What is Justice as Equity?June 28, 2021
Rawls aims at two things with the theory of justice as fairness, which he deals with in his work A Theory of Justice, which is defined as “the greatest contribution to political philosophy after the Second World War” (Yayla 2000: 83) and determined the line of justice debates after him. (Honey 2001, p. 151):
1. To establish a theory of justice in which moral judgments and principles of justice are not mutually exclusive.
2. To develop a universal understanding of justice by following the Kantian path, which is an alternative to the understanding of justice of utilitarianism and classical liberalism, where individual differences are not observed.
It is to criticize the understanding of justice that is in harmony with the moral judgments Rawls mentioned in the first article, and the idea that aims at happiness in utilitarian justice understandings. According to Rawls, instead of an understanding of justice aiming at happiness, an understanding of justice in which rights come before goodness and happiness and in harmony with moral judgments should be valid. In order to better explain this understanding of justice, Rawls speaks of a starting point (“first state”), just like the state of nature in social contract theories (Balı 2001, p. 152). An initial state is necessary for a non-intrusive justice contract. In this first case, the parties are expected to be free, equal and rational. Rawls mentions that in such a discussion environment, Kant can establish the moral law of every rational being, and that every free, equal and rational being can reach justice and find out what is just. However, here Rawls puts another important condition: Under the condition defined as the “veil of obscurity”, the parties should temporarily ignore their sexual, religious, ethnic and social identities that will distinguish them. The purpose of this condition is that people do not act to increase their own interests and do not refrain from taking risks. In other words, the principles of justice that will emerge in this first case are intended to be moral and universal. It is under these conditions that free, equal and rational parties will formulate two principles of justice.
“one. Everyone has an equal right to the broadest fundamental freedom compatible with the same freedom of others.”
“2nd. Social and economic inequalities must be adjusted to the benefit of all, while ensuring that positions (offices) and posts (jobs) are open to all.” (Rawls, A Theory of Justice, IV, cited in Yayla 2001, p. 85)
With the first principle, Rawls speaks of the most fundamental right, freedom, as a continuation of the veil of obscurity. Thus, he responds to the criticism of the supporters of classical liberalism that they ignore freedom. Because in the first principle, instead of ignoring freedom, it presented it as a right. In fact, Rawls says in his work: “Freedom is the most important value and freedom can only be given up for more freedom” (Quoted by Rawls, A Theory of Justice 2000, p. 157). But what makes Rawls special is hidden in the second principle. Because with this principle, Rawls speaks of the principle of fair equality and difference at the same time. In other words, on the one hand, it speaks of the equal distribution of all social values such as freedom, opportunities, income and wealth; on the other hand, it emphasizes the legitimacy that this equality can turn into inequality if it is to the benefit of all. This situation can be better understood by the two situations expressed by the difference principle:
“one. That people with less natural talent should have the right to more consideration.
“2nd. It is that the wealthy should agree to relinquish some of their wealth for the benefit of the poor, as it will ultimately be to their advantage as a result of living in a cooperative society” (Balı 2000, p.158).
With these principles, Rawls basically aims to eliminate the negative effects of the “natural lottery” through legal and social institutions, without leaving it to the benevolence of individuals. Only in this way can a universal theory of justice be created that coincides with our moral judgments. Although there is talk of equal sharing of fundamental freedoms and rights, there is no absolute equality that is not to everyone’s advantage. Here, inequality, which is allowed on condition that it creates a situation for everyone’s advantage, constitutes the essence of the theory of justice as fairness. This understanding of justice, which corrects natural inequalities for the benefit of the least advantaged, is also called the redistributive justice theory because it is redefined by non-market rules.
As can be expected, Rawls’ theory of justice has been criticized from different perspectives by both contemporary representatives of classical liberalism, Communitarians and Socialists. Since it is not possible to address all these criticisms here, the thoughts of R. Nozick, the most important representative of classical liberalism, and M. Sandel or M. Walzer, who are among the most important representatives of the parishioners, can be included. In fact, the main criticism of liberalism, which Nozick represents