Public Reason: Vol. 9, No. 1-2, 2017
In Defense of Liberal Equality
M. E. Newhouse

In A Theory of Justice, Rawls concludes that individuals in the original position  would choose to adopt a system of democratic equality governed by his two principles of justice. However, Rawls mistakenly defines the possibility space within which individuals in his original position must make their choice. An alternative account of the possibility space created by Rawls’s original position reveals that a system of liberal equality, according to which distributive shares would be determined by market processes, would be preferred by risk-averse individuals. However, such individuals would guard against the erosion of the social bases of self-respect by including a social safety net among the basic equal liberties secured by Rawls’s first principle of justice.

Key words: Rawls, A Theory of Justice, liberal equality, the difference principle, rational choice.


Newhouse, M. E. 2017. In Defense of Liberal Equality. Public Reason 9 (1-2): 99-108.