John Rawls died yesterday…
Economists should be familiar with the Rawlsian social welfare function. According to the “Rawlsian view” social welfare is at its greatest when we’ve maximized the miniumum welfare of everyone in the society.
In other words, the collective well-being is determined by the person who is the worst-off in the society.
(For more, see Evaluating NAFTA – an article I wrote several years ago.)
Harvard Gazette: John Rawls, influential political philosopher, dead at 81
Charles Fried, the Beneficial Professor of Law at Harvard, said of Rawls, “He was the dominant figure in political and moral philosophy in the second half of the 20th century. He developed an approach to the questions of moral and political philosophy which was substantive and analytic at the same time, proposing concrete answers to many questions.”
In “A Theory of Justice,” Rawls sets forth the proposition that “Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. Therefore, in a just society the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.”