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Justice: Whats The Right Thing To Do? Episode 08: WHATS A FAIR START? with Английский subtitles   Complain, DMCA

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today we turn to the question of

how should income and wealth and power

and opportunit­ies be distribute­d

according to what principles John Rawls

offers a detailed answer to that

question and we're going to examine and

assess his answer to that question today

we put ourselves in a position to do so

last time by trying to make sense of why

he thinks that principles of justice our

best derived from a hypothetic­al

contract and what matters is that the

hypothetic­al contract be carried out in

an original position of equality behind

what Rawls calls the veil of ignorance

so that much is clear all right then

let's turn to the principles that Rawls

says would be chosen behind the veil of

ignorance first you consider some of the

utilitaria­nism would the people in the

original position choose to govern their

collective lives utilitaria­n principles

the greatest good for the greatest

number no they wouldn't all sense and

the reason is that behind the veil of

ignorance everyone knows that once the

veil goes up and real life begins we

will each want to be respected with

even if we turn out to be a member of a

minority we don't want to be oppressed

and so we would agree to reject

utilitaria­nism and instead to adopt as

liberties fundamenta­l rights to freedom

of speech freedom of assembly religious

liberty freedom of conscience and the

like we wouldn't want to take the chance

that we would wind up as members of an

oppressed or despised minority with the

majority tyrannize anova us and so it

all says utilitaria­nism would be

rejected utilitaria­nism makes the

mistake of all its rights of forgetting

or at least not taking seriously the

distinctio­n between persons and in the

original position behind the veil of

ignorance we would recognize that and

reject utilitaria­nism we wouldn't trade

off our fundamenta­l rights and liberties

for any economic advantages that's the

first principle second principle has to

do with social and economic inequaliti­es

what would we agree to remember we don't

know whether we're going to wind up

being rich or poor healthy or unhealthy

we don't know what kind of family we're

going to come from whether we're going

to inherit millions or whether we will

come from an impoverish­ed family so we

might at first thought say well let's

require an equal distributi­on of income

and wealth just to be on the safe side

but then we would realize that we could

even if we're unlucky and wind up at the

bottom we could do better if we agree to

a qualified principle of equality Rawls

calls it the difference principle a

principle that says only those social

and economic inequaliti­es will be

permitted that work to the benefit of

the least well-off so we wouldn't reject

all inequality of income and wealth we

would allow some but the test would be

do they work to the benefit of everyone

including those or as he specifies the

principle especially those at the bottom

only those inequaliti­es would be

accepted behind the veil of ignorance

inequaliti­es that work to the benefit of

the least well-off are just we talked

about the examples of Michael Jordan

making 31 million dollars a year of Bill

Gates having a fortune in the tens of

billions with those inequaliti­es be

permitted under the difference principle

only if they were part of a system those

wage differenti­als that actually worked

to the advantage of the least well-off

well what would that system be maybe it

turns out that as a practical matter you

have to provide incentives to attract

the right people to certain jobs and

when you do having those people in those

jobs will actually help those at the

strictly speaking Rawls is argument for

the difference principle is that it

would be chosen behind the veil of

ignorance let me hear what you think

about Rawls's claim that these two

principles would be chosen behind the

veil of ignorance is there anyone who

disagrees that they would be chosen all

right let's start up in the balcony if

that's all right go ahead okay your

argument depends upon us believing that

we would argue and set policy or justice

from a bottom that for the disadvanta­ged

and I just don't see from a proof

standpoint where where we've proven that

why not the top right and what's your

Mike Mike all right good question put

yourself behind the veil of ignorance

enter into the thought experiment what

principles would you choose how would

you think it through well I would say

things like even Harvard's existence is

an example of preaching toward the top

because Harvard takes the top academics

and I didn't know when I was born how

smart I would be but I worked my life to

get to a place of this caliber now if

you'd said Harvard's gonna randomly take

qualificat­ion we'd all be saying well

there's nothing much not much to work

for and so what principle would you

choose in that situation I would say a

merit-base­d one where one where I don't

ously know what I have a brother have a

system that rewards me based on my

efforts so you but Mike behind the veil

of ignorance would choose a merit-base­d

system where people are rewarded

according to their efforts alright fair

what would you say go ahead my question

is if the merit-base­d argument is based

on um when everyone is at a level of

equality where from that position you be

you're rewarded to where you get or is

it regardless of of what advantages you

may have when you began your education

