Friday 1 December 2023

Mountbatten's mistake?

Adil Najam, a Professor at Brown or Pakistani origin, writes in 'the Conversation'  

As a South Asian whose life was affected directly by partition, and as a scholar, it is evident to me that the one man whose job it was, above all else, to avoid the mayhem, ended up inflaming the conditions that made partition the horror it became.

That man was Clement Atlee. He should not have sent a Viceroy with clear orders to transfer power to anybody who would take it and then get the fuck out of India. But Atlee gave this order for two reasons

1) Britain was broke. 

2) The previous Viceroy, a distinguished soldier, thought that Law & Order had broken down irretrievably in India. There was no alternative but to evacuate the White population and leave the place to Civil War or Bolshevik insurrection.  


That man was Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India.

He was a sailor with no political experience or knowledge of India whatsoever. He had strict orders and a timetable of no more than one year to fulfil those orders. Mountbatten outdid himself by completing all the arrangement in just 6 months. Nehru asked him to stay on as Governor General. This was quite a remarkable outcome. Mountbatten would remain very close to Nehru till he died in 1964.  

Pakistanis are bitter against Mountbatten. Indians thought well of him though, as Governor General, he seemed to be siding with Pakistan on Kashmir. However, the truth was more complicated. Nehru believed a plebiscite would be won by his pal Abdullah. Pakistan- which Nehru thought of as a feudal place- would be snookered. Kashmir would spread the Socialist message into the tribal belt and into Punjab. 

How did Mountbatten contribute to the legacy of hatred that, 72 years later, still informs the bitter relationship between India and Pakistan?

He didn't pamper Jinnah. He refused to hand over East Punjab and West Bengal and Assam to Pakistan. Boo hoo!  

Let us begin by recognizing the scale of barbarity that was unleashed by the mishandling of partition.

It was unleashed by Muslim leaders like Suhrawardy though, no doubt, some Sikh and Hindu Maharajas contributed.  

No one has captured this more poignantly than Urdu’s most prominent short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, who according to his grandniece and eminent historian Ayesha Jalal “marveled at the stern calmness with which the British had rent asunder the subcontinent’s unity at the moment of decolonization.”

British forced Muslims to vote for Muslim League and to demand partition. They should have forced Hindus to convert to Islam instead.  

In “The Pity of Partition,” Jalal channels the content of Manto’s work in Urdu to write:

“Human beings had instituted rules against murder and mayhem in order to distinguish themselves from beasts of prey.

Tell that to Hamas or to the ISI come to that.  

None was observed in the murderous orgy that shook India to the core at the dawn of independence.”

What about the Pakistani army's genocide in Bangladesh? Was that too the fault of Mountbatten? 

As author Nisid Hajari reports in “Midnight’s Furies,” a chilling narrative of the butchery: “some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps, claimed partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies, infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

Pakistan didn't stop the slaughter after 1947. They continued it.  

Indeed, it does not matter which was worse. What is important to understand is that partition is to the psyche of Indians and Pakistanis what the Holocaust is to Jews.

Nope. Most Hindus lived in Hindu majority areas and were unaffected. Hindus and Sikhs in Muslim majority areas would have been massacred in any case.  


Author William Dalrymple calls this terrible outbreak of sectarian violence – Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other – “a mutual genocide” that was “as unexpected as it was unprecedented.”

It was totally expected. Tagore shows Hindus being robbed and killed at the end of 'Ghare Bhaire'. Anyone familiar with the history of Islam in the sub-continent saw this coming. But neither the Indian nor the Pakistani politicians bothered to do anything about it. Nehru presided over the mass expulsion of Muslims in Delhi. Their population share went from one third to just five percent. He passed a law preventing Muslims who had fled in panic across the border from returning home.  

Could the genocide have been avoided?

Sure. The Indians had had provincial autonomy since 1937. They could have gone if for 'preventive detention' and had mobile squads with 'shoot to kill' orders. The army- which still had plenty of White officers- could have helped.  


The violence was not, in fact, entirely unexpected. On August 16, 1946, literally a year before actual partition, a glimpse of what was to come was on display: In what came to be called “the week of the long knives,” three days of rioting in Calcutta left more than 4,000 dead and 100,000 homeless.

Suhrawardy started it. Then, it turned out that Hindus and Sikhs were better at knifing people and so Calcutta remained with India.  

The hellish proportion of the slaughter that was to come was, however, unnecessary.

But the natives were already in control. They just couldn't be arsed.  

Well before the August of 1947, those following the tumultuous political boil in India – including U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman – fully understood that it was time for Britain – now a flailing power made bankrupt by World War II – to leave India.

The Brits had understood it when they passed the 1935 Act which made provision for the formation of a Federal Government at the Centre. But the Indians didn't bother to cobble any such thing together.  

As 1947 dawned, the task before the British was to find the least worst way to retreat from India: to manage the chaos, to minimize the violence and, if at all possible, to do so with some modicum of grace.

Which is what Mountbatten achieved. No Europeans were harmed. Indeed, they were given an affectionate send-off though a few chose to remain.  


To perform this job, King George VI sent his cousin Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor (“Dickie”) Mountbatten to India as his last viceroy.

No. Atlee, the Labour PM, sent Mountbatten. The King had nothing to do with it.  

This great-grandson of Queen Victoria – the first British monarch to be crowned Empress of India – was, ironically, given the task of closing the imperial shop, not just in India but around the world.

It became usual for some minor Royal to turn up to do the honours at an Independence day celebration in Africa or Asia.  

In India, he proved to be monumentally unequal to the assignment.

He was so good at it, the Indians asked him to stay on.  The fact is he got through two years of administrative work in just three months. Maulana Azad was amazed at his industry. 

Mountbatten arrived in India in February 1947 and was given until June 1948 – not 1947 – to complete his mission.

Atlee was not to know that 1948 would be Britain's bleakest year for food rationing. Mountbatten exceeded his brief- luckily for the British Exchequer.  

Impatient to get back to Britain and advance his own naval career, he decided to bring forward the date by 10 months, to August 1947 (he eventually did become first sea lord, a position he coveted because it had been denied to his father).

So, he was a reluctant appointee who managed to snatch a PR victory out of the jaws of national humiliation. Once the natives were in charge, it was up to them if they wanted to slaughter each other. Independence means being allowed to do stupid, evil, shit.  

How crucial were those 10 months?

Not crucial at all. The die had already been cast before Mountbatten arrived. It was clear that the Cabinet Mission Plan was unworkable. The Army and the administration had become polarized. The big question was whether the Princes could reassert themselves after the lapse of paramountcy. The answer was- no. They were useless.  

I would argue, they could have meant the difference between a simply violent partition and a horrifically genocidal partition.

This guy must be old enough to remember the Bangladesh genocide. Whose fault was that? 


The context for a bloody partition was set with the decision to sever Bengal in the east and Punjab in the west in half

which is why Hindus and Sikhs remain the majority in both West Bengal and East Punjab. This silly man thinks that but for Mountbatten, the Muslims there could have taken their own sweet time slitting the throats of the kaffirs. He forgets that nobody has the monopoly on violence. There was tit-for-tat retaliation all over North India.  

– giving Jinnah what he called a “moth-eaten Pakistan.” That killed any hopes of a federated India, which was Jinnah’s preference, if it allowed for power sharing and autonomy to Muslim majority provinces.

Pakistan too broke up. It doesn't seem to be a very nice place to live. It has slipped behind Bangladesh and is now expelling Afghans. What goes around comes around. The trouble with terrorism is that two can play at that game.  

To decide the fate of 400 million Indians and draw lines of division on poorly made maps, Mountbatten brought in Cyril Radcliffe, a barrister who had never set foot in India before then, and would never return afterwards. Despite his protestations, Mountbatten gave him just five weeks to complete the job.

The Radcliffe line has held up though, no doubt, Mountbatten put his finger on the scale here and there.  

All of India, and particularly those in Bengal and Punjab,

Nope. Only the Bengalis and the Punjabis were affected. But the vast majority of Hindus lived in Hindu majority areas. It was people like Jinnah and Liaquat who had to leave property behind on the wrong side of the border. In Jinnah's case, his descendants live in India. But they are not Muslim.  

waited with bated breath to find out how they would be divided. Which village would go where? Which family would be left on which side of the new borders? 

It would have been easy enough for political parties in affected districts to set up 'Peace Committees' and to arrange caravans for population transfer. Indeed, some Indian troops had already participated in such exercises on foreign shores.  

Working feverishly, Radcliffe completed the partition maps days before the actual partition. Mountbatten, however, decided to keep them secret.

Because he was smart.  

On Mountbatten’s orders, the partition maps were kept under lock and key in the viceregal palace in Delhi. They were not to be shared with Indian leaders and administrators until two days after partition.

Which suited those 'leaders and administrators' just fine. It was obvious that people who had spent their entire lives blaming the Brits for everything bad that happened in India would just point the finger at them for the post-Independence chaos. What was surprising was that Mountbatten turned out to be such a good organizer that Nehru asked him to stay on. This made Atlee look good.  

Jaswant Singh, who later served as India’s minister of foreign affairs, defense and finance, writes that at their moment of birth neither India nor Pakistan “knew where their borders ran, where was that dividing line across which Hindus and Muslims must now separate?”

They could have worked it out easily enough.  It suited them to plead ignorance. 

He adds that as feared and predicted, this had “disastrous consequences.”

Because natives were now running things. The Governor General was just a figure head. Oddly, a Pakistani CJI would later declare that the Pakistani Governor General had full sovereign powers. The Constituent Assembly had no power whatsoever.  

The uncertainty of exactly who would end up where fueled confusion, wild rumors, and terror as corpses kept piling up.

The piled up after the Brits had waved goodbye. Mountbatten was merely a ceremonial figure though his advise continued to be very useful. The big mistake Liaquat made was to supersede several Muslim officers so to replace Gracey with Ayub Khan as Army Chief. At a later point Ayub decided to kick out the civilians and rule the country himself.  


As historian Stanley Wolpert writes in “Shameful Flight,” Mountbatten kept the partition maps a closely guarded secret, as he did not want the festivities of British transfer of power to be marred or distracted.

