Paul Marks reminds us that the motivation to do good does not ensure good is actually done
Today I read the obituary of John Rawls (who died on Sunday) in the Daily Telegraph. Dr Rawls was a brave soldier, a loving husband and a good father to four children – he was also kind and polite to all who encountered him.
However, Dr Rawls was also the author of “A Theory of Justice” (1971) the main modern justification for the ever increasing burden of the welfare state.
According to Dr Rawls no one had any right to increase their income or wealth unless they could prove that by so doing they improved the economic life of the “least favoured”. Just not harming the least favoured would not do – as inequality harmed the “self esteem” of the poor.
Interestingly I also read in today’s Daily Telegraph a little example of how Rawlsian type thinking works out in practice. In the Spanish region of Valencia the government is working in a public-private partnership to improve the lot of the least favoured. Private developers produce a plan for the creation of urban zones (flats, shops, places of business and so on) in sparsely populated coastal areas, the government judges the plan and then levies a tax on land owners in the area to provide such things as roads and drainage.
What a wonderful thing – from either a Rawlsian or a utilitarian point of view.
However, the plan means that retired people who have bought properties by the coast have to pay the government lots of money (or have their property taken away) for roads and drainage (and so on) that do not benefit them.
Why do I think that Rawls (kind and decent man that he was) would have been disgusted by this sort of thing?
before you say “but that is the corruption of the idea” – maybe so, but that is statism in practice.