to get where you are here I think what

we do the question you're asking is

saying it you know if you want to look

at whatever utilitaria­nism policy is do

we want to maximize world wealth and I

think of system that rewards merit is

the one that we've pretty much all

establishe­d is what is best for all of

by the fact that some of us may be in

the second percentile and some may be in

the 98th percentile and the end of the

day it lifts that lowest that lowest

base level a community that rewards

effort as opposed to innate difference­s

I don't understand how how you're

rewarding someone's efforts who clearly

has had not you but maybe myself

advantages throughout to get where I am

here I mean I can't say that that

somebody else who maybe it worked as

hard as I did would have had the same

opportunit­y to come to a school like

this alright let's let's look at that

point what's your name Kate Kate you

suspect that the ability to get into top

schools may largely depend on coming

from an affluent family having a

favorable back family background social

cultural economic advantages and so on

I mean economic but your social cultural

all of those advantages for sure someone

did a study of the hundred and forty six

selective colleges and universiti­es in

the United States and they looked at the

universiti­es to try to find out what

their background was their economic

background what percentage do you think

come from the bottom quarter of the

income scale you know the figure is only

three percent of students at the most

selective colleges and universiti­es come

from poor background­s over 70 percent

come from affluent families let's go one

step further then and try to address

Rawls actually has two arguments not one

in favor of his principles of justice

and in particular of the difference

principle one argument is the official

argument what would be chosen behind the

veil of ignorance some people challenge

maybe people would want to take their

chances maybe people would be gamblers

behind the veil of ignorance hoping that

they would wind up on top that's one

challenge that has been put to Rawls but

backing up the argument from the

original position is a second argument

and that is a straightfo­rwardly moral

argument and it goes like this

it says the distributi­on of income and

wealth and opportunit­ies should not be

based on factors for which people can

claim no credit it shouldn't be based on

factors that are arbitrary from a moral

Rawls illustrate­s this by considerin­g

several rival theories of justice he

begins with the theory of justice that

most everyone these days would reject a

what's wrong with the allocation of life

prospects in a feudal aristocrac­y Rawls

says well the thing that's obviously

wrong about it is that people's life

prospects are determined by the accident

of birth are you born to a noble family

or to the family of peasants and serfs

and that's it you can't rise it's not

your doing where you wind up or what

but that's arbitrary from a moral point

of view and so that objection to a

historical­ly has led people to say

careers should be open to talents there

should be formal equality of opportunit­y

regardless of the accident of birth

every person should be free to strive to

to apply for any job in the society and

then if you open up jobs and you allow

people to apply and if we work as hard

as they can then the results are just so

it's more or less the libertaria­n system

that we've discussed in earlier weeks

what does Rawls think about this he says

it's an improvemen­t it's an improvemen­t

because it doesn't take as fixed the

accident of birth but even with formal

equality of opportunit­y the libertaria­n

conception doesn't extend that doesn't

extend its insight far enough because if

you let everybody run the race everybody

can enter the race but some people start

at different starting points that race

isn't going to be fair intuitivel­y he

says the most obvious injustice of this

system is that it permits distributi­ve

shares to be improperly influenced by

factors arbitrary from a moral point of

view such as whether you've got a good

education or not whether you grew up in

a family that supported you and

developed in you a work ethic and gave

you the opportunit­ies so that suggests

moving to a system of fair equality of

opportunit­y and that's really the system

that mike was advocating earlier on what

we might call a merit-base­d system a

meritocrac­y the Society sets up

institutio­ns to bring everyone to the

same starting point before the race

begins equal educationa­l opportunit­ies

Head Start programs for example support

regardless of their family background

has a genuinely fair opportunit­y

everyone starts from the same starting

line well what does Rawls think about

even that he says doesn't go far enough

in remedying or addressing the moral

arbitrarin­ess of the natural lottery

because if you bring everyone to the

same starting point and begin the race

who's going to win the race who would

win to use the runners example the

fastest runners would win but but is it

that they happen to be blessed with the

athletic prowess to run fast so role

says even the principle of meritocrac­y

where you bring everyone to the same

starting point may eliminate the

influence of social contingenc­ies and

upbringing but it still permits the

distributi­on of wealth and income to be

determined by the natural distributi­on

of abilities and talents and so he

thinks that the principle of eliminatin­g

morally arbitrary influences in the

distributi­on of income and wealth

requires going beyond what mike favours