How strange! He should have been eager to see the blood of European ladies flowing in the streets.  

“What a glorious charade of British Imperial largesse and power ‘peacefully’ transferred,” lamented Wolpert as he contemplated the possible implications of Mountbatten’s hubris.

Wolpert needed to please his Pakistani contacts. He was considered a joke in India because he hinted that Nehru was totes gay. 

As the preeminent biographer of all the major political actors of British India’s last days, Wolpert acknowledges that many – and, most importantly, Indian political leaders themselves – contributed to the chaos that was 1947.

The Muslim League caused Partition and Muslims have gone on doing ethnic cleansing of kaffirs decade after decade. They created the chaos and then cried about it.  

But there is no room for doubt in Wolpert’s mind that “none of them played as tragic or central a role as did Mountbatten.”

Because it was in Wolpert's interest to say so. The fact is, the Brits knew that Mountbatten was under strict orders. He had no leeway one way or another. Bringing forward Independence was a good thing because the Whites were spared the violence meted out to religious minorities. More importantly, Mountbatten retained great influence with Nehru till 1964.  

By botching the administration of partition in 1947 and leaving critical elements unfinished – including, most disastrously, the still unfinished resolution to Jammu and Kashmir – Mountbatten’s partition plan left the fate of Kashmir undecided.

Jinnah should have controlled his people and given the Maharaja more time. The bigger problem for Pakistan was that Sheikh Abdullah was a great pal of Nehru's.  Sending in murderous tribals to rape and loot the Valley was a mistake. Still, it is true that Mountbatten was greatly remis in not converting to Islam and launching a jihad against kaffirs. 

Mountbatten, thus, bestowed a legacy of acrimony on India and Pakistan.

He also forced Pakistan army to do genocide in East Bengal. 

It was not just rivers and gold and silver that needed to be divided between the two dominions; it was books in libraries, and even paper pins in offices. As Saadat Hasan Manto’s fictional account conveys, the madness was such that even patients in mental hospitals had to be divided.

Families were divided. Jinnah's daughter stayed on in India where her descendants are very rich.  


Yet, Mountbatten, the man who would fret incessantly about what to wear at official ceremonies,

why didn't he just go naked?  

made little effort to devise arrangements for how resources would be divided, or shared.

He was very good at that sort of thing. Even paper clips were divided.  

Nowhere does the unfinished business of partition bleed more profusely than in the continuing conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan kept getting beaten. So it sponsored terrorism but terrorists think it safer and more profitable to attack Pakistani targets rather than go across the border. Indians don't greatly care about the Valley. Let it simmer in its own juices of hatred and fanaticism. 

Would a little more attention and a few more weeks of effort in 1947 have spared the world a nuclear-tipped time bomb that keeps ticking on both sides?

No. The Princes would have gotten themselves better armaments and soldiers of fortune, so there would have been more violence. 

We can never know the answer to this question.

Yes we can. The answer has always been the same. The district authorities could have arrested known hotheads while making arrangements for the peaceful transfer of populations. But this required cooperation between native politicians and administrators.  


Nor can, or should, I believe, India and Pakistan blame the British and Mountbatten for all their problems.

The guy took just six months to hand over power. He did such a good job, India asked him to stay on. Indians weren't blaming him for anything. In fact, Indian tourists made a point of visiting 'Broadlands' his country seat. Pakistanis had to content themselves with fawning over Auchinleck. Their big grievance is that Edwina fucked Nehru instead of Jinnah.  

Seventy-two years on, they have only themselves to blame for missing opportunity after opportunity to fix the troubled relationship they inherited.

This nutter blames India for missing the opportunity to let Pakistani terrorists grab its territory.  


However, maybe, today, on the anniversary of their birth, both India and Pakistan can take a break from simply bashing each other

India does not care about Pakistan. It is bashing itself up pretty well all on its own.  

and recognize that at times history can deal you a bad hand in many different ways – in this case, due to the hasty and monumental errors of a British royalty.

Mountbatten wasn't a royal. His grandparent's marriage was morganatic. He was related to the British royal family but was not part of it. 

He made no error in India. Rather he gained the trust and friendship of Nehru- a statesman of International stature. Pakistan simply does not matter very much though, no doubt, it can make a nuisance of itself by sponsoring terrorism.  

But also recognize, it is on you to learn from history and fix it.

Pakistanis who learn from its political history know it can't be fixed. Still, hopefully, with Chinese help it will concentrate on raising productivity. It has an industrious and enterprising population. Let them rise up by their own efforts. 

Mountbatten and his wife had befriended Nehru when he visited Singapore. However, it was his great administrative capacity and sincere desire to be of service to India which endeared him to Nehru. Some Indian defence experts feel that Nehru was over reliant on Mountbatten and Blackett- but that is a separate discussion. Mountbatten did a difficult job at a time when his country was in desperate financial straits. He made himself a larger than life character because

1) this shielded Atlee who needed to keep his focus on British reconstruction and recover

2) there is no point blaming a professional sailor for political mistakes. You may as well blame the Queen's corgi for some detail of fiscal policy in the Queen's speech.  

Daniel Chandler's Rawlsian rubbish

Nick French praises Daniel Chandler's new book in an article for 'Jacobin'. 

Rich democracies around the world are today afflicted by an array of morbid symptoms:

Which is why they should do stupid shit and thus become very poor. 

rampant economic inequality,

because the rich and smart haven't run away as they have in Venezuela 

disaffection with democratic institutions and ruling elites,

But voters can choose to vote for crazy nutters who will destroy the economy 

increasing partisan polarization, a rising tide of authoritarian populism, and an ever more dire climate crisis.

Also, death is occurring. We must abolish death.  

In his new book, Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like?, economist and philosopher Daniel Chandler argues that advocates for progressive social change must respond to these crises by offering a coherent, systematic vision of what a just society looks like, and that we can find a framework for such a vision in the political philosophy of John Rawls.

Rawls was a fool. He didn't realize that if we fear that we might be hit by a bus tomorrow and thus become unable to work and earn money, we will join an insurance scheme or else build up prudential savings. We won't agree that Society should first help those who are poorest- even if they are work-shy scroungers- before rewarding effort.  

It is to Chandler’s credit that he appreciates the power and radicalism of Rawls’s theory,

Sadly, it is 'anything goes'. We can say 'Society has to be very unequal otherwise there will be mass starvation and then a foreign invasion'.  

and that he ably defends the philosopher from common misreadings and misplaced objections.

But nobody sensible bothered with Rawls. Society was moving in the opposite direction. Reagan and Thatcher were rising. 'Welfarism' and bleeding heart Liberalism were dismissed as mere virtue signalling.  

Free and Equal effectively argues that, taken seriously, Rawls’s theory of justice would recommend wide-ranging social and economic reforms to rich democracies like the United States and the UK, many of which the Left indeed embrace.

But voters don't embrace the Left or, if they do, very quickly regret having done so.  

But in showing himself to be a faithful disciple of Rawls, Chandler recapitulates an important weakness of the former’s philosophy: failing to grapple adequately with the structural obstacles capitalism imposes to realizing a just society.

These are also the obstacles sensible people place in the way of stupid nutters.  

Justice and the “Original Position”

Free and Equal is half philosophy, half practical political prescription. One of its greatest strengths is its clear exposition and defense of Rawls’s ideas for lay readers, which takes up the first half of the book.

It is warmed up sick from the Seventies. What is odd is that Chandler, a former student of Sen's, doesn't dispose of his objection to Rawls's 'transcendental institutionalism' or 'ideal theory'.  


For the uninitiated: John Rawls set out the main elements of his political philosophy in 1971’s A Theory of Justice, refining and elaborating his view in later works. He held that a just society would respect every citizen as free and equal and treat each person fairly at a fundamental level.

Everybody can claim to do that. Nobody can show they have actually done it.  

Rawls thought we could identify the principles of justice that would govern such a society through the thought experiment of the “original position”: a hypothetical situation in which self-interested individuals attempt to come to an agreement on the principles of justice from behind a “veil of ignorance” — i.e., without any knowledge of what position they would occupy in society, what particular skills or talents they would have, or a conception of the good life.

In other words, if everybody is in the position of a brain damaged child. The problem here is that what you agree to can't bind you because you lack competency. Not knowing who you are is evidence that you are suffering from a severe cognitive deficit. Nothing you sign can be held against you. 

In the original position, Rawls stipulates, people would choose the principles that would best guarantee their ability to form and pursue their own vision of the good.

Most people don't bother with having any such thing. What would be the point? Only some stupid philosophers, following Aristotle, babble on about this. But the Epicurean philosophers of Aristotle's own age laughed at him.  

They would not choose principles that would give them an unfair social position relative to others, which would be irrational behind the veil of ignorance.

It would be perfectly rational to say there should be some rich and happy people if you have a chance to become one of them. Plenty of people buy lottery tickets for this reason. You may say 'I'd rather live in an Arabian Nights world where a beggar might suddenly be appointed Grand Vizier. Indeed, if you want an interesting life you should stipulate for Borges's 'lottery in Babylon'. Rawls is assuming a crude Utility Maximization approach would be ubiquitous. But, because of Knightian Uncertainty, Hedging and Income effects, Tardean mimetics, and concurrency, complexity and computability problems, it would be irrational to behave in that way. In any case, as Harsanyi pointed out, Rawls had made a mathematical error. 

We should prefer to emigrate to a Society where those with superior traits have higher social position because this causes 'Tardean mimetic effects' such that they are imitated and so good traits spread through the population. Equally, we want good Insurance markets because this creates the incentive for actuaries to figure out ways of improving outcomes- e.g. encouraging people to quit smoking by offering non-smokers lower premiums.  

If we do not know what our occupation or race or gender or religion will be, none of us will agree to principles that give, say, bankers, or whites, or men, or Christians, political power or economic opportunities at the expense of people in other groups — for all each of us knows, we are among the less favored.

We agree that smart people with expert knowledge should be in charge of important things. By all means, incentivize them to take those jobs in return for higher economic and social rewards. People want to emigrate to America even if they end up as the least favoured there because they would still have a better standard of living than in a starving shithole country. 


