It may only be rock and roll, but Alan Krueger, the outgoing chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, likes it, not least because it is economically illuminating. Among the ways in which the economy and the recording industry are alike, he said in a recent address at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, is that outcomes in both depend substantially on luck. The suggestion is that distributions dictated by chance are arbitrary, problematic and—this last point is unstated but seemingly latent—fair game for rearranging. The typical conservative response is to deny that luck rather than merit is at play. But were the point ceded just for fun—and luck stipulated as a potent force in economic affairs—an interesting question might result: So?
“All we ask is that law and policy be based upon reason.” So begins Ralph Hancock’s latest book, Responsibility of Reason: Theory and Practice in a Liberal-Democratic Age. This opening quote was actually delivered by a frustrated political scientist at an academic conference, who asserted “the authority of simple reason” against perceived rubes who doubt its truth or rather its efficacy for impartially reconciling competing claims within a pluralist democracy.
John Tomasi’s Free Market Fairness has the intellectual ambition of formulating a synthesis – at least a tentative synthesis — of key elements of libertarian or classical liberal thought on the one hand and social democrat thought on the other hand. From the former Tomasi purports to take robust economic rights that have a strong claim on being recognized within any acceptable social-political order and an appreciation of the beneficial outcomes of spontaneous orders; and from the latter, he takes a strong commitment to “social justice” that is understood in difference principle fashion as a commitment to making the worst off members of society as well off as possible.
Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians site, they are having a symposium on John Tomasi’s new book Free Market Fairness. The book takes a Rawlsian approach to political philosophy, but argues that Rawlsians should treat economic liberty as one of the basic liberties. Under this approach, economic liberty would not simply be ignored by Rawlsians and treated as part of the matters that are subject to the difference principle, but would be given a very high priority similar to personal freedoms. The symposium includes a lot of important philosophers and is well worth reading. Here is a brief summary of one…