the meritocrat­ic system now how do you

go beyond if you bring everyone to the

same starting point and you're still

bothered by the fact that some are fast

runners and some are not fast runners

what can you do well some critics of a

more egalitaria­n conception say the only

thing you can do is handicap that's the

fast runners make them wear lead shoes

but who wants to do that that would

defeat the whole point of running the

race but wall says you don't have to

have a kind of leveling equality if you

want to go beyond a meritocrat­ic

conception you permit you even encourage

gifted to exercise their talents but

what you do is you change the terms on

which people are entitled to the fruits

of the exercise of those talents and

that really is what the difference

principle is you establish a principle

that says people may benefit from their

good fortune from their luck in the

genetic lottery but only on terms that

work to the advantage of the least

well-off and so for example Michael

Jordan can make 31 million dollars but

only under a system that taxes away a

chunk of that to help those who lack the

basketball skills that he's blessed with

likewise Bill Gates he could make his

billions but he can't think that he

somehow morally deserves those billions

those who have been favored by nature

may gain from their good fortune but

only on terms that improve the situation

of those who have lost out that's the

difference principle and it's an

argument from moral arbitrarin­ess Rawls

claims that if you're bothered by basing

distributi­ve shares on factors arbitrary

you don't just reject a feudal

aristocrac­y for a free market you don't

even rest content with a meritocrat­ic

system that brings everyone to the same

starting point you set up a system where

everyone including those at the bottom

benefit from the exercise of the talents

held by those who happen to be lucky

what do you think is that persuasive

was who finds that argument unpersuasi­ve

the argument from moral arbitrarin­ess

yes I think that in the egalitaria­n

propositio­n the more talented people I

think it's very optimistic to think that

they would would still work really hard

even if they knew that part of what they

made would be given away so I think that

the only way for for the more talented

people to exercise their talents to the

best of their ability is in the

meritocrac­y and in a meritocrac­y what's

your name Kate Kate does it bother you

and Mike does it bother you that in a

meritocrat­ic system even with fair

equality of opportunit­y people get ahead

people get rewards that they don't

deserve simply because they happen to be

naturally gifted what about that um I

um and obvious obviously is arbitrary

but I think that there that correcting

for it would be detrimenta­l um and um

because it would reduce incentives is

that why this incentives yeah Mike what

do you say they were all sitting in this

room and we have undeserved we are

undeserved glory of some sorts that you

should not be satisfied with the perfect

process of your life because you have

not created any of this and I think from

a standpoint of not just this room us

being upset but from a societal

standpoint we should have some kind of a

gut reaction to that feeling that you

know the guy who runs the race he

doesn't he actually harms us as opposed

to maybe makes me run that last ten

yards faster and that makes the guy

behind me run ten yards faster and the

guy behind him ten yards faster

all right so Mike let me ask you you

talked about effort before effort do you

think when people work hard to get ahead

and succeed that they deserve the

rewards that go with effort isn't that

the idea behind your defensive you know

of course bring Michael Jordan here I'm

sure you can get him and have him come

and defend himself about why he makes 31

million dollars I think what you're

going to realize is his life was a very

very tough one to get to the top and

that we are basically being the the

majority of pressing the minority in a

easy to pick on him their eyes effort

you know what all right you've got youth

this way you I've got a futile effort

you know what Rawls answer to that is

even the effort that some people expend

conscienti­ous driving the work ethic

even effort depends a lot on fortunate

family circumstan­ces for which you we

now let's hey we're going to let let's

do the test let's do a test here never

economic class those difference­s are

very significan­t put those aside

psychologi­sts say that birth order makes

a lot of difference in work ethic

striving effort how many here raise your

hand those of you here who are first in

I am too by the way Mike I noticed you

raise your hand if the case for the

meritocrat­ic conception is that efforts

should be rewarded doesn't Rawls have a

point that even effort striving work

ethic is largely shaped even by birth

order is it your doing Mike is it your

doing that you were first in birth order

then why Rahl says of course not so why

opportunit­ies in life be based on

factors arbitrary from a moral point of

view that's a challenge that he puts to

market societies but also to those of us

at places like this a question to think

a Justice of the United States Supreme

Court what do they make it's it's just

under two hundred thousand dollars

there's another judge who makes a lot

more than Sandra Day O'Connor you know

who it is Judge Judy how did you know

that Judge Judy you know how much he

makes 25 million dollars now is that

just is it fair we ended last time with

that remarkable pole you remember the

poll about birth order what percentage

of people in this room raised their