Therefore, we would all agree to principles that treat each person equally and secure everyone’s fundamental interest in pursuing their vision of the good life.

Yet, after the Second World War, people preferred to emigrate to the US rather than the USSR.  

Rawls claims we’d agree to two principles in particular. The first principle says that everyone has “an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others.”

A right is only effective if there is an incentive compatible remedy. Who will provide it? Will lawyers work for free to secure the rights of the very poor? Will the Government fill their pockets with cash? Where will that cash come from? If the voters rebel, or the country goes off a fiscal cliff, there will be entitlement collapse. 

There is a philosophical problem with Rawls's principle. It is impredicative. We can't determine what liberties x should have till we have evaluated what everybody could also have. One could arbitrarily say 'such and such 'constitution' is feasible and meets the criteria. The problem is that you can't show this is a unique solution or is the supremum. Thus the principle suffers from the 'intensional fallacy'. Its extension changes as the knowledge base changes but never has a supremum and thus is empty.  

The basic liberties include political freedoms, such as the rights to vote and hold public office,

these are lost if gangsters rule the neighbourhood or a foreign invader seizes territory. Providing a remedy for loss of liberty may itself mean the loss of many basic liberties as people are conscripted into the army. Look at what happened in Ukraine after Putin invaded.  

as well as basic personal liberties like freedom of speech,

A Liberal Government put Bertrand Russell in prison for an article he had written during the Great War.  

freedom of movement, and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure.

But, under exigent circumstances, all these things can be done under due process.  


The second principle says that “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest expected benefit of the least advantaged

again there is a problem of impredicativity here. The benefit of the most advantaged may have to be maximized to do anything at all for the poorest. Moreover, helping them may cause people with high disutility from work, joining the least advantaged group. 

There is no unique or robust 'extension' for the intension 'least advantaged'

and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.”

I should have the right to become the son of a billionaire or the wife of a movie star. Also, I should get to combine the offices of Pope and Chief Rabbi.  

Fair equality of opportunity means that society must strive, through generous provision of public education as well as formal antidiscrimination protections, to provide everyone, regardless of accidents of birth, equal opportunities at attaining different jobs and public offices.

Very true. Why did Terence Tao get so many years of advanced education in mathematics? How come I was chucked out of Collidge for failing to count past 69? 

And insofar as different positions reward their holders with differential income, power, or social status, those inequalities must be to the benefit of the least advantaged.

It may the least advantaged belong to incestuous cannibal lineages. Every CEO or Brain Surgeon should let them bite off pieces of their anatomy.  

Perhaps some occupations need to be more highly compensated, either to attract individuals with rare skills or to make especially unpleasant or dangerous work more enticing for prospective hires; but these differences are only justified insofar as they improve the quality of life of citizens in lower-paid work.

When hiring an expert we can't be sure he will be able to benefit us. We are taking a chance. Similarly, we can't establish how third parties will be affected. If 'justifications' are needed for every hiring decision involving high salary packages, innovation in the economy will grind to a halt.  

A Philosopher of Neoliberalism?

One of the most satisfying aspects of Free and Equal is its efficient dismantling of common but misguided objections to Rawls’s theory. Chandler argues persuasively that many common criticisms rest on either implausible premises or misunderstandings of Rawls’s framework. It is worth highlighting in particular his lucid response to the communitarian criticism of Rawls, a criticism that has come from both left- and right-leaning corners.

If you didn't know your own ethnicity or religion or what language you speak, you may end up choosing to live in a country where you will be fucking miserable. 

Oikeiosis- belonging- is important and tends to promote utility because there is channelization of preference such that better focal solutions to coordination and discoordination games become available. As Schelling noticed, this can lead to non-coercive segregation or a better menu of 'Tiebout models'. Thus, you have more ability to move to where the local fiscal mix better suits your preferences. If you have young kids you move to where there are good schools. If you are single and want to mingle, you may move downtown where there is a big entertainment district. 


The objection goes something like this: Rawls, like other liberal philosophers, assumes that people are fundamentally egoistic and individualistic, seeking to satisfy their own desires above all else; moreover, we can understand human beings and their desires independently of the historical and social contexts in which they find themselves, including religious and ethnic contexts. These assumptions come out clearly in Rawls’s construction of the original position: the principles of justice would be decided on by self-interested individuals, abstracted away from people’s actual conceptions of the good formed by historically contingent locations in religious, ethnic, or other communities. These assumptions, and the theory of justice that results, communitarians say, encourage excessive individualism and selfishness, which erodes traditional communities, civic life, and social trust.

There could be a Rawlsian 'Tiebout model'- e.g. a district where wealth is shared which 'woke' people can move to. It might be a great place to live.  


But despite the intellectual pedigree of this critique, it is, Chandler notes correctly, based on a simple misunderstanding of Rawls’s ideas. That misunderstanding is due to a misreading of the original position — “a tendency to (mis)interpret the description of the parties in the original position as an account of human psychology or of the metaphysical nature of the self.” But Rawls didn’t intend the original position to depict what people are actually like. It is a thought experiment meant to help “identify basic political principles for a diverse and democratic society”:

In other words, it is a 'Just So' story. Feminists might say 'in the original position, men will vote to ban dicks because most men don't want to be penetrated by a dick. Nor would any sensible woman.' A Gandhian might say 'In the original position everybody would vote for celibacy because sex is yucky. Society brainwashes you into thinking your genitals can give you pleasure. Believe me, you'd be better off without them.'  

In fact, properly understood, the original position embodies almost the opposite of what its critics claim. Far from being grounded in the idea that people are inherently egoistic, it assumes that people are motivated by a desire to live with others on terms that are both mutually beneficial and fair.

What's stopping them from doing so? People are welcome to give away their money and spend their time wiping the bums of homeless people in between sucking them off. If everybody was very nice and just, there would be no need for politics.  


That the parties to the original position are conceived of as self-interested individuals allows us to capture the ideas that each person’s point of view must be considered and that principles of justice must be equally acceptable to everyone.

But 'points of view' are epistemic. If you strip them away, there are no fucking points of view. The fact is, on any political issue, I want to hear from really smart people with a lot of experience and who have 'run the numbers'.  

Likewise, parties being unaware of their conceptions of the good is a way of ensuring that the principles are fair to people with diverse values and attachments, which of course are shaped by their particular social contexts, and which might be central and inalienable parts of their personalities.

But you have thrown away relevant information! It is obvious that some people have a better point of view on Political Economy because of their expert knowledge and mastery of the relevant statistics. 


This point is worth belaboring, because the hyper-individualism lambasted by communitarians is indeed worth criticizing.

IN which case it is also worth persecuting dissidents.  

It is a defining and destructive element of today’s neoliberal political order.

But better than the alternative- look at Venezuela. 

But the fact that the communitarian critique misfires against Rawls indicates that he was not, after all, providing ideological cover for neoliberalism. Chandler is in fact justified in looking to Rawls’s ideas for a radical alternative to neoliberal orthodoxy.

The only justification for looking at a person's ideas is if they are smart. Rawls' wasn't smart.  

Rawls vs. Socialism?

Chandler is also on solid ground when he disputes the idea that Rawls’s principles were merely a complacent defense of the mid-century welfare state or even a justification of the “trickle-down” policies popularized during the Reagan-Thatcher era.

Students listening to Rawls's ideas decided that 'Liberalism' had shat the bed. As Reagan said 'the L-word' would not dare to speak its own name for very shame.  

Realization of the social and economic equality called for by the two principles would require a redistribution of wealth and power more extensive than even those achieved by the Scandinavian social democracies at their height.

It resulted in stagflation. There was 'Corporate welfare'- i.e. the workers' pockets were picked through taxation to pay the employers to pay them. Suddenly, everybody turned against both the 'Welfare Queen' and the CEO who kept begging for more money from the tax-payer so as to continue to featherbed his employees while the Japanese grabbed market share.  


Much less convincing is Chandler’s response to the socialist critique of Rawls.

Says a Socialist.  

Rawls himself held that an ideally just society might be socialist but might not be; he argued that justice was in principle also compatible with a form of capitalism he called “property-owning democracy,” in which private ownership of the means of production was permitted but heavily regulated to prevent large concentrations of wealth and political power. There is now a literature arguing that Rawls’s principles commit him to being a socialist, while others argue that he should have been a principled defender of capitalism.

Rawls's principles were anything goes. The fact is, if you were free of Society's brain-washing, you would see that only the rule of the Grand Pooh-Bah can bring the power of levitation to the masses. Also, cats should be banned. They are projecting mind-rays which cause me to have sex with my vacuum cleaner which totes voids the manufacturer's warranty. 

Free and Equal seems to come down on the latter side of the debate: Chandler argues that a capitalist society need not be unjust, and he ends up making practical recommendations for redistributing wealth and expanding workplace democracy that would largely leave ownership of society’s resources in private hands.

These are foolish recommendations- e.g. Gordon Brown's 'child trust fund' scheme- though some degree of 'workplace democracy' may be implemented by certain organizations to raise efficiency and improve information aggregation.  


One central argument for the injustice of capitalism, of course, is that capitalism is inherently exploitative.

Only if elasticity of Demand or Supply is low. Raise elasticity and there can be no confiscation of 'rent'. But raising elasticity improves allocative efficiency. It is good in itself. However, this may mean banning immigration.  

Because capitalists have a monopoly over the resources needed to produce goods and services, workers must hire themselves out for a wage if they don’t want to starve;

unless there is a 'basic income' scheme 

the capitalists then sell what their employees produce on the market and pocket a large share of the products’ value as profit. This “surplus value” that owners extract from workers is the fruit of exploitation.

Raise elasticity of supply- e.g. by giving workers more alternatives- and 'surplus value' disappears. There still will be a reward for risk taking and for combining factors of production. But this is a return on entrepreneurial skill.  


