original position of Rawls’s theory of justice

Most people are more concerned by fairness than an elusive view of efficiency. The traditional economic model does not delve into equity but, rather, into how people come into their wealth originally. Distribution of wealth in the traditional model is assumed to come from trading goods and services. The following assumptions are the basis of this distribution concept in the traditional model: assumption 5 (social welfare is based on individual utility) and assumption 14 (the distribution of wealth is approved by society).

Rawls differed from the utilitarian view by suggesting that rational people would choose their own utilities based on the original position of all people. The chief critic of Rawls was a Harvard professor named Nozick, who proposed that the view of Rawls must be enforced by the government in the form of laws enforcing voluntary exchange.

A discussion of these theories helps ground one in the role of the government in economics.


  • Describe the original position of Rawls’s theory of justice.
  • Briefly describe the libertarian theory by Nozick.
  • Contrast Rawls’s theory of justice with Nozick’s libertarian theory with regard to the just role of the government.

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