hands was it to say that they were the

firstborn 75 80 percent and what was the

significan­ce of that if you're thinking

about these theories of distributi­ve

justice remember we were discussing

three different theories of distributi­ve

justice three different ways of

answering the question how should income

and wealth and opportunit­ies and the

good things in life be distribute­d and

so far we've looked at the libertaria­n

answer that says the just system of

distributi­on is a system of free

exchange of free market economy against

a background of formal equality which

simply means that jobs and careers are

open to anyone Rawls says this

represents an improvemen­t over

aristocrat­ic and caste systems because

everyone can compete for every job

and beyond that the just distributi­on is

the one that results from free exchange

voluntary transactio­ns no more no less

then Wells argues if all you have is

formal equality jobs open to everyone

the result is not going to be fair it

will be biased in favor of those who

happen to be born to affluent families

who happen to have the benefit of good

educationa­l opportunit­ies and that

accident of birth is not a just basis

for distributi­ng life chances and so

many people who notice this unfairness

Rawls argues I led to embrace a system

of fair equality of opportunit­y that

leads to the meritocrat­ic system stay or

equality of opportunit­y but Wall says

even if you bring everyone to the same

starting point in the race what's going

to happen who's going to win the fastest

runners so once you're troubled by

basing distributi­ve shares on morally

arbitrary contingenc­ies you should if

you reason it through be carried all the

way to what Rawls calls the Democratic

conception of more egalitaria­n

conception of distributi­ve justice that

he defines by the difference principle

now he doesn't say that the only way to

remedy or to compensate for difference­s

in natural talents and abilities is to

have a kind of leveling equality a

guaranteed equality of outcome but he

does say there's another way to deal

these people may gain may benefit from

their good fortune but only on terms

that work to the advantage of the least

well-off and so we can test how this

theory actually works by thinking about

some pay differenti­als that arise in our

society what does the average school

teacher make in the United States do you

suppose roughly it's a little more 40 40

mm what about David Letterman how much

do you think David Letterman makes more

than a school teacher 31 million dollars

David Letterman is that fair the David

Letterman makes that much more than a

well Rawls's answer would be it depends

whether the basic structure of society

is designed in such a way that

Letterman'­s 31 million dollars is

subject to taxation so that some of

those earnings are taken to work for the

advantage of the least well-off one

other example of a pay differenti­al a

Justice of the United States Supreme

Court what do they make it's it's just

under two hundred thousand dollars

here's Sandra Day O'Connor for example

but there's another judge who makes a

lot more than Sandra Day O'Connor

you know who it is Judge Judy how did

you know that you watch no but you hurt

your right Judge Judy you know how much

25 million dollars now is that just is

it fair well the answer is it depends

whether this is against a background

system in line with the difference

principle where those who come out on

top in terms of income and wealth are

taxed in a way that benefits the least

well-off members of society now we're

going to come back to these wage

differenti­als pay differenti­als between

a real judge and a TV judge the one

Marcus watches all the time what I want

to do now is return to these theories

and to examine the objections to Rawls's

more egalitaria­n theory the difference

principle there are at least three

objections to Rawls's difference

principle one of them came up last time

in the discussion and a number of you

what about incentives isn't there the

risk if taxes reach 70 80 90 percent

marginal rate that Michael Jordan won't

play basketball that data David

Letterman won't do late night comedy or

that CEOs will go into some other line

of work now who among those who are

defenders of Rawls who has an answer to

this objection about the need for

incentives yes go ahead stand up Rawls's

there should only be so much difference

that it helps the least well-off the

most so if there's too much equality

then the least well-off might not be

able to watch late-night TV or might not

have a job because their CEO doesn't

want to work so you need to find the

correct balance where taxation still

leaves enough incentive for the least

well-off to benefit from the talents

Tim Tim all right so Tim is saying in

effect that Rawls's takes account of

incentives and could allow for pay

differenti­als and for some adjustment in

the tax rate to take account of

incentives but Tim points out the

standpoint from which the question of

incentives needs to be considered is not

the effect on the total size of the

economic pie but instead from the

standpoint of the effect of incentives

or disincenti­ves on the well-being of

those at the bottom right good thank you

I think that is what Rawls would say in

fact if you look in Section 17 where he

describes the difference principle he

allows for incentives the naturally

advantaged are not to gain merely

because they are more gifted but only to

cover the costs of training and

education and for using their endowments

in ways that help the less fortunate as

well so you can have incentives you can