Drawing on arguments from the philosopher Will Kymlicka, Chandler disputes the charge that such exploitation makes capitalism unjust. For one thing, Chandler says, eliminating exploitation wouldn’t necessarily make the economy fair. Even if all firms were collectively owned and workers were paid the full value of the products of their labor, there would still be unfairness due to “unequal opportunities that different workers have to develop their skills” and “the inequalities that inevitably arise in a market economy between, say, low-skilled shop assistants and high-skilled lawyers.”

Or between pretty girls who can get married to rich men and ugly and elderly men like me who have no chance of dating Jeff Bezos.  


But this is clearly a non sequitur. Very few socialists would claim that converting firms to collective ownership (by workers or the state) would be sufficient to achieve economic justice, and socialists have every reason to support a robust system of public education as well as various forms of regulation and solidaristic collective bargaining agreements to equalize job opportunities and flatten income differentials.

Which will flatten incentives. Some will prefer leisure to work. Many will prefer to engage in work-place politics rather than production. You will have a bigger and bigger bureaucracy strangling everything with red-tape.  

But in addition to pursuing policies aimed at equality in market outcomes, socialists challenge the exploitation at the heart of capitalism.

Everybody else challenges the virtue signalling stupidity at the heart of Socialism. Anyway, the biggest problem we face is dicks. Dicks cause RAPE! Ban dicks now! 


Anticipating this response, Chandler offers another interesting objection to the socialist critique of exploitation, one made by G. A. Cohen and others. The extraction of surplus value from workers is not necessarily unjust, the argument goes. For example, some people might build up funds through honest work and saving, and then use that money to start a small business and hire employees. Need this business involve objectionable exploitation of its workers? Or what about people who rely on disability or retirement or unemployment benefits funded by taxes on labor income?

The problem here is that the elasticity of Capital may be high. Try to tax it and it runs away causing employment to fall. You can't extract shit from a mobile factor.  


These examples are supposed to demonstrate that the extraction of surplus value from workers is not necessarily unjust and,

we are welcome to say it is unjust for the same reason we may feel it unfair that we have a smaller dick than average.  

therefore, that capitalist exploitation isn’t either. But this just shows that we need a better account of exploitation and what’s wrong with it. Socialists aren’t committed to the view that any extraction of a surplus from workers is exploitative or unjust. Even in a society where all firms are collectively owned, some of the surplus produced by workers must be reinvested in production or diverted to pay for public education, health care, and the like.

But that reinvestment might be totally shite if the people doing it don't have an incentive to get richer by doing it. Suppose I'm in charge of maintaining the fleet of buses used by the Public Transport authority. I know how this can be done cheaply and effectively. But, if I am constantly being harassed to award the contract to Disabled Lesbian Goats, I might just buckle under and do the 'politically correct' thing. The result is that taking a bus becomes a fucking nightmare.  


What socialists object to is how capitalism allows the ruling class to use its ownership of the means of production to dominate or subordinate the working class, undemocratically deploying their power to force workers to labor for capitalists’ benefit.

Similarly feminists may object to the fact that men have dicks while Muslims may object to the fact that plenty of Kaffirs are rich and happy. God wants them to be miserable so they will learn the error of their ways. There are also some very rich people who scarcely pay any tax themselves who nevertheless picture themselves as shamelessly exploited and abused by peeps wot went to fancy Collidges.  

What’s wrong with capitalist exploitation, in other words, is that it involves capitalists using (illegitimate) social power to extract workers’ labor. The only way to end this form of injustice is some scheme of collective ownership in which decisions about what to produce and how to distribute the social product is determined in a democratic, egalitarian fashion.

But this tends to result in no social product being available. Still, it is true that only by nationalizing and redistributing dicks can those with below average todgers turn into super-studs.  

Go All the Way

Much of the book is devoted to drawing out the practical institutional and policy implications of Rawls’s principles of justice for rich democracies today.

So that they can become dirt poor dictatorships like Venezuela.  

Chandler proposes a laundry list of Rawls-inspired reforms, most of which will be familiar and congenial to liberals and leftists. These include, to name just a few, strict limits on campaign finance and the public funding of political parties;

This should help the far Right.  

breaking up and regulating private media corporations and promoting the growth of publicly funded media sources;

I'd rather have Netflix than pay the BBC's license fee.  

expanding public childcare and education at all levels;

more illiterate people and paedophiles should get jobs in schools 

a universal basic income (UBI); reforms to increase the power of trade unions, such as sectoral bargaining; and various forms of state intervention in the economy to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If a party with this manifesto looks electable there will be capital flight, a collapse of the real exchange rate such that the terms of trade move against the country (thus it gets less gains from trade) and a sharp fall in National Wealth which in turn means lower per capita Income going forward. There will be an immediate rise in the 'natural' rate of unemployment while skilled workers and highly educated youngsters flee the country. 


What is novel here is less Chandler’s individual prescriptions than his arguing for them as part of a coherent package, as an attempt to realize a Rawlsian vision of a just society.

Strangely, he doesn't seem enamoured with Sen's 'capability' approach probably because even he realizes it is wholly vacuous. Still, by reviving the spectre of Rawls, he reminds older readers of just how fucking awful the Seventies were.  

Free and Equal is thoughtful in evaluating the pros and cons to different potential approaches to making our society fairer for everyone, reviewing empirical arguments for and against some of the more controversial proposals.

Why not make it fairer for productive people? Do piecemeal social engineering so elasticities of Supply and Demand increase. This is 'mechanism design' of a sort used by the private sector. It can also help the public sector. 

Of particular note among the proposals are suggested reforms to expand democracy in the workplace.

If this means more 'Voice' for people who know what the actual problems are then it is perfectly sensible. If it means woke nutters banging on about single sex toilets, then it is highly mischievous.  

Chandler argues that, according to Rawls, not only differences in income and wealth but also differences in power and influence in the workplace must be distributed so as to provide the most benefit to the least-well-off members of society.

Why stop there? Why not also insist that every rich family must adopt as their beloved baby grandson at least one elderly and very poor man?  

To this end, he recommends expanding basic employment protections (like health and safety regulations and minimum entitlements to paid leave and vacation),

more property rights in jobs means more youth unemployment- as in Italy 

German-style comanagement schemes,

which can work if German people are involved.  

corporate profit-sharing and employee share ownership,

which a lot of firms do anyway 

and policies to encourage the formation of worker-owned cooperatives.

again this has been tried but the thing is no panacea.  


Consistent with his rejection of socialism, however, Chandler does not recommend full transformation of the economy to worker or public ownership. Yet he doesn’t offer convincing reasons for stopping short of full-blooded economic democracy, even as Rawls’s principles would seem to point in this direction.

Full blooded economic democracy means everybody, except the thugs in office, starving to death or running away. Even if no legal 'control rights' exist, they can be appropriated illegally.  

Those principles say that inequalities of power as well as wealth must be to the benefit of the less advantaged,

but there is no way of saying if this is genuinely the case or if there is a unique solution to the problem.  

but Chandler does not argue that private ownership of the means of production is more beneficial to workers than some version of collective ownership.

Both may suddenly collapse because they run out of money after having done stupid shit.  


He does, however, recite the familiar arguments for the importance of the efficiency provided by markets as opposed to top-down state planning, which I would not dispute. Markets may be combined with public ownership of firms, though, as Rawls and indeed Chandler himself acknowledge. It is unfortunate, then, that Chandler does not engage with the many proposals for market or quasi–market socialism that have been developed in recent years, which aim to capture the benefits of both collective ownership and market efficiency.

The problem with those proposals is that they don't clarify how control rights can get reassigned. We know that an entrepreneur who runs his company into the ground causing its share-price to collapse can be sacked after it is taken over. We don't know how an enterprise which ignores 'quasi-market' signals can be reconstituted. Suppose, there is a Ministry or a Tribunal in charge of this. Then the enterprise will spend all its time trying to appease the officials involved. This is like 'Regulatory Agency capture'. 

The closest Chandler comes to advocating for socialism is his support for the creation of citizens’ wealth funds, similar to sovereign wealth funds found in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, in which the state would buy up shares in private companies and distribute the earnings to citizens as a UBI.

What about Iceland? It had some very clever economists but they bet on the wrong horse and so the country reneged on its obligations. 

He is careful to refrain from suggesting that such funds should control a majority of society’s wealth, however, and he refers approvingly to Norway’s prohibition on its fund holding more than 10 percent of voting shares in any company. We are not given reasons to prefer this limited role for social wealth funds compared to, say, Sweden’s ill-fated Meidner plan,

Sweden had sensible economists. Rehn, Meidner, Myrdal etc were inflation hawks. However it was Bretton Woods which enabled its initial success. Once the bureaucracy started to expand- between 1960 and 1980, the public sector absorbed 30 percent of the workforce- there was greater and greater cost-push pressure. It may be that something like the Meidner plan could have succeeded if stagflation had not occurred. It is certainly possible for a small, cohesive, country to do sensible things. But that's not what was happening in Sweden. By the Nineties it aggressively pursued free-market reforms and started to grow at a good clip. 

which would have eventually put a majority of the country’s stock market in the hands of worker-owned wage-earner funds.

That's what caused IKEA to flee to Holland. Apparently Ingmar Bergman too ran away from high taxes.  

Property, State, and Utopia

Free and Equal neglects another important argument for the fuller socialization of enterprise. In virtue of their control over investment, capitalists wield outsize power over even democratic states. That is because, first, the state relies on revenue generated by taxes on private economic activity; and second, because elected officials can govern only with some degree of support from the public, who will become unhappy if insufficient investment is happening (i.e., if there is a recession). But whether capitalists engage in sufficient investment to fund the state and maintain popular support for a government depends on the level of “business confidence” — capitalists’ sense that the government is providing a sufficiently friendly environment for accumulation.

Capitalists borrow money from savers- or their Pension funds- so as to set up enterprises. You can take the enterprise but then you get the debts. The Capitalist starts up elsewhere. He can always get finance because of his track-record. But the same is true of skilled and talented people. They can run away taking their skills with them. 'Exit' matters. Socialism requires a big Berlin Wall to prevent the proletariat from fleeing.  


If business confidence dips and capitalists decide to withhold their investment — in other words, go on capital strike — the government may soon find itself insolvent or kicked out of office by an angry electorate (peacefully or otherwise).

