maanantai 25. lokakuuta 2010

John Rawls on Ownership

John Rawls (1921-2002)

Natural talents are not private but communally owned

John Rawls believes that ownership rules, as well as the rules which define justice are a product of delineration in an original position that decides upon the rules for society. In his book, A Theory of Justice, Rawls presents a most radical account of ownership of oneself. He argues that the distribution of natural talents must be regarded as a common asset and also that the distribution of natural abilities must be regarded as a collective asset. What is radical in Rawls' concept of self-ownership is that at least a part of oneself, i.e., one share of the distribution of natural talents or abilities, is not privately but collectively or communally owned.

Possessor of natural talent have no special right

According to Rawls the greater well-being of those who are well off is justified only if it is required to improve the condition of the lesser (or least) well off. Income therefore may need to be transferred to those with small incomes from those with large incomes. The difference principle implies that possessor of natural talents have no special right to the income their talents may earn in an economic system. Rights over the income from natural talents vest in all members of the community. Rawls does not suggest that the income be distributed equally, because that may lower the well-being of those who are less well off.

Rawls believes that justice requires incentives to stimulate production. He further believes that the difference principle captures the idea of a just distribution in that all members of the community would agree to the distribution if they considered the idea from the proper position. Collective ownership of natural talents or abilities, however, can most straightforwardly be understood as a right to the income from the talents or abilities which vests in each member of the community simply because of membership of the community.

Source: James O. Grunebaum. 1987. Private Ownership. p. 110-115.

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