Distributive Justice Game

by Micah on September 10, 2003

This is a “game”:http://www.distributive-justice.com/mainpage_frame-e-n.htm everyone should play. And, if you like, try it in German or Italian.

Of the people who’ve played the “Discover your Distributive Profile” game (almost 4000 of them), Dworkinians are out in front. Right-libertarians aren’t well represented. Two weeks floating around the blogosphere, and I bet the numbers would change a lot. Just a hunch.



Liz 09.10.03 at 2:28 am

I started to do the profile survey, but it’s seriously flawed in terms of interface.

In the first set of questions (maybe all, I didn’t go past those), the “YES” answer is in red, on the left, and the “NO” answer is in black, on the right.

However, just below that is a “question weight index” which goes from 0 to 10, left to right, with 0 being fully black, and 10 being fully red.

So…if my answer to a question is NO, and I feel strongly that it should be no, do I mark a “0” because it’s fully black? A “0” because I feel strongly negative? A “10” because it shows emphasis for the weight of my answer?

There’s no explanation anywhere on the site of what “question weight index” refers to, what the scale represents, or what the relationship between the yes/no answers and the index are.



micah 09.10.03 at 2:40 am

I agree that there are all kinds of methodological problems. (Not to mention spelling mistakes!) But I think the basic idea is a good one, and the graphic design is fairly creative.


rps 09.10.03 at 3:09 am

The test tells me I’m a Dworkinian, which I’m certainly not (granted I’m somewhat left of center). That may explain why Dworkinians come out as a majority.


eric 09.10.03 at 3:56 am

What liz said. Maybe I’ll submit it to that “Web pages that Suck” guy.


Maureen 09.10.03 at 3:57 am

I was told that I’m a Dworkininan, where I would probably have chosen left-libertarian (everyone starts out at approximately the same place, and you go from there). And the “create-your-own” society thing isn’t working for me–but then, I’m using Mozilla.


Maureen 09.10.03 at 4:06 am

Update: works with IE. But why doesn’t the game differentiate between welfare for adults and welfare for children?


Matt 09.10.03 at 4:15 am

Cool site — thanks for the link. The grouping of options is a bit rigid, of course (At one point, I wasn’t able to select a mostly laissez-faire economic system which made allowances for the very poorly off, without also doing away with inheritance. But still a very clever idea, and pretty well executed.


Chun the Unavoidable 09.10.03 at 4:19 am

Speaking of “distributive justice,” I hope some of the rich professors here donate money to Brianna LaHara, the 12 yr. old orphan forced to pay $20,000 to the RIAA.


Young Republican 09.10.03 at 4:40 am

I hate the RIAA as much as the next guy, but it’s $2,000–not $20,000.


Chun the Unavoidable 09.10.03 at 5:19 am

While that might be “true,” and she might not even “be” an “orphan,” I hardly see how it lets the bourgeois professors off the hook.


Doug 09.10.03 at 8:03 am

I’m with Liz. Feh.


Dave 09.10.03 at 9:21 am

I understood the questions. Red is agree so 10 is agree strongly, but I thought the phrasing was pants (to use the technical term).
These are my results: 11% Rawls; 27% Dworkin; 10% Right libertarianism; 10% Left libertarianism; 15% Utilitarianism; 15% Pluralism; 11% Strict egalitarianism.
Am I well-balanced or crazy?
Oh, and according to the create society game, I’m 17% meritocrat; 50% welfare state; and 33% communist…


Thomas Dent 09.10.03 at 11:10 am

I suspect they need some native English-speaker to go over the questions in detail and weed out grammar mistakes, ambiguities, etc.

If one thinks about the questions, some of them are very flawed, and many of the ‘examples’ are very partial or unrealistic as illustrations.

It looks as if someone has lifted some awkward textbook definitions of what each type believes then just tried to convert them into questions.

The last question about ‘pluralism’ is the worst. The question talks about ‘allocation of goods’ but the example is about military service, political freedom, crime and punishment etc. In what way is the punishment of criminals a matter of allocation of goods?


chris 09.10.03 at 11:39 am

Great fun, and good to point students at. Naturally, though, one gets irritated by the lack of nuance. So there’s one option about limitation of freedom for the sake of freedom that implicitly excludes the possibility that unequal property rights undermine equal freedom. But it is good enough to get some discussion going.

I came out more Rawlsian than Dworkinian btw.


sue 09.10.03 at 3:22 pm

I don’t think it’s so good a teaching tool, except maybe in a survey course for nonmajors, when you’re desperate to get the kids to think at all. When you teach Rawls, Dworkin, Nozick, etc, the point is to emphasize the subtleties, the places where they agree and disagree. The survey botches this dramatically. Any disagreement with Rawls, it seems, and it calls you a Dworkinian. Any hint that political equality is more important for distributive justice than direct redistribution, and you cannot be a strict egalitarian. They miss the richness of Rawls (of many views) that result from the interplay between liberty and equality, it seems more like an “Edgeworth box” way of trading one for the other.

And of course, the “results” seem to imply that the “Rawls” “Dworkin” “Left Libertarian” etc. categories are seven independent categories, eigenvectors, or maybe three pairs of opposites plus one axes. But of course, they are not, which makes the scores numerically useless.

Feh, indeed.


clew 09.10.03 at 7:25 pm

I liked the non-native English; it did make some of the questions creaky, but it peeled off the Humpty Dumpty loaded terms that one guards for among native speakers.


Nicholas Weininger 09.10.03 at 10:22 pm

As a very radical right-libertarian, I’m pretty pleased with the way the site phrases things, although I too found the last question on “allocation of goods” ridiculous and unanswerable. In particular, the questions give good attention to the distinction between desiring rules and desiring outcomes.


Dan Simon 09.11.03 at 8:18 am

Personally, I find the whole premise of “distributive justice”, as characterized by this site, completely wrongheaded. I elaborate here.

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