The difference between a worker and a capital strike is that workers need to eat. The Capitalist can go start an enterprise elsewhere. The savers who put their money into his enterprise are welcome to try and get their money back from the Government.  

This structural leverage allows capitalists to beat back ambitious reforms that threaten their profits or their control over investment and production. In France, capital strikes helped lead to the failure of socialist Léon Blum’s government in 1937 and to the reversal of François Mitterrand’s ambitious pro-worker program in 1982–83.

The phrase 'capital strike was used about Roosevelt's America in the second half of the Thirties.  

In Chile in the early 1970s, capital strikes eventually led to the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government.

But Maduro and Korea's Kim are sitting pretty. Socialism can prevail by killing enough people.  


There is little doubt that many of the reforms advocated by Chandler would face fierce resistance from capitalists, as he acknowledges.

They face fierce resistance from the working class. They don't want their hard earned money going to disabled Lesbian immigrants who look like me.  

And, to be fair, he is explicit in not putting forward a political strategy but rather an “end goal” to strive for.

Why not set up a worker controlled enterprise and show the thing can produce superior outcomes? The fact is, Socialism was attractive when people could say 'In Soviet Russia, everybody is guaranteed a job and public housing and excellent schools for their kids. True, they might not have Coca Cola, but they have kvass which is just as good.' 

Still, it is worth pointing out that capitalists’ control over investment gives them an extremely powerful lever with which to resist or roll back the sorts of policies that Chandler thinks a just society requires.

The bigger problem is that working class people have votes. They won't give them to people endorsed by 'woke' nutters who teach nonsense in some fancy Collidge.  

Once we recognize that power, we should recognize the necessity of taking it from them, by putting control of investment in public hands.

You first have to take power from the hands of the working class voter.  

All that said, the book is a refreshing and useful contribution to envisioning a better world. Chandler is correct that — contrary to the knee-jerk reactions by some on the Left — Rawls’s theory of justice is worth taking seriously, and he pulls off the not insignificant task of making the theory and its implications speak to the practical concerns of political activists and policymakers.

Rawls gives an argument for helping the poor. In essence it is 'imagine you were in the shoes of one of those smelly proles. Wouldn't you want the Government to send some nice lady to wipe your bum and do the washing up?' Sadly, it is a stupid argument. The way to go is to raise elasticities by giving people more and better alternatives.  

By combining systematic moral theory with pragmatic prescriptions for getting us closer to a just society, Free and Equal provides a model for what politically engaged philosophy should look like.

It should look like warmed up sick from the Seventies. To my mind, what 'political philosophers' should do is a careful Hohfeldian analysis of 'Human Rights' such that they can be attached to incentive compatible remedies. Otherwise, voters are turning against the thing. But, they may throw out the baby along with the bathwater.  

Thursday 30 November 2023

Why are Krishna's lovers so effing White?



Why do Lord Krishna's Truest Lovers, now look so goddam Sleek & most insufferably White?
 Must Ranchod's rigours discipline only disciples already most able & eager to fight?
Darker than my skin, Paro Ma!, my Manyu, or Math repelling mind
My sin, Devdas', yet the` felix culpa of Dhritarashtra blind.

Envoi-
Purvabhashin! Prince! This, like every Wedge Issue conversation you initiate
Conserves so dissipated a Noetherian, that e'en Madhu, must Maryada imitate. 




Daniel Chandler's Rawlsian stupidity

In a 'Theory of Justice', John Rawls wrote- 

…We may reject the contention that the ordering of institutions is always defective because the distribution of natural talents and the contingencies of social circumstance are unjust, and this injustice must inevitably carry over to human arrangements.

Why should we reject such a contention? Is there any 'ordering of institutions' which everybody would agree to be just given that the population is heterogeneous? Suppose this were the case. Then there is some set of institutions which assign incentive compatible remedies to every rights' holder. But, we know from the Gibbard Satterthwaite theorem that this is impossible. Some injustice will occur because some agents will unjustly conceal their true preferences or 'type'. Perhaps, a divine Judge, able to look into men's hearts, could detect and punish such injustice. But no such Judge is available.  

Occasionally this reflection is offered as an excuse for ignoring injustice, as if the refusal to acquiesce in injustice is on a par with being unable to accept death.

Being able to accept death does not involve renouncing the benefits of medical science. Nor does the fact that no ideal institutions exist, prevent us from seeking to curb crime and injustice.  

The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust;

There is no 'natural distribution'. Every distribution is arbitrary. There are 'uncorrelated asymmetries' which promote eusocial 'bourgeois strategies'.  

nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position.

It may be. It may not. We may think it unjust that a baby is born to a captive girl who is being raped by her father. We would wish to punish the father, liberate the girl and her child. It may be advisable to make special arrangements for the care of the child if there is evidence that the mother is traumatized and may not be able to provide it with proper care.  

These are simply natural facts.

Facts are arbitrary. They lack 'naturality' in the Category theoretical sense. Moreover, a finer grained analysis may overturn their import. Rawls is committing an intensional fallacy. He doesn't understand that facts are epistemic. They change as the knowledge base changes. Moreover, 'Nature' does not display optimality or 'naturality'. It, so to speak, satisfices and thus is arbitrary and has no 'naturality square'.  

What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.

No. What is just and unjust is how people deal with each other. Institutions may be able to alter such outcomes for the better.  

Aristocratic and caste societies are unjust because they make these contingencies the ascriptive basis for belonging to more or less enclosed and privileged social classes.

Not necessarily. It is perfectly possible to have a 'caste society' where every endogamous or occupational group considers itself the highest or the work that it does as the best 'imitatio dei'. Why should we object to some people taking pride in their ancestry? The Duke is welcome to think of his ancestors as grand people. The feckless drunk might celebrate the long line of wastrels from whom he is, albeit, anonymously descended. Then he discovers he is actually the heir to the Throne.  

Rawls was ignorant of the big developments in mathematical economics occurring at the time he published his magnum opus. Because, following Arrow, Sen, Harsanyi &c, he ignored 'Knightian uncertainty' and problems to do with concurrency, computability and complexity, he was babbling ipse dixit dogmatic nonsense. 

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.

Institutions cost money. Their 'first virtue' is that they generate much more Social Benefit than the cost of their upkeep. They avert existential threats to the polity. If they fail to do so, they are mischievous no matter how just they might be. A system of thought which confines itself to tautologies would exhibit 'truth'. But it would be useless. There is a pragmatic test which they must pass otherwise no cognitive resources should be devoted to them.  

A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue;

No. It should be rejected if it is useless or mischievous. Arrow-Debreu is elegant and economical. It ignores Knightian Uncertainty. Thus the 'Arrow-Debreu security' can become a weapon of mass financial destruction. This is not because it isn't 'true'. It is because it assumes Knightian Uncertainty 'cancels out'- i.e. the world will be pretty much as we expect it to be though no doubt there may be some random fluctuations which, however, 'net out'.  

likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.

No. They can be replaced with things yet more efficient and well-arranged. They must not be abolished just because they aren't perfect or some cretin, like Rawls, objects to them.  

Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.

Nonsense! Nobody is inviolable. The welfare of Society either overrides everything else or the Society can't defend itself against existential threats and ceases to exist in a sovereign and autonomous form. It is a different matter that people may virtue signal or pretend to be fanatically attached to various values. But these are imperative, not alethic, statements.  

For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.

Yet the Justice system incarcerates or even executes plenty of people. Moreover, a private citizen would be acquitted of murder if he could show he acted reasonably in self-defence. Fear of being killed may diminish the liberty of housebreakers and muggers.  

It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.

It may do. It may not. That is a matter for the Legislature though, no doubt, this may be subject to Judicial Review. However, under exigent circumstances, the Executive may impose sacrifices on a few to save the many. Again this may be a justiciable matter.  

Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled;

Not if people in that Society knew about Hohfeldian analysis. The fact is liberties are a set of Hohfeldian immunities. They only exist if there are incentive compatible remedies for their violation. Furthermore, Justiciability is constrained by a cost factor. Justice is a service industry and, if it is a monopoly, there will be price and service provision discrimination. Rawls had spent a lot of time with economists but he didn't know Econ 101. He assumed it could be a 'plug in' for people in his 'original position'. Yet, such people would know from 'incomplete contract theory' that an once-and-for all Social Contract was bound to be utterly shit. Anyway, no Contract is binding till consideration passes. Where did Rawls think the money to bribe people to accept his stupid scheme would come from? How would he prevent 'exit', i.e. people running away once the arrangement was no longer beneficial to them? 

the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.

No rights are secured by justice. The judge may order Bernie Madoff to repay his investors. The judge may even order Jack the Ripper to restore life to his victims. But the Judge would be wasting his breath. 

The concept of justice

arises out of justiciability and our concept of how rival claims might be adjudicated 

I take to be defined,

Justice is undefined. It is a 'Tarskian primitive' just like the word 'definition'. Otherwise you have an infinite regress.  

then, by the role of its principles in assigning rights and duties

Rawls just said that its principles assign rights and duties. That is its role. No further 'interpretation' is possible. 

 Yet, rights and duties may arise out of Love or Hate or the mere playing of an entertaining game. We don't say that two businessmen hammering out the terms of a contract are pursuing justice. We say they are pursuing profit. Mummy does not give us kisses and cake because Justice requires her to do so. She loves us and we love her. We would be indignant if someone suggested we wanted her to come live with us because we have a right over her or a duty towards her. We love her and think we can make her happy. But it is because she brings joy with her that we want her to move in with us. True, if she makes us some nice snacks from time to time, we won't say no. But that is not our motivation.  

and in defining the appropriate division of social advantages.

Social advantages are decided by Sociological processes. I can't go to Court and get a writ saying I should be as popular as the witty and pretty girls who are in my Bharatnayam class. I suppose Rawls thought that people who want a boob job go to the Judge rather than the plastic surgeon. Also, instead of a plumber, you hire an attorney to sue the toilet into unblocking itself.  

