(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Over on NRO, Thomas Sowell lays out one of the many underlying problems with Rawlsianism: the information problem. The traditional rules of interpersonal justice, which Rawls called “formal fairness” – don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t defraud, fulfill contracts, etc. – are a feasible basis for policy because they only require knowledge of a limited number of discrete acts. Within reasonable limits we can usually get a pretty clear idea of who did what to whom. But Rawls’s desire for a more comprehensively “fair” society presupposes that we have information on the whole state of facts across all reality, and not just in a snapshot but dynamically over time, and not just in the actual course of events but also in all possible anticipated courses of events depending on what policies we enact. This fallacy was also identified by Hayek as “the fatal conceit.”
Required reading for those tempted by the Rawlsian fallacy.