John Rawls Didn’t Like Capitalism

Posted by PrestoPundit on 03/22/2006

I’m shocked.

I’ve often pointed out that socialism is excluded behind the Rawlsian “Veil of Ignorance” — because science is accessable behind the Veil and science establishes without argument that successful socialist planning is factually impossible. It was clear that Rawls didn’t know enough social science to grasp this. (A bit of “rational choice” theory is not a competent grasp of social science.)

I was once speaking with Rawls in the early 1990s. I had a Mises Institute shirt on and Rawls asked me if Ludwig Mises were still alive (Mises was born in 1881). It gave me some hint of his understanding of the science of economics. In his work John Rawls gave a plausibility to socialism — both morally and scientifically — which isn’t warranted. He did this because he was a socialist / anti-capitalist, and an ignorant one.

I think Tyler Cowen is on the right track:

The real question is how much [Rawls’ socialism/ anti-capitalism] should cause us to downgrade his moral philosophy. I say “a lot.” I used to think there was some deep argument of consilience behind “maximin,” but now I am ready to classify it as a simple mistake, akin to a person who doesn’t understand what drove the flow of traffic across the Berlin Wall in one direction and not the other.


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