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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Rawls on Economic Liberty and the Choice of Systems of Social Cooperation

Rawls on Economic Liberty and the Choice of Systems of Social Cooperation

(p.109) 6 Rawls on Economic Liberty and the Choice of Systems of Social Cooperation
John Rawls

Alan Thomas

Oxford University Press

Classical liberals argue Rawls fails to give sufficient weight to economic liberty. This paper argues that these classical liberals are mistaken. We know that Rawls took seriously Marx’s critique that the merely formal equality guaranteed by the basic liberties principle was de facto undermined by the material inequality permitted by the difference principle. As a response to Marx, Rawls believed that his principles could be fully specified in only one of two forms: liberal market socialism or property-owning democracy. Each fully specified system disperses capital so as to bring it under democratic control. Furthermore, within each system, economic liberties are robustly protected in a stable way. The classical liberal critique misfires as it takes only a part of his view to be the whole and neglects the full specification of these principles in one or another of Rawls’s preferred social systems.

Keywords:   John Rawls, economic liberty, economic justice, property-owning democracy, liberal market socialism

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