Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: John Rawls

IU, Purdue, and Gay Marriage

There’s an interesting hot-button case going on in my home state of Indiana. The state government’s legislative and executive branches are both controlled by the Republican Party, and this has enabled them to attempt to pass an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Indiana already doesn’t allow gay marriage, but by putting it in the constitution, the republicans aim to make it more difficult for a court to reverse that position. The amendment also prevents the state government from recognizing civil unions, partnerships, or other “substantially similar” institutions. Indiana has two big, well-known universities, Indiana University (IU) and Purdue University. IU has chosen to formally announce its opposition to the amendment while Purdue has chosen to remain silent. What are the implications of public institutions taking stands on political issues? Which university acted rightly? These are the questions I’m pursuing today.

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Expensive Tastes and Utility Monsters

Recently I’ve been going back over some Rawls, and in the course of doing so I came upon Rawls’ views on people with expensive tastes–those whose happiness requires unusually expensive goods. Rawls thinks that people are ultimately responsible for their tastes, having at some point in their lives freely chosen to cultivate them. I don’t think this is true. Here’s why.

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Leftism and Determinism Part I

A thought occurred to me today–it is impossible to be a leftist without also being a determinist. Here’s why.

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Keynesian Utilitarianism

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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Marxism’s Quarrel with Reality

Today I had an interesting lecture on GA Cohen, a socialist political theorist. Cohen believes that Rawls’ theory of justice is more egalitarian than Rawls himself believes it to be–he has an interesting reason for this, but one which is ultimately flawed in a way that sheds great light on the problems with Marxism more broadly and with the utopian left as a bloc.

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