The problem of Rawlsian transition

by Chris Bertram on August 7, 2012

(Since my attempt to make a point in a somewhat offhand and popularizing way seems to have been at the expense of clear communication, let me have another try, this time in a duller and more academic mode.)

Rawls has an idea of a feasible utopia, a well-ordered society, taking the form of a property-owning democracy,[1] in which distributive outcomes are programmed into the basic institutions via incentives attached to rules such that citizens, pursuing their own good within those rules, are led to bring about those outcomes. Importantly, those outcomes have the properties that they guarantee the worth of the basic liberties to citizens (material inequalities don’t undermine political equalities) and the difference principle is satisfied. This conception of what the just society would look like is important in responding to critics like Nozick, because, contra Nozick, the holdings that individuals have in the Rawlsian just society result from history: people are entitled to what they have because they have the rewards that have come from some action specified in advance by the rules (such as a net salary for doing a certain job or the winnings associated with a fair bet).[2] However the system as a whole is designed such that the invisible hand brings about just (or at least tolerably just) outcomes. A Rawlsian feasible utopia therefore satisfies someone like Hayek’s understanding of the rule of law: the government isn’t constantly intervening, trying to realize some antecedently decided-upon distributive pattern; rather the preferred distributive pattern emerges automatically from the normal operation of the system. Of course, this isn’t exactly laissez-faire: since the government does have the job of constantly adjusting the rules (such as, but perhaps not even mainly, tax rates) because left to itself entirely the system would drift away from its distributive “target” and the political equality of citizens would be undermined.
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Film Is For Old People

by John Holbo on August 7, 2012

A couple weeks back the LA Times ran an article about how ‘millenials’ don’t find it as strange as normal humans do that they rebooted Spider-Man so soon after making a perfectly good Spider-Man. (I haven’t seen the new one myself. I’ve heard it’s just fine.) On the other hand, the BFI’s 2012 “Sight & Sound” critics’ Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time poll is holding the line against this sort of amnesia. They prefer if people suffer from that condition the guy in Memento suffered from, approximately. (Maybe they should rename it: ‘of all times except recent ones’?)

I made a little chart, pushing my Excel chops to the limit. It shows number of films that made the Top 50, by year. (Yes, there’s nothing after 2001, you’re reading it right.)

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