Like Chris, I don’t find a lot in Chapter 2 of Cohen’s book that I didn’t already find in Chapter 1. It seems an attempt to make the basic argument more sharp and technical, without actually making it more plausible or clear. No harm done, I suppose.

So let me try to make a different sort of connection, ripped from the headlines. Cohen is concerned that a certain sort of ‘kidnap’ case makes trouble for Rawls. Basically, the trouble is this: you might describe a policy of paying off kidnappers as prudent – wise, rational – but you wouldn’t call it just or fair. There is a problem using actual kidnap cases to illustrate, because they tend to get lurid in irrelevant ways. And it may seem tendentious to port conclusions about kidnap cases directly over to the tax and social policy system. It invites the question: are you just assuming that capitalism amounts to mass kidnapping? It occurs to me that our contemporary bailout worries provide better and clearer illustrations of what Cohen is really getting at. So here goes. [click to continue…]