A conception of justice is an interpretation of this role

Justice does not decide who is popular or who is rich or who has a big dick. Conceiving of Justice in this manner interprets its actual role- which is adjudicating, for a price, conflicting claims- in a bizarre and crazy manner. It would be like saying that when Kenneth Branagh plays the role of Hercule Poirot in 'Death on the Nile', his interpretation was deficient to that of Albert Finney because he failed to find my TV remote- which should have been child's play for a great detective. This proves Branagh is a rubbish actor.  

The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.

Justice, like Education, is a service industry. Its principles are actually 'canons' of a type which experience has shown are effective in producing the desired effect and thus retaining market share. If you set up a Court on the basis of crazy principles, there will be mass exit from the jurisdiction or else the Courts will be disintermediated. Some other mechanism for conflict resolution or the detection and punishment of crime will gain salience. 

It makes sense for Justice to be 'protocol bound' and 'buck stopped' because then outcomes are predictable. Stare decisis means a decision in one case clarifies the law for a very large number of cases. Rawls seems to have been entirely ignorant of how Justice is actually done. 

Social and economic inequalities, for example inequalities of wealth and authority, are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular for the least advantaged members of society.

 The least advantaged members of society may be child abusers who are incarcerated and at daily risk of a beating from fellow inmates. Justice does not require the rich and powerful to compensate them in any way. 

It may be expedient but it is not just that some should have less in order that others may prosper.

Because justice has nothing to do with Income distribution. One might as well complain about the fact that economic inequality is not a nice cat which will come and sit on your lap and make appreciative purring noises when you stroke it. 

The fact is, provided the Law does not actively prevent people giving away their money, Justice is unconnected to what we think is required of a nice Society. 

A conception of justice cannot be deduced from self evident premises or conditions on principles;

Why not? We can imagine a bunch of shipwrecked kids growing up on a remote island. At some point, they realize they need laws and a Judicial authority. It may be that they adapt notions of 'fairness' and 'rule following' from the games they play in order to arrive at a conception of justice. No doubt, there will be arbitrary aspects to this but then, as Lord Coke told James I, the law is 'artificial' not 'natural' reason. 

instead, its justification is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations, of everything fitted together into one coherent view.

Nonsense! Justice is justified in the same way that Education is justified. It yields more good than harm. There is no need for 'everything'- e.g. your theological or aesthetic views- to fit together and be coherent. 

An individual who finds that he enjoys seeing others in positions of lesser liberty understands that he has no claim whatever to this enjoyment.

I gain pleasure when I learn a vile child abuser is getting his head kicked in in prison. I suppose I don't have much claim to this pleasure. But, I'd gladly buy the detective who solved the case a nice pint of beer. He is entitled to take pride in his achievement. 

An intuitionist conception of justice is, one might say, but half a conception

How do we know there isn't a superior intuitionist conception to any we find deficient? Still, it is true one might say stupid shit- if one is a stupid shithead teaching worthless shite. 

Harsanyi had used a 'veil of ignorance' type argument to argue for Utilitarianism. Rawls imagines a more stringent, or silly, veil

First of all, no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like.

If he knows his gender and doesn't ever want to have a penis up him and a baby trying to push its way out of his cooch, he may stipulate for a Gandhian world where there is no sex. 

Nor, again, does anyone know his conception of the good, the particulars of his rational plan of life, or even the special features of psychology such as his aversion to risk or liability to optimism or pessimism.

Then he has no capacity to consent to anything. There can't be a Social Contract.  

More than this, I assume that the parties do not know the particular circumstances of their own society. That is, they do not know its particular economic or political situation, or the level of civilization and culture it has been able to achieve. The persons in the original position have no information as to which generation they belong.

Rawls is describing people with some particular type of brain damage. But whatever Social Contract they agree to won't be binding on them once they recover from that cognitive impairment. 

The circumstances of justice may be described as the normal conditions under which human cooperation is both possible and necessary.

Human cooperation is possible and necessary for making human babies- without which human society would quickly disappear. But the normal conditions for this are similar to those with obtain amongst many types of animals. This has to do with ethology, not Justice.  

To each according to his threat advantage does not count as a principle of justice.

Yet, it is a principle of Justice that a judgment which can be safely ignored because there is no 'threat-advantage' associated with its issuance, is no judgment at all. Thus, I may judge that you should shit into your hat and then put it on your head. You'd look a fool if you either obeyed this judgment of mine or else appealed it in some higher court. 

The point about the Justice industry is that solves a 'collective action problem' such that Society as a whole can gain a higher threat-point against the terrorist or the gangster. 

Inequalities are permissible when they maximize, or at least all contribute to, the long term expectations of the least fortunate group in society.

Incarcerated paedophiles? People with severe mental and physical impairment because they come from a cult which considers only incest permissible? That's who we should worry about? Fuck off!

Not permitting inequalities may lead to exit of the smart and capable. But it may also lead to enslavement by a ruthless bunch of gangsters who don't give a shit about what is or isn't permissible. 

Anyway, long term, the least fortunate members of a Society are those who listen to stupid shite and decide the country should do stupid shit. 

Yet it seems extraordinary that the justice of increasing the expectations of the better placed by a billion dollars, say,

which is what happened to JK Rowling when a smart agent read her first book. He must have said to her 'you are a genius! This won't just be a best seller, it will become a Hollywood franchise! You will be a billionaire!'  

should turn on whether the prospects of the least favored increase or decrease by a penny.

This was irrelevant. Even the least favoured can watch a Harry Potter movie on TV. They gain 'consumer surplus'. It is not extraordinary that Rawls should write nonsense. What is extrordinary is that people who studied Econ in Collidge don't understand this. A case in point is Daniel Chandler who has written a book titled-   'Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look like' /

A reviewer in the FT writes-

Imagine being asked to cut a cake into five slices without knowing which slice you’ll end up with. Rational self-interest dictates you’d cut slices of roughly equal size.

No. If you want a small slice, you'll ensure there is a small slice. If you know three of the people who will eat the cake are young and have hearty appetites, while two of them are elderly and will merely take a piece for politeness sake then you will ensure there are two dainty slices and three big pieces.  Rationality involves taking all relevant information into account. Self-interest just means promoting the interest of whatever or whoever you are interested in. 

Similarly, the participants in Rawls’s thought experiment, behind the veil of ignorance, choose two fundamental principles of justice: a “basic liberties principle”, which says that everyone has an equal claim to a suite of fundamental rights and liberties,

Why the fuck would they do that? It is obvious that some people should have more rights and liberties whereas some others- e.g. crazy criminals- should have none at all. More generally, we want decisions regarding resource allocation to be made by patriots with special skills in doing so. We don't want everybody to have the right and the liberty to set up a Court of Justice or establish an Army. Similarly, we would prefer that medical R&D be done by ethical people who know a lot about Science rather than the local drug dealer.  

It is a different matter that we might want 'careers open to talent' but, even in that case, we don't want guys known to harbour seditious or treasonous intent to get into positions of power. 

obviously a precondition of liberal democracy;

It obviously is a recipe for disaster. Smart people will run away or 'disintermediate' the regime such that its strictures are a dead letter.  

and a “difference principle”, according to which social and economic inequalities can only be justified to the extent that they benefit the worst off.

Sadly, anything at all can be justified by the reflection that the alternative is annihilation. What most benefits the worst off may be great bigotry against whichever traits are causative of extreme poverty. Incest and cannibalism may be actively persecuted but ending both is good for everybody.  

Chandler would agree that it has far-reaching implications for the question of how economic institutions should be organised.

That is a question of 'mechanism design' or 'incomplete contract theory'. The answer changes as circumstances change. It is important that 'control rights' can get redistributed over the course of a contract. Rawl's theory is a 'complete contract theory'. If Knightian Uncertainty obtains we know in advance that it is either mischievous or meaningless.  

It’s an open question, he says, what the “optimal level of taxes and inequality” might be,

Forget optimality. Just observe the canons of taxation. As for inequality- we don't know how much of it actually exists. This is because we don't know whether Income is sustainable which in turn determines whether Wealth has depreciated or not. 

but the least we can say is that the difference principle is not a “justification for laissez-faire economics” or a welfare state that provides only a basic safety net.

We can't have laissez faire for prudential reasons to do with National Security. Also, 'basic safety nets' can disappear when most needed. The future seldom turns out to be anything like what we envisioned.  

On the contrary, by asking us to “prioritise the life-chances of the least well-off,” Chandler writes, it challenges “prevailing ideas about economic justice on both left and right”.

We don't know our own 'life-chances' let alone that of people nothing like us. Justice is a service industry. It matches rights to remedies. But if those remedies aren't 'incentive compatible', the thing collapses or is rationed or otherwise arbitrary in application.  

Now the realist critic would say that the whole enterprise of ideal theory is misbegotten and that Rawls offers no adequate theory of political power or change.

That's true enough. The silly man thought the working class would pay more in tax to benefit 'Welfare Queens'. But, not even the Scandinavians would go in for 'solidarity wages'. Once ethnic diversity increased, 'welfarism' became unpopular- just as the Price Equation predicted. Liberalism was turned into 'the L-word' which dared not speak its name. 

And at the end of Free and Equal, Chandler concedes that, for all the detail of the progressive programme he has set out, we still need an account of the “art of politics” — how to “connect abstract values with the tangible realities of people’s daily lives”.

Show it will make everybody better off and you are onto a winner. But ceaselessly virtue signalling causes the great mass of voters to turn against you. You will probably raise taxes and hand the cash over to crazy Hamas type terrorists.  

And unfortunately you’re not going to get that from Rawls.

Rawls was mislead by post-war mathematical economists who ignored Knightian Uncertainty- i.e. the fact that we are ignorant of the future in any case. Harsanyi and Vickery had previously introduced something like the 'veil of ignorance' and Rawls was trying to snatch it away from the Utilitarians so as to get something 'de-ontological' and Kantian. But his theory was anything goes. People in the original position might choose a Borgesian 'lottery in Babylon'. They won't choose stupid virtue signalling shite. 

