Education a leveler?

  The role of education in social inequalities is difficult to assess, because it seems to have contradictory tendencies.  On the one hand, improving access to education at all levels -- from elementary school to graduate school -- levels the playing field because it enhances the ability of everyone affected to realize their human talents …

New thinking about taxes in France

The structure of the tax code in France is getting new attention these days. President Sarkozy has made fiscal reform a key issue in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2012. The Nouvel Obs has a very good section this week on a recent book by Camille Landais, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez, economists …

National attitudes on racial equality

  Today the country celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of us think of Dr. King as a genuinely important American thinker, and one whose life and actions permanently changed some important values and thought processes in this country when it came to racial equality and affirming communities in the United …

Rawls on political liberalism

Long after the transformative impact Rawls brought to social and political philosophy with A Theory of Justice: Original Edition (1971), Rawls continued to wrestle with the question of how a just society ought to work.  One major part of this question is how a just society ought to encompass major disagreements among its citizens about values …

Opportunity index

It would be very interesting if we had something we might call an "opportunity index" that could be applied to young children to estimate their probability of later success in life. The idea would go along these lines: Take some measure of adult success -- perhaps graduation from college or success in attaining a skilled …

Rawls on Rousseau 1973, 1975

As noted in an earlier post, John Rawls delivered a fundamentally important course on the history of political philosophy at Harvard throughout much of his career. (See the earlier post for more about the course and for a set of notes on the section on Marx.) The 1973 course followed these main topics:The nature of …

Movements for social justice

It was argued in an earlier post that social progress is best pursued through incremental, gradual steps that can be evaluated as we go along (post). It was also suggested that programs of change that are bent on achieving huge systemic change and the establishment of a complex new set of institutions are unwise, because …

A property-owning democracy

John Rawls offered a general set of principles of justice that were formally neutral across specific institutions.  However, he also believed that the institutions of a "property-owning democracy" are most likely to satisfy the two principles of justice. So what is a property-owning democracy? In Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001) Rawls offered a more explicit discussion …

Radicals, activists, and reformers

Several posts have drawn attention to the acts of criticism of the present and advocacy for change. But both criticism and programs of advocacy have enormous variation when it comes to analytical and theoretical rigor. Babeuf's conspiracy of equals set the stage for radicalism during the French Revolution. But how good were his diagnosis of …

Truth and reconciliation commissions

When does a society need a process of "truth and reconciliation" along the lines of such processes in South Africa, El Salvador, and Argentina?  Here are some recent examples of truth and reconciliation processes:  the fate of the "disappeared" in Argentina (link); Indian Residential Schools in Canada (link); Korean War civilian casualties (link); Liberian civil conflict (link); …

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