary; he notes, correctly, that for the current Left Rawls doesn’t offer such an inspiring vision. I’ll put it this way: if you have to work that hard to establish “Sweden is great,” you should be spending more money on plane tickets.
Here’s a quote from Yglesias’s comment:
Okin’s Justice, Gender, and the Family by contrast seems to me to have a much more clear and direct relevance to things people argue about today. The premise that women and men deserve political and social equality is something few people would disagree with these days, but Okin shows that some surprisingly radical conclusions about the status quo can follow from that in a way that’s relevant in some obvious ways to arguments that you see in the cut-and-thrust of contemporary practical political debates. Rawls has created something vastly more theoretically ambitious, but in part in virtue of that ambition it’s much less clear what the actual implications are.