Martin O’Neill and Thad Williamson on Rawls’ property-owning democracy in the Boston Review

I am not much of a fan of property-owning democracy in Rawls, as I still think incentives are screwed up, but it contains a terrific critique of the welfare state from the perspective of the left. Martin O’Neill and Thad Williamson take up POD in the Boston Review. Here’s a teaser.

Boston Review — Martin O’Neill and Thad Williamson: Beyond the Welfare State (John Rawls, Property-Owning Democracy):

Merely as a matter of political psychology, relying on redistribution is a decidedly uphill battle. The well-off are inclined to think they have earned their (pre-tax) income—that it’s their money—and to resent giving up some of that income in order to help others who did not earn it. Even societies with a robust sense of social justice would struggle to realize anything like the difference principle via after-the-fact taxation. For societies with a weaker sense of social justice, such taxation typically fails to generate enough funds even to meet the basic needs of the worst-off. Worse still, dependence on redistributive, tax-and-transfer mechanisms opens the door for conservatives to drive a wedge between the “just-getting-by” working class and the out-and-out poor, undercutting the sense of solidarity needed to sustain a just society.

Ultimately, redistribution is a strategy employed too late in a game that is already being lost.


Worth reading all of it.