Distributive Justice

I recently learned the name of the concept I’ve been trying to address:

I think the most important aspect of this concept is probably the “veil of ignorance”, which is what I have been trying to incorporate into a voting system:

I think there are also some interesting principles in the following, although there are also fair critiques to say the least:

I intend to read it myself and see what I think. I tend to feel like the “minimax” principle is hard to swallow, it’s very radical. But it’s a place to start. It reminds me of this:

“Tell me straight out, I call on you—answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human [destiny] with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, [one child], and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears—would you agree to be the architect on such conditions?… And can you admit the idea that the people for whom you are building would agree to accept their happiness on the unjustified blood of a tortured child, and having accepted it, to remain forever happy?”
-Dostoyevsky

I think there are flaws with this conception of justice, nonetheless. I think it’s fairly sensible if the state of affairs in the society is static, i.e. when it is indeed a single child who is endlessly stuck in a state of torture, and everybody else who benefits at the child’s expense. But if the state of affairs of society is dynamic, then it seems to be more suitable to allow its participants the liberty of engaging with risks for the potential of rewards. I suppose it’s debatable whether the society we live in now is sufficiently dynamic, but I think a dynamic society (I am using this phrase very loosely, not just in terms of class mobility) has more potential to provide all of its constituents with generally more value than a static one. I think this may even be the case for those at the “top” of a static hierarchy as time progresses, although I’m not sure. So in my opinion, it seems like a positive goal to encourage dynamism in society and at the same time to allow risks to be taken. Sounds like “free market capitalism,” but if this so-called free market capitalism leads to a static state of affairs, then I think it also needs to be changed up somewhat. Otherwise the society faces the prospect of prolonged stagnation and the needless procrastination of progress.

Obviously though, those in positions of power or high class will have local or short-term incentives to exert their influence to stagnate the dynamics of society, although a more effective global or long-term strategy might encourage the opposite. The main problem, unfortunately, is that people die. If people lived for very long periods of time, remaining relatively youthful, or were reincarnated, then they would have more incentives to create an optimal society. Wishful thinking. But maybe we can find the right incentives for people who live for 100 or so years anyway. For example, the ethics of leaving the world a better place than you found it, improving the lives of our descendants, etc. might be enough for most people. Contributions to others can be very rewarding in themselves, and knowing that you are leaving the world in a better place than it was before is something that feels good.

Regardless, we don’t need to be too concerned with overall social structure when trying to come up with a voting system that will provide high utility through encouraging dynamism, providing liberties for individualistic risk engagement, and using a veil of ignorance to mitigate conflicts of interest. Perhaps these principles can be effectively established in at least this one public realm.

If you’ve been following along with the ideas I’m trying to think about, maybe you’ll have some commentary on this subject in that vein.

If you want to learn more about this stuff I suggest you watch this lecture series.

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I certainly will watch this series, thanks very much for the direction!

If you are knowledgeable about this topic (or even if you aren’t) I would be interested in what you think of the class of voting systems I proposed in this other topic:


Specifically the algorithm that evaluates score distributions by calculating the area beneath the cumulative distribution function.