Weekly reading

For some time now I’ve been posting links I find interesting at hecker.tumblr.com. This is mainly for personal reference, but I thought it might be useful to collect those every week or two in case anyone else is interested. Some of these inspire blog posts, others I use as reference for various projects. This week was a political philosophy week.

Occupy Wall Street, Social Unrest and Income Inequality This is an interesting riff on John Rawls and the veil of ignorance, starting with the following assumption that [absent] a policy of income redistribution, capitalism plus stability leads to income disparities. I wrote a blog post based on this.

Key quote: Faced with a knowledge of their current state, the people can design a political system that is unstable, thus giving them [a] shot at the lottery in the future. Or they can move toward one that maintains stability, and in doing so establish the rich more securely. For the people to choose the latter route and participate in a government that entrenches the rich, they will demand an egalitarian structure similar to what they would under the Rawlsian veil of ignorance. (via Paul Kedrosky)

Occupy Wall Street and the deradicalized Rawls I think this Will Wilkinson piece makes a good point about John Rawls and his Theory of Justice: The freedom to buy and sell, to enter into contracts, to start a business, to hire and be hired, to save and invest, to trade freely across borders — none of these are among the basic liberties to be established under [Rawls’s] first principles. … But why? I think it’s as uncomplicated as this: Because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get the answer he was looking for.

Choice of axioms is key, and choosing the axioms one likes seems a pretty common practice in political philosophy. One good question is: What would a Rawlsian theory of justice look like if economic liberties were included in the basic liberties?

Income Inequality Is Hobbling the Middle Class This is a fairly typical discussion of issues related to income inequality, but is noteworthy for pointing to a paper with a technical discussion of inter-generational mobility. (via Andrew Sullivan, as is the next one.)

What kind of mobility matters? This is a companion piece to the previous one, focusing on the idea of absolute mobility, i.e., where people have rising real incomes (both within their own lives and relative to their parents) even though their position relative to others does not change. The claim is essentially that the problem is not rising income inequality as such but rather the lack of absolute mobility.