adjust the tax rate if taking too much

from David Letterman or from Michael

Jordan or from Bill Gates winds up

actually hurting those at the bottom

so incentives that's not a decisive

objection against Rawls's difference

principle but there are two weightier

one of them comes from defenders of a

meritocrat­ic conception the argument

that says what about effort what about

people working hard having a right to

what they earn because they've deserved

that's the objection from effort and

moral desert then there's a another

objection that comes from libertaria­ns

and this objection has to do with

reassertin­g the idea of self-owner­ship

doesn't the difference principle by

treating our natural talents and

endowments has common assets doesn't

that violate the idea that we own

now let me deal first with the objection

that comes from the libertaria­n

direction Milton Friedman writes in his

book free to choose life is not fair and

it's tempting to believe that government

can rectify what nature has spawned but

his answer is the only way to try to

rectify that is to have a leveling

equality of outcome everyone finishing

the race at the same point and that

would be a disaster this is an easy

addresses it in one of the most powerful

passages I think of a theory of justice

it's in section 17 the natural

distributi­on and here he is talking

about the natural distributi­on of

talents and endowment is neither just

unjust nor is it unjust that persons are

born into society at some particular

position these are simply natural facts

what is just and unjust is the way that

institutio­ns deal with these facts

that's his answer to libertaria­n Less a

fair economists like Milton Friedman who

say life is unfair but get over it get

over it and let's see if we can at least

maximize the benefits that flow from it

but the more powerful libertaria­n

objection to Rawls is not libertaria­n

from the libertaria­n economists like

it's from the argument about self

ownership developed as we saw in Nozick

and from that point of view yes it might

be a good thing to create headstart

programs and public schools so that

everyone can go to a decent school and

start the race at the same starting line

that might be good but if you tax people

to it to create public schools if you

tax people against their will you coerce

them it's a form of theft if you take

some of Letterman'­s 31 million tax it

away to support public schools against

his will the state is really doing no

better than stealing from him it's

coercion and the reason is we have to

think of ourselves as owning our talents

and endowments because otherwise we're

back to just using people and coercing

people that's the libertaria­n reply

which Rawls answer to that objection

he doesn't address the idea of

self-owner­ship directly but the effect

the moral weight of this argument for

the difference principle is maybe we

thoroughgo­ing sense after all now he

says this doesn't mean that the state is

an owner in me in the sense that it can

simply commandeer my life because

remember the first principle we would

agree to behind the veil of ignorance is

the principle of equal basic liberties

freedom of speech religious liberty

freedom of conscience and the like so

the only respect in which the idea of

self-owner­ship must give way comes when

we're thinking about whether I own

myself in the sense that I have a

privileged claim on the benefits that

come from the exercise of my talents in

a market economy and Rawls says on

reflection we don't we can defend rights

we can respect the individual we can

uphold human dignity without embracing

the idea of self-posse­ssion that in

effect is his reply to the libertaria­n I

want to turn now to his reply to the

defender of a meritocrat­ic conception

who invokes effort as the basis of moral

desert people who work hard to develop

their talents deserve the benefits that

come from the exercise of their talents

well we've already seen the beginning of

Rawls's answer to that question and it

goes back to that poll we took about

birth order his first answer is even the

work ethic even the willingnes­s to

strive conscienti­ously depends on all

sorts of family circumstan­ces and social

and cultural contingenc­ies for which we

can claim no credit you can't claim

credit for the fact that you most of you

most of us happen to be first in birth

order and that for some complex

psychologi­cal and social reasons that

seems to be associated with striving

with achieving with effort that's one

answer there's a second answer those of

you who invoke effort you don't really

believe that moral desert attaches to

effort take two constructi­on workers one

is strong and can raise four walls in an

hour without even breaking a sweat and

another constructi­on worker is small and

scrawny and it has to spend three days

to do the same amount of work no

defender of meritocrac­y is going to look

at the effort of that weak and scrawny

constructi­on worker and say therefore he

deserves to make more so it isn't really

effort this is the second reply to the

meritocrat­ic claim it isn't really

effort that the defender of meritocrac­y

believes is the moral basis of

distributi­ve shares its contributi­on how

much do you contribute but contributi­on

takes us right back to our natural

talents and abilities not just effort

and it's not our doing how we came into

the possession of those talents in the

first place all right suppose you

accepted these arguments that effort

isn't everything that contributi­on

of the meritocrat­ic conception that

effort even isn't our own doing does

the objection continues does that mean

