Well, its been a while. Having caught up with a few projects (at least for the moment), I thought I’d wet my feet once again in the blogosphere with this, inspired by discussing John Tomasi’s Free Market Fairness with graduate students, especially Travis Holmes.
High liberals, Tomasi claims, believe that “To ‘realize’ justice as fairness, a regime type must (1) aim at justice as fairness and (2) include instititutional arrangements intended to satisfy the principles of justice” (216). I want to raise a doubt about (1) here. Mind you, I am not convinced Rawlsians need to accept (1) and I am not at all sure what it is for a regime to “aim” at justice as fairness (or anything else) in any case. (I’ll work with an intuitive understanding of the claim.)
So, imagine a faraway kingdom lead by King Lazyman. A few days after ascending to the thrown, King Lazyman makes the following proclamation:
My good people people, I will not lie to you. I am lazy. I did not want to be King. Given that, I will only be taxing you 2% because I will not be doing much in terms of being a king and thus think it would be morally wrong to tax you more. [Assume taxes were higher before and assume previous kings were more interventionist.] Please be forewarned: I mean what I say here and will not lie about it, the details involved, or anything else.
You likely want to know how the 2% will be spent. I am keeping 1/8 of the collected taxes for myself, to be spent in whatever way I wish; I will not keep public ledgers or otherwise share with you how I spend that money. 3/4 of the taxed money, though, will be used to keep our military at the level the experts over at Kingdom University have deemed necessary to avoid wars. We will not build the military any more than that; should we be attacked, your local military bases will accept volunteers to help in our defense, but our hope is that at the level of funding we have allotted (and our natural boundaries and perhaps your patriotism), we will scare off any potential attackers. The budget for the military will be available to anyone who requests it. I hope some of you will request it from time to time in order to be sure the generals are not misusing the funds. I do not want to be bothered with that either. Finally, the remaining 1/8 of the taxes will be put into savings; the use of that savings is not now known–frankly, it is my hope and intention that it never be used (maybe in 50 years or so we can stop collecting any taxes and live off of the interest on the savings!).
Now, here’s the thing: you get to keep 98% of your money. Since the kingdom will have no money to help you out, I strongly encourage you to save for your retirements, buy health insurance, etc. While I expect there will always be charitable people and organizations, they obviously can’t be expected to provide for everyone all of the time. At least, it seems like a bad idea to me to rely on them being able to do so.
Oh, one last thing: although the military leaders in each precinct will be a visible presence, they will not be being paid to act as a domestic protection service, so I encourage you to create police forces. It may be that the military people will be willing to offer their services for a fee in that regard, and this will be permitted so long as it does not infringe upon their duties to protect us from foreign invasion (which I hope you will keep tabs on!).
That’s it. Have a nice day!
Now, say the people realize King Lazyman is serious and form their own voluntary protection agencies. Say these successfully protect rights (or protect them as successfully as would a state police force). They also set up and build charitable organizations to provide aid to the worst off. Etc. None of this was King Lazyman’s “aim” in any intuitive sense. He is, after all, lazy. His only “aim” was to live in leisure without the hassles of governing. (Perhaps he did not even expect things to work out for the kingdom.) Nonetheless, as it turns out, the kingdom runs smoothly. Spontaneous order works rather well. Indeed, the kingdom runs along lines that would seem to be in accord with a market democratized justice as fairness (or even a social democratic form, if you prefer). That is, it seems like free market fairness (or, again, social democratic justice as fairness) is instantiated. It was not “aimed” at. Does it fail to be just because it wasn’t aimed at? The thought that it does seems very odd to me.
Keep in mind that I am not here discussing the legitimacy of the kingdom, nor the legitimacy or justice of King Lazyman. The question is only about the justice (or lack thereof) of the kingdom.
There is one clear enough reason people might think the kingdom can’t be just: the rights the people enjoy are not guaranteed. Here, though, I am inclined to agree with David Schmidtz about a point Tomasi accepts with regard to welfare goods: official guarantees do not necessarily work to actually provide what is promised (see page 223). More importantly, as I think Schmidtz would also say, what matters is that the rights are protected, not that the protection is guaranteed.
(Another possibility, I guess, is that one might think the voluntary protection agencies are the real governing force and that they aim at justice, thus allowing the kingdom to instantiate justice. But even assuming the voluntary protection agencies are the real governing force–something that is unclear to me since King Lazyman does retain an army–I don’t see why we should think they aim at justice rather than aiming at peacefully earning money.)