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Rawls is another political framework for governments to use to build the most ideal society. Rawls says governments should act from the original position. The original position is Rawls' hypothetical thought experiment characterized to lead to justice through a veil of ignorance to ensure no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in regards to policy actions. In the original position, actions should be evaluated without respect to one's own perspective in society. That is, imagine how a particular policy would apply to people within that society without any knowledge of their race, gender, income, location, time, or any other identifiable aspects (a veil of ignorance). For instance, if one was wealthy, making a policy action that only benefitted wealthy people would not be useful because in the original position, one would not have an income upon which to base their decisions. More succinctly, in the original position, one should consider the effects that their action would have on the overall structure of society without regard to the particular position that one may have in that society. Thus, the original position is universalizable and objective in the sense that justice is the result of a fair agreement between all parties adopting a common standpoint. This is also a convincing framework to use as we are all separated from bias, both implicit and explicit, in the original position, and so you can argue it gives us the clearest conception of justice, morality, etc. (and an infinitely better idea than any pragmatic framework).

Rawls also outlines two principles of justice. The first principle claims that all citizens are entitled to basic rights and liberties (freedom of speech, liberty of the person, right to vote, hold public office, be treated with rule of law, etc.). These rights ought to be equal for all. The second principle has two parts. The first part is equality of opportunity, which requires citizens with the same talents (and willingness to use those talents) to have the same educational and economic opportunities regardless of their birth. The second part is the difference principle, which allows inequalities of wealth and income as long as they are to be toward everyone's advantage, specifically to the least well off (the poorest, perhaps). Although some parts of these principles seem unattainable in the real world, they are what Rawls claims is truly justice and so we should strive for them. Therefore, if you are running a position that gets squo any closer to these principles, this could potentially be a decent framework to run. [Example: "Justice requires open borders for human migration" (2023 JanFeb topic). Opening borders, regardless of if you think it's the best real-world policy, will by default alleviate the birth lottery because it makes emigration undeniably easier. Therefore, this would get us closer to Rawlsian justice and it's good to affirm.]

This framework, however, is commonly viewed as quite consequentialist, which makes it susceptible to many types of arguments that would function under a utilitarianism framework, which makes it much less strategic since winning your framework would not necessarily exclude your opponent's arguments. After all, an extinction level impact would cause problems for every person in society.


The Veil of Ignorance in Rawlsian Theory

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summary of Rawlsian Two Principles of Justice

Sample Cases

TOC20 - NC - Rawls.docx

TOC AC Rawls.docx