6 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 997 (1997-1998)
Rawls on Redistribution to the Disabled

handle is hein.journals/gmlr6 and id is 1011 raw text is: 19981

RAWLS ON REDISTRIBUTION TO THE DISABLED
Mark S. Stein*
INTRODUCTION
Probably the most controversial aspect of John Rawls's theory of
distributive justice is its identification of the standpoint of justice with the
interests of those who are least advantaged.' Several critics of Rawls have
suggested that if taken to its logical conclusion, his theory would require
most of the world's resources to be redistributed to the severely disabled.2
Some of the lectures in Rawls's book Political Liberalism3 can be seen as
a response to this criticism. This Article argues that Rawls's response is
unconvincing, and that the issue of redistribution to the disabled puts his
theory in a poor light as compared with the competing utilitarian approach
he has hoped to supplant.4
Part I of this Article describes two systems in which principles of
distributive justice are derived from Rawls's maximin criterion, which
requires that society maximize the life prospects of its least advantaged
class. In one system, the least advantaged class is defined as those with
severe disabilities, and the result is massive and intuitively objectionable
redistribution from the healthy to the disabled.5 In the other system-
Rawls's actual system-the least advantaged class is essentially defined as
those who are poorest, and the resulting redistribution from rich to poor
does not seem as objectionable.
Part II examines and rejects various putative justifications, suggested
in Political Liberalism and Rawls's earlier writings, for choosing the poor
rather than the severely disabled as the least advantaged class. These
putative justifications include the idea that only fully cooperating citizens
are represented in the original position; the argument that principles of
 Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University, Dept. of Political Science; J.D., 1983, University of
Michigan.
See JOHN RAWLS, A THEORY OF JUSTICE 152-53 (1971) [hereinafter RAWLS, JUSTICE].
2 See BRUCE A. AcKERMAN, SOCIAL JUSTICE IN THE LIBERAL STATE 267-69 (1980); DENNIS C.
MUELLER, PUBLIC CHOICE II 419 (1989); Kenneth J. Arrow, Some Ordinalist-Utilitarian Notes on
Rawls's Theory of Justice, 70 J. PHIL. 245, 251 (1973).
3 JOHN RAWLS, POLITCAL LIBERALISM (1993) [hereinafter RAWLS, POLITICAL LIBERALISM]. For
a discussion of this book, touching on issues other than those raised here, see Symposium on John
Rawls's Political Liberalism, 69 CHI.-KENT L. REv. 549-842 (1994).
4 Rawls recognizes utilitarianism as the major alternative to his theory. See RAWLS, JUSTICE,
supra note 1, at 22.
' Unless otherwise indicated in this Article, the term disabled is shorthand for severely
disabled.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 2,700 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Access to this content requires a subscription. Please visit the following page to request a quote or trial:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?