By James Kwak
Two years ago I wrote a post arguing that smart, well-educated, hard-working people did not deserve to make more money than other people, at least not as a normative (as opposed to a utilitarian) matter.
Last night I was re-reading A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. This is what he has to say on the matter (§ 12, pp. 73–74):
“[The liberal conception of the second principle of justice] still permits the distribution of wealth and income to be determined by the natural distribution of abilities and talents. Within the limits allowed by the background arrangements, distributive shares are decided by the outcome of the natural lottery; and this outcome is arbitrary from a moral perspective. There is no more reason to permit the distribution of income and wealth to be settled by the distribution of natural assets than by historical and social fortune. . . . Even the willingness to make an effort, to try, and so to be deserving in the ordinary sense is itself dependent upon happy family and social circumstances.”