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Presentation week7

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  • Cohen thinks that these virtues of equality and community ought to be extended to society as a whole.Hence, socialism is morally desirable*BUT* Even if his account of the camping trip is right, how did he get from an account of what is desirable in a very special setting to the arrangements of a whole society? In a camping trip, people are "roughing it" and are usually not concerned with luxury. Cohen has chosen an example with special features and treated it as the general case. Should we view society as a giant camping trip, in which material goods rank far below the benefits of friendly and equal relations between everyone? That question remains open, whatever one thinks of the camping trip.
  • Cohen has fundamentally misconceived what is at stake. If you prevent me from stealing your car, you have restricted my freedom of choice; and if I am free to take your car, your freedom of choice over that object is restricted. We cannot assess what choices people should have available to them without knowing what rights people have. Any assignment of rights will restrict choice: Cohen's invocation of that tautology does not advance progress.Both in his camping-trip story and in the general case, he averts his eyes from the most basic issue. How are property rights acquired? Cohen refers to the "voluntarily accepted constraint" of those on the camping trip; but surely he does not envision a purely voluntary socialism for society. (If he does, then the libertarian has no quarrel with him.)
  • As he sees matters, the fundamental problem for socialism is how to achieve the efficiency of the market without relying on the "base motives" on which the market depends. He does not know how to do this, but he hopes technology will be able to supply an answer.The lesson of Mises and Hayek is clear: there is no substitute for the private ownership!!!Without it, economic calculation in a modern economy cannot take place!!!If Cohen were to accept this, his socialism would reduce to a plea to people to accept the egalitarian values he favors.If he does not, his socialism is doomed on economic grounds to fail.It is unfortunate that one of the foremost political philosophers of our time remained throughout his life in the grip of economic error.
  • Theselfishnessdefense has both a human naturepremisethatpeople are by human natureselfish and a sociologicalpremisethatequalitycannot be maintainedagainsttheseselfish individual motives. Theremight be twokinds of desireswehaveforinequality: (a) Wewant more thanothersjustbecausewewant more and (b) Wewant more becausewewantto be abovesomebodyelse. He rejectedbothpremisesbutnowonlyrejectsthe human naturepremise. The human naturepremiseis false because social circumstancesshape human nature. However, Cohen grantsthatthesociologicalpremisemight be true.*Havingabandonedthe idea that social structurescouldpreventselfishnessallontheirownbyacceptingthesociologicalpremise, Cohen thinksthat “forinequalityto be overcome, thereneedsto be a revolution in feelingormotivation, as opposedto (just) in economicstructure.” (p. 120)
  • In response toRawls’ idea that incentives to produce more makeinequalityjustified, Cohen saysthat “the personal ispolitical”—and forhimthismeansthat “principles of distributivejustice—principles…aboutthejustdistribution of benefits and burdens in society—apply, whateverelsethey do, topeople’slegallyconstrainedchoices.” (p. 122) Thatmeansthatpeoplethemselveshavetoact in waystopromote, e.g., whatbenefitstheworst off members of society (ifthedifferenceprincipleistherightdistributivejusticeprinciple). Thatmeansyoucan’tpersonallyenrichyourselfbecauseyouneed incentives.Rawlssayshistheoryisaboutthejustness of thebasicstructure. Thebasicstructure are those social institutionsthataffectpeople’slifeprospects (howtheirlifeturnsout). Rawlssayshisprinciples are directedonlytothebasicstructure. Butifthatis true, thenthereis no contradictionforthetalented, becausetheydon’thavetopersonallybelieve in theprinciplesfortheirownactions, justforthebasicstructure. (p. 129-133). Dworkinarguesthatmaybe a Rawlsiansocietywouldhavetohave a social ethossupportingthedifferenceprinciplebut Cohen pointsoutthatoptionisnotreally open toRawlssince he wantstheprinciplesjusttoapplytothebasicstructure, i.e, he can’tsaythattheethoswouldactuallypromotedistributivejusticebecauseanethosreallyaffectspeople’s personal behavior—and thatisn’tthesubject of justice.. (p. 131)
  • Transcript

    • 1. Incentives and the Site of Justice Illia Brazhko Remberto Latorre-Artus
    • 2. Two defenses of inequality 1. Normative (inequality is NOT bad) 2. Factual According to the factual defense, inequality is unavoidable because: (1) People are selfish and nothing can change that (2) No legal structure can build an equal society out of selfish people
    • 3. Critique of Rawls: «personal is political» Social structure – “a framework of rules within which choices are made.” Rawls’ principles of justice apply only to social structure. According to Cohen, it is not enough to achieve a just and equal society. Not only the social structure, but also our everyday choices should be just too, but this cannot be achieved with structural means.
    • 4. Critique of Rawls: the difference principle The difference principle – “inequalities are just if and only if they are necessary to make the worst off people in society better off than they would otherwise be.” Rawls: society is just only if its members themselves affirm and uphold the correct principles of justice
    • 5. Alternative: egalitarian ethos Ethos – guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community The required ethos would promote a just distribution, and thus guide people to just choices in their everyday life. Implementing ethos would build a more just society than any liberal rules.
    • 6. Example of egalitarian ethos “You and I and a whole bunch of other people go on a camping trip … We have facilities to carry out our enterprise: we have, for example, pots and pans, oil, coffee, fishing rods, canoes, a soccer ball, decks of cards, and so forth. And, as is usual on camping trips, we avail ourselves of those facilities collectively: even if they are privately owned things, they are under collective control for the duration of the trip, and we have shared understandings about who is going to use them when, and under what circumstances, and why … There are plenty of differences, but our mutual understandings, and the spirit of the enterprise, ensure that there are no inequalities to which anyone could make a principled objection.” (pp. 3–4 “Why not Socialism”)
    • 7. Example of egalitarian ethos But: If people did not behave in the way Cohen urges on us, would they not be within their rights? Suppose that, on the trip, you bring with you some Palinka, which you do not agree to share with your companions. Maybe they will consider you selfish; but, after all, it is your Palinka. A: Cohen's answer takes us to the heart of the difference between a libertarian, natural-rights view and socialism. Cohen says that, although you cannot make "selfish" choices if you accept the ethos of camping, you retain a wide freedom of choice within those limits. Further, in a market society, the freedom to amass wealth restricts the choices available to others.
    • 8. Example of egalitarian ethos Both in his camping-trip story and in the general case, he averts his eyes from the most basic issue. How are property rights acquired? Cohen refers to the "voluntarily accepted constraint" of those on the camping trip; but surely he does not envision a purely voluntary socialism for society. (If he does, then the libertarian has no quarrel with him)
    • 9. “Justice, Incentives and Selfishness” Is socioeconomic equality possible? Dif. kinds of defenses of inequality (as opposed to Rawls) Selfishness Defense: Human Nature Premise and Sociological Premise. How is egalitarianism possible? “for inequality to be overcome, there needs to be a revolution in feeling or motivation, as opposed to (just) in economic structure.” (p. 120)
    • 10. “Justice, Incentives and Selfishness” So what’s the problem with Rawls’ justification of inequality? Rawls’ justification if inequality can’t work because the talented people should not accept the incentives if they care about distributive justice. If they don’t care about distributive justice, then Rawls’ theory can’t work—because Rawls says that people in a just society have a sense of justice and accept the principles of justice. The basic structure objection to Cohen’s objection to Rawls. Rawls can’t say that the ethos would actually promote distributive justice because an ethos really affects people’s personal behavior—and that isn’t the subject of justice. (p. 131)

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