Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More on Pre-Birth Insurance

I’m glad Chris Dillow has clarified his position away from the Rawlsian theory of justice. I think that now his view, as I understand it, has become considerably more sensible. However, I would caution that it may have lost a lot of its intellectual implications. Before discussing this I must respond to a specific question.

"Being born disadvantaged would be a sacrifice I hope I would be happy to risk so that humanity might, on occasion, do something glorious that might ennoble us all.

This is an empirical claim. How disadvantaged are you prepared to be? Born in Burnley maybe. But what about being born in Darfur? And what are the chances that such disadvantage is actually a necessary condition of humanity doing something noble?"

I’m not saying that the two necessarily are in conflict. Just as most Rawlsians usually do not believe that a society of Communist perfect equality would be conducive to the best interests of the poorest, I certainly do not believe that a society conducive to brilliance is also one that allows its citizens to starve. Both sides have plenty of room to moderate but that does not imply that the debate over whether a society’s goal should be, to grossly simplify, comfort or glory is not important.

The main clarification in Chris’s new post is that he does not believe in moral luck and is therefore willing to allow that people have, to some extent, earned their income. This means that, instead of arguing that our money is properly society's as we have not earned it, Chris is instead making a plea that our society should be a sympathetic one. He is forming a secular version of “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. This is entirely legitimate and morally worthy but doesn’t really offer a response to the libertarian doctrine that we have no right to take what others have earned, they would argue that true sympathy and caring for the disadvantaged is only possible when chosen freely, or even the the objectivist arguments against altruism which start from radically different notions of right and wrong. Without moral luck the original position is a far more moderate and sensible notion but it is hardly a radical departure from a moral code most are already working to and cannot refute libertarianism.


king said...

As the population has gotten older, the need for health insurance has increased. Despite possible changes in the regulatory environment, healthcare is expected to continue its rapid expansion.

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