In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls draws a hard distinction between his prioritarian conception of justice and the utilitarian one. We have mentioned prioritarianism in the past, and indeed, this post is a bit of a synthesis of that post with this other one. Prioritarianism is the notion that a just society always tries to improve the welfare of the worst off before anyone else. In other words, the welfare of the poorest is prioritised. In contrast, utilitarianism is about maximising total welfare, regardless of the distribution. These theories seem at odds (indeed, Rawls wrote about utilitarianism as though he were very much at odds with it). Yet, if we adopt a few Keynesian economic principles, I believe the gap can be closed and the two theories shown to lead to more or less synonymous societies, or at least significantly more similar societies than is presently thought.
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