Turning to Chandler's 'wish-list', what do we find? The Guardian reports that it

includes a universal basic income sufficient to eliminate poverty (costing about 25% of GDP) awarded to everyone irrespective of wealth, any other income, or whether they’re employed;

cool! British citizens and those with the right to abode won't do boring or dirty jobs. We will bring in immigrants for that. Sadly, smart Brits will go abroad to earn and pay less tax while returning for a nice sabbatical.  

Italy did have a 'Citizen's Income scheme'. They are getting rid of it now. The idea really is as stupid as it sounds. 

tertiary education funded by a mix of free tuition and income-contingent loans,

Wonderful! I'll finally be able to do my PhD in cat impersonation so as to qualify to teach cat impersonation theory. Many illiterate people will be able to get proper sheepskins as a result.  

and a transfer of wealth to every citizen when they reach adulthood (a reform historically endorsed by the two Thomases, Paine and Piketty, and similar to Gordon Brown’s child trust fund).

Kids from poor families ended up with betwen 660 quid or 1200 quid depending on whether their money had stayed in a Cash type account or been put into a Stocks and Shares. That's not a lot of money. Rich families who paid in the maximum allowable amount might have netter their kid 50,000 quid at age 18. The scheme cost about 2 billion but had to be discontinued after the financial crash.  

I found Chandler’s suggestions inspiring, not least his call for the abolition of private schools.

Why stop there? Why not demand schools abolish literacy? Concentrate on training kids to be suicide bombers.  

But surely that measure contradicts the freedom of people to spend their money as they wish? Rawls’s basic liberties, Chandler writes, are necessary preconditions to fairness and so take precedence over equality of opportunity.

Chop everybody's dick off. It is unfair to women that only they have to sit down to pee.  

“But,” he argues, “the freedom to spend large amounts of money on a private education, or indeed to pass on unlimited amounts of wealth through gifts and inheritances, simply doesn’t have the same importance.”

Nor is it important to retain smart people in our country. Let them all emigrate. We can have CAT scans performed by actual cats. Brain surgery can be performed using a baseball bat.  

Chandler’s programme of reforms amounts to a much-needed rebuttal of the idea that existing income and wealth distributions are unobjectionable.

They may be objectionable. How come JK Rowlings has so much cash while I, who have written even more books, am as poor as shit? The problem with reforming what we have is that it may cause poor people like me to die because all the good Doctors and Surgeons and other clever people have run away.  

But it comes with an eye-watering price tag. He estimates that taxes at around 45-50% of national income would be needed (the UK tax take is currently about 33%).

But GNP would collapse. Thus you would need taxes above 100 percent- i.e. people would have to sell assets in order to pay their tax. This would cause GNP to contract even more. At this point nobody is paying tax. The currency has hyperinflated. There is a black economy based on the Euro.  

“Building support for higher taxes is a long-term political project,” he says with heroic understatement. Who’s going to vote for massive tax hikes? Not, cynics might retort, the “red wall” Tories who Labour needs to seduce.

Actually, the pound would collapse if it seems likely that crazy nutters will come to power in this country. This would mean the country goes off a fiscal cliff and so the incoming administration has to do austerity of a very severe kind. Otherwise there is hyperinflation which causes the real economy to shrink so anybody who can runs the fuck away.  


Chandler writes- 

In a democracy, we share a collective moral responsibility for how

In a democracy, we share a collective moral responsibility for how we design the basic structure of our society, and the impact it has on each of our lives.

This is false. The fact that a particular country is a democracy may be because its people recognize they don't have the collective moral capacity- and without capacity, there can be be responsibility- to replace the political realm by a more purely loving and compassionate type of communal life. Love is higher than Justice. The Spiritual is higher than the Political. Democracy may be a step towards a perfect society or it may be merely what obtains because every feasible alternative is worse. 

The basic structure of a society is not something which has been designed. It has evolved or failed to evolve because of lack of selection pressure. What is 'basic' is a reflection of what we are powerless to alter. Basically, we all need to eat and we all need to shit. No doubt, we can, if we are affluent and disciplined, eat things such that our shit is less stinky and less painful for us to expel from our bowels. But this is a refinement of life. It is not basic to our condition. 

For Rawls, this is what justice is all about, and he devoted his life to identifying a clear set of principles that could guide us in designing these institutions.

Fiscal policy may concern itself with 'Social Justice' or 'equi-proportionate sacrifice', more particularly in the context of financing a total war. But, if voters rebel or there is a disincentive effect then to shrink the deficit we may have to lower taxes and wave goodbye to the notion that it is a function of Government to redistribute income and wealth. 

Rawls did not understand that the post-War world rejected 'equity' in favour of 'efficiency' and higher absolute material standards of living for the median voter. 

His starting point was the idea that society should be fair – this is why he called his theory ‘justice as fairness’.

Rawls's starting point was that Harsanyi type utilitarianism was vulgar and materialistic. It cashed out as going for higher per capita Income. He thought a more virtuous, not to say Christian, way forward was to lexically preference the interests of the least well off. This is like Gandhi's 'sarvodaya'. Sadly 'least well off' is 'intensional'. The extension of the term changes as our knowledge base changes. Moreover, we have to take account of disutility from work rather than just focus on income. Thus the unemployed may be better off than those doing shitty jobs. Raising the 'replacement rate'- i.e. benefit to wage ratio- may cause the worst off to become those who can't quit their shitty jobs because that would lose their entitlement to unemployment benefit.  

His life’s work was, in effect, an attempt to unpack this fundamental idea; to think through what it would mean to live together on terms that everyone could accept as fair.

To be fair means to use all relevant information in a proper manner. But 'information asymmetry' is a basic feature of our society. True, advances in Information Technology can improve social judgments of fairness just as the use of cameras able to provide 'photo-finish' photographs, can improve the judgments made by umpires.  But what Rawls was doing was mere armchair ipse dixit handwaving. It wasn't scientific. It did not expand the information set. On the contrary, Rawls wanted to destroy information about preferences and potential 'Pareto improvements'

 ...Rawls rejected the  notion, associated with many followers of the classical liberal tradition, that freedom of exchange is on a par with, or should even take priority over, personal freedom or political equality.

Personal freedom involves being free to enter into mutually beneficial transactions with others such that Pareto improvements are realized. One may say 'this will reduce political equality' but it is an arbitrary assertion. One may as well say that the handsome Mr. Smith should not marry the beautiful Miss Jones because their child is bound to be better looking than average and this imperils equality. If economic growth is bad, so is eugenic improvement. 

Various thinkers have offered their reasons as to why economic freedoms should have this privileged status.. But whatever the justification, the practical implication is always the same: if wide-ranging economic freedoms are given such a strong priority, this severely limits what the state can do to address poverty or inequality, or even to regulate markets in order to promote economic growth.

What the State can do should be severely limited. If it can regulate markets to prevent people getting rich, why should it not regulate marriages to prevent beautiful people having sex and making beautiful babies while ugly people have to be content to bump uglies and end up with ugly kids? 

It is this strong precedence given to economic freedoms that explains the association between (classical) liberalism and laissez-faire economics,

Nope. It is the fact that economic freedom can result in rich but ugly people marrying beautiful people and thus having less ugly babies than would otherwise be the case. There would be little point being rich if this did not give you greater reproductive success. Economics is about the oikos or family lineage. Better economic outcomes, ceteris paribus, make for better outcomes for the lineage.  

and it is this way of thinking that has prevented us from addressing many of the failings of contemporary capitalism.

There speaks the voice of paranoia. Were it not for evil mind-rays emitted by the rich, shit would not stink. It would smell and taste like chocolate cake.  

Rawls, however, rejected this approach, arguing that questions about taxation and property should depend on how we can best promote the idea of economic justice defined by his second principle.

In which case tax revenue would collapse as would the State. This would not put an end to Wealth inequality or the existence of private property. It is just that the State would be disintermediated from the role of protecting either. The very rich would have private armies which would prey upon the middling sort and exploit the fuck out of the anarchic poor.  

What justifies Rawls’s claim that personal and political freedoms are basic, but most economic freedoms are not?

Bigotry. Nothing else.  

The answer brings us to perhaps the most original aspect of Rawls’s first principle: not its
assertion that some liberties are more important than others, but how it gives us a framework for determining which liberties are ‘basic’ and for handling the conflicts that inevitably arise between them.

That framework is shit. The whole thing is an Orwellian exercise in doublethink.  Freedom doesn't mean being free. It means getting, by some magic, things free people should have and which, once they have lost all freedom, they will magically receive- but won't because of the evil sorcery of the Capitalists. Not till every last Capitalist warlock has been burnt at the stake will our free and equal citizens stop starving to death while queueing up for their ration of half a turnip. 

Rawls's innovation was to show Liberalism could compete with Maoism as a means to completely fuck over the economy and reduce the nation to starvation. 

In expanding on his first principle, Rawls explained that the basic liberties are those rights and freedoms that we need in order to live freely and to play our part in society.

So, they aren't basic in any sense. They are just 'liberties' defined as Hohfeldian immunities to do as we wish with what is ours. However, there may be a tort or even a crime if somebody else's immunities or entitlements are infringed thereby.  

As citizens, he argued, we need two essential moral ‘powers’ or ‘capacities’.

Nope. A citizen just needs to be alive to be a citizen- if that is what he is.  

First, the ‘capacity for a conception of the good’ – in other words, the ability to reflect on and pursue our own idea of how we want to live.

Nobody needs any such shit. Rawls had no fucking conception of anything. He just imitated some other stupid Professors and wrote stupid nonsense.  

Second, the ‘capacity for a sense of justice’ – the ability to form our own view about how we should organize society, and to cooperate with others on fair terms.

Mathematical economists think Society should be organized such that the Pareto frontier is reachable. Sadly, we don't know how exactly this can happen.  

Having these capabilities is what makes us free and equal citizens, and they are a precondition for the existence of a democratic society.

This is sheer magical thinking based on an arbitrary assertion. I may say with equal truth 'only if we share a conception of Justice as forcing Professors of shitty subjects to eat dog turds can we become free and equal citizens. Ukraine would be able to regain its territory and flourish as a democratic society under the rule of law if only Chandler and other such Sen-tentious cretins devoted themselves to devouring doggy doo-doo.' 