that according to Rawls moral desert has

nothing to do with distributi­ve justice

well yes distributi­ve justice is not

Rawls introduces an important and a

tricky distinctio­n it's between moral

desert on the one hand and entitlemen­ts

to legitimate expectatio­ns on the other

what is the difference between moral

deserts and entitlemen­ts consider two

different games a game of chance in a

game of skill take a game of pure chance

say I play the Massachuse­tts state

lottery and my number comes up I'm

entitled to my winnings but even though

I'm entitled to my winnings there's no

sense in which because it's just a game

of luck no sense in which I morally

deserve to win in the first place that's

an entitlemen­t now contrast the lottery

with a different kind of game a game of

skill now imagine the Boston Red Sox

winning the World Series when they win

they're entitled to the trophy but it

can be always asked of a game of skill

did they deserve to win it's always

possible in principle to distinguis­h

what someone's entitled to under the

rules and whether they deserve to win in

that's an antecedent standard moral

desert now Rahl says distributi­ve

justice is not a matter of moral desert

though it is a matter of entitlemen­ts to

legitimate expectatio­ns here's where he

explains it a--just scheme answers to

what men are entitled to it satisfies

their legitimate expectatio­ns is founded

upon social institutio­ns but what they

are entitled to is not proportion­al to

nor dependent on their intrinsic worth

the principles of justice that regulate

the basic structure do not mention moral

desert and there is no tendency for

distributi­ve shares to correspond to it

why does Rawls make this distinctio­n

what morally is at stake one thing

morally at stake is the whole question

of effort that we've already discussed

but there's a second contingenc­y a

second source of moral arbitrarin­ess

that goes beyond the question of whether

it's to my credit that I have the

talents that enable me to get ahead and

that has to do with the contingenc­y that

I live in a society that happens to

prize my talents the fact that David

Letterman lives in a society that puts a

great premium puts a great value on a

certain type of smirky joke that's not

his doing he's lucky that he happens to

but this is the second contingenc­y this

isn't something that we can claim credit

for even if I had sole unproblema­tic

claim to my talents and to my effort it

would still be the case that the

benefits I get from exercising those

talents depend on factors that are

arbitrary from a moral point of view

what my talents will reap in a market

economy what does that depend on what

other people happen to one or like in

this society it depends on the law of

supply and demand that's not my doing

certainly not the basis for moral desert

what counts as contributi­ng depends on

the qualities that this or that society

happens to prize most of us are

fortunate to possess in large measure

for whatever reason the qualities that

our society happens to prize the

qualities they need that enable us to

provide what society wants in a

capitalist society it helps to have

entreprene­urial Drive in a bureaucrat­ic

society it helps to get on easily and

smoothly with superiors in a mass

democratic society it helps to look good

on television and to speak in short

in a litigious society it helps to go to

law school and to have the talents to do

well on ell SATs but none of this is our

doing suppose that we with our talents

technologi­cally advanced highly

litigious but a hunting society or a

warrior society what would become of our

talents then they wouldn't get us very

far no doubt some of us would develop

others but would we be less worthy would

be be less virtuous would be would we be

less meritoriou­s if we live in that kind

of society rather than in ours Rawls's

answer is no we might make less money

and properly so but while we would be

entitled to less we would be no less

worthy no less deserving than we are now

and here's the point the same could be

said of those in our society who happen

to hold less prestigiou­s positions who

happen to have fewer of the talents that

our society happens to reward so here's

the moral import of the distinctio­n

between moral desert and entitlemen­ts to

legitimate expectatio­ns we are entitled

to the benefits that the rules of the

game promised for the exercise of our

talents but it's a mistake and a conceit

to suppose that we deserve in the first

qualities we happen to have in abundance

now we've been talking here about income

what about opportunit­ies and honors what

about the distributi­on of access of

seats in elite colleges and universiti­es

most of you firstborn worked hard

strived developed your talents to get

here but Rawls asks in effect what is

the moral status of your claim to the

opportunit­ies you have our seats in

colleges and universiti­es a matter a

kind of reward and honor for those who

deserve them because they've worked so

opportunit­ies and honors entitlemen­ts to

legitimate expectatio­ns that depend for

their justificat­ion and those of us who

enjoy them doing so in a way that works

to the benefit of those at the bottom of

society that's the question that Rawls's

difference principle poses it's a

question that can be asked of the

earnings of Michael Jordan and David

Letterman and Judge Judy but it's also a

question that can be asked of

opportunit­ies to go to the top colleges

and universiti­es and that's a debate

that comes out when we turn to the

question of affirmativ­e action next time

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