The basic liberties are the freedoms we must have if we are to
develop and exercise these capacities.

Yet democracies were created by people who singularly lacked those freedoms. The capacity to do a thing must pre-exist the legal condition for its exercise.  

The political liberties guarantee our freedom to discuss moral and political questions, to criticize the government and to take part in public life, without which it would be
impossible to cultivate or act according to a sense of what is fair – our ‘capacity for a sense of justice’.

Those liberties are irrelevant. What matters is whether there is anything to be gained by such discussion. The answer, speaking generally, is no. It is a different matter that some people may be able to make a little money selling books or giving lectures filled with virtue signalling garbage. But that is merely window dressing. 

We may as well say 'sexual freedoms guarantee our liberty to discuss string theory while engaged in sodomy. Without this freedom there can be no Scientific progress. For this reason, the Government must financially support compulsory education in sodomy for senior citizens who may be too frail and mentally confused to be able to arrange such things for themselves.'  

At the same time, we need the personal freedoms of thought, speech, conscience and association in order to define and pursue the kind of life we want to lead – our ‘cap-
acity for a conception of the good’.

Only in the sense that we need the sexual freedom to sodomize clouds so as to define and pursue the kind of immortality we want to gain- our 'capacity for a conception of ourselves as a God who fucks everything in the ass'. 

These personal freedoms give us space to follow our own path and they are the foundation of a rich social and cultural world in which we can explore different ideas
about how to live beyond those we were brought up with. 

Personal freedom means not having to do stupid shit. Rawls's credential hungry students had to listen to his drivel. We don't. 

We already follow our own path. Why pretend we are being forced by Society to become good little conformists? It is not the case that a guy who wants to babble paranoid shite first consults a lawyer who assures him he has this 'liberty'.  

Being clear about the underlying purpose of our basic freedoms
helps us to think about their limits.

Freedom has no purpose save such as one may freely stipulate. I am free to suggest that the purpose of all Freedom is to get Professor Chandler to eat dog turds. There is no need to be clear about this. The limitation is obvious. It's just empty talk is all.  

The basic liberties principle does not protect every instance of an abstract right like free speech: speech is protected as a basic liberty only where it is essential for us in devel-
oping and exercising our moral capacities. So, for example, we should
give the strongest possible protection to speech about political, moral
and religious questions, since that is integral to developing our sense
of what is fair and how to live.

Which is why I should be allowed to call up this cretin at two o'clock in the morning and shout 'Religion commands you to devour dog turds! Yea! Forsooth! Selah!' 

But some forms of speech, such as commercial advertising, play no meaningful role in enabling us to develop or exercise these capacities.

Fuck off! An advertisement showing me how my life could be made much better by buying an exercise bike enables me to develop and exercise highly utile capabilities.  

While true basic liberties can be limited only in order to protect other basic liberties, freedoms like commercial speech can be limited, Rawls argued, for a wider set of
‘public reasons’, such as promoting public health or economic
efficiency. 

Economic efficiency is achieved by doing useful stuff not writing worthless shite.  

Keeping in mind the underlying purpose of our basic freedoms also
provides a way to resolve the conflicts that inevitably arise between
them.

Nonsense! You can't resolve the conflict between equity and efficiency because they have different purposes.  

When faced with such a conflict, we should seek to prioritize
them according to their importance for living freely and for cultivat-
ing our two moral capacities.

In which case, you aren't resolving a conflict. You are taking sides. One purpose is deemed to be higher than the other.  

At the heart of this approach is a recognition that no basic liberty is absolute:

In which case some legal matters- e.g. guilt in a treason case- are deemed to be non justiciable. The Courts are forbidden from intervening. But this is a slippery slope to tyranny.  One could say that any action whatsoever was treasonous. 

in principle, we can limit any of them if doing so is necessary to maintain a ‘fully adequate’ set for everyone.

In other words, the tyrant can do what he like so long as he pretends that it is necessary to maintain 'fully adequate' provision for everyone. We must do ethnic cleansing to protect the majority- right? 

As we shall see this flexibility is an important corrective to the absolutism about rights that is common in contemporary political debate, as if one basic freedom must always
take complete precedence over everything else.

The Executive can jail or execute anyone so long as it pretends this is necessary to save the basic rights of the masses.

We can see this, for  example, in the way in which the US Supreme Court has repeatedly
struck down laws to limit political donations on the basis that these
are protected forms of speech, and that freedom of speech has an
almost absolute priority over the claims of democratic political equal-
ity; or in the notion that freedom of religious belief should always
trump the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, which has been used to
justify wide-ranging exemptions for religious believers from anti-
discrimination laws.

President Trump should have been allowed to ban people from donating money to his rivals. Heterosexuals must be forced to suck off the entire LGBTQ community even if it is against their religion. 

Of course, the idea of ‘striking a balance’ raises its own difficulties.

Hitler had no difficulty striking such a balance.  

We cannot simply look at Rawls’s first principle and read off a defini-
tive solution to any given clash of rights.

So, his principles are not 'action guiding'. They are mere hot air.  

Resolving them inevitably involves a degree of judgement about the relative importance of different freedoms, and there may be a range of reasonable solutions.

The Courts use a better approach. They look at the facts of the case and decide which right or immunity trumps which other right or immunity. Giving money to a party which you like should be protected because you have a superior immunity when it comes to doing as you please with your own money. However, you may be prevented from giving money to a terrorist organization because the State has a superior right to defend itself against those who wage war upon it.  

This flexibility is not a bug or a flaw, it is a valuable and intentional
feature of Rawls’s approach: rather than seeking to answer every
question in advance, it recognizes that democratic debate about the
precise scope of our basic freedoms is often justified, and provides a
coherent framework for conducting this debate.

But the current legal system does a much better job in this respect. Rawls has added nothing of value. He has merely provided a foolish argument for redistribution which is easily defeated by pointing to the superior efficiency of 'risk pooling' and collective insurance schemes of various types.  

We are now in a position to understand why Rawls’s first principle
only includes a limited set of economic freedoms, like the right to
hold personal property. We have a basic right to own housing and
personal possessions like clothing, books and computers, because
otherwise it would be impossible to live freely and to express our-
selves.

That is an arbitrary statement. It may be that people would be just as happy renting or leasing.  

To see how vital these liberties are, we only have to imagine
what it would be like to live in a society where the state, or indeed
other citizens, could come into one’s home at will, or tell us what to
wear or read. 

The remedy here is provided by the Court such that a person who enters our property illegally is prosecuted for a crime- even if she is a government official. Rights without remedies are empty.  

The same is true of freedom of occupational choice:
for many of us, what we do for a living is an important part of our
identity, and being free to decide what job to do is an integral part of
living our life according to our own beliefs.

Yet, we may accept conscription of a certain cohort so as to protect the country.  

But most of the economic freedoms prized by classical liberals – being free from taxation, being able to run a business without regulation, and so on – do not pass this
test.

Liberals don't say there should be no taxation. They accept the need to fund a 'nightwatchman' state. However, they may prefer property taxes and tariffs and excise duties rather than an Income tax.  

We simply don’t need these rights in any absolute sense in order
to live freely or engage in democratic debate.

We don't want to engage in democratic debate. The thing attracts cretins and virtue signallers.  

This way of thinking explains Rawls’s approach to the question of
who should own the ‘means of production’ – firms, machinery, raw
materials and so on – which historically has been at the heart of the
debate between socialism and capitalism.

The answer is 'investors'. People need to save for prudential reasons. Their savings should be invested in productive resources. Entrepreneurs may give themselves and their managers shares so as to create an incentive for efficient resource allocation. Rawls did not know 'incomplete contract theory' which is what is needed here.  

While we have a basic right to own personal property, this does not imply that companies or natural resources should necessarily be privately owned.

In which case people will overinvest in housing and 'personal' goods. They won't bother to fund enterprises. Moreover, there will be 'capital flight'. People will form Trusts located overseas and use their savings to invest in foreign enterprises. 

Rawls was clear that the basic liberties principle is compatible both with private ownership
and with ‘liberal socialism’, where firms are ultimately owned by work-
ers or by the state.

Worker owned enterprises will raise wages and restrict employment and output to the extent that they have market power. Public sector companies will make a loss because politicians will distort their decision making. Uneconomic units will be set up in key constituencies. Boards will be packed with useless political appointees. Unions will launch industrial action so as to force the Government to increase the subsidy to the industry. This is a recipe for 'stagflation'.  

This is not to say that we can leave issues around ownership and workplace democracy unresolved – indeed, they are at the heart of the economic agenda that we will develop later in the book;

that agenda is the warmed up sick of the Seventies' Left when the tax payer had to bail out nationalized industries- like British Leyland which made crappy cars. The reductio absurdum of this approach was that (as inflation caused 'fiscal drag') workers got a subsidy to work but that subsidy was more than confiscated through the tax system. The whole 'Prices and Incomes policy' collapsed when 'Dagenham man'- (i.e. workers at Ford and other successful private firms)- voted Tory. You can't imprison the entire Trade Union movement. Once Mrs Thatcher got into power she abolished Exchange Controls. This meant that either Britain reformed itself or there would be massive capital flight. The gap between the rich and the poor would grow because productivity for the latter would collapse.  

only that the basic liberties principle alone cannot provide us with an
answer. That requires a broader ideal of economic justice, which brings
us to Rawls’s second principle

If you say we will concentrate resources on the bottom 20 percent, everybody will try to show themselves as meeting that criteria. Otherwise they will leave or trade off leisure against work effort. 

Harold Wilson gave up on redistribution when he realized that British workers cared only about their absolute, not their relative, material standard of living. They were deeply hostile to any reduction in 'wage differentials'. Even in Scandinavia, there was no support for 'solidarity wages'. Over the course of the late Seventies and Eighties more and more countries had to move away from the 'mixed economy with collective bargaining' model. You can't un-ring that bell. 

Rawls was simply a silly man who applied an econ theory which neglected Knightian Uncertainty. Even then, as Harsanyi immediately showed, he got the math wrong. Chandler has wasted his time.  

we design the basic structure of our society, and the impact it has on