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Nobel laureate James Buchanan downplays any theory of ethical politicians, focusing instead on rules which economize personal restraint, setting lower moral expectations. Through a constructive critique of James Buchanan’s work, I argue these lowered expectations come at a cost: degraded character in politicians, leading to constitutional decay. Buchanan lacks a theory to address choices between (a) action which furthers the politician’s self-interest and (b) action which protects some already accepted, good rule, but which does not further their self-interest. I generate a theory of the Principled Politician, an agent characterized by a prior commitment to fair play.
The good of those who are worse off matters more to the overall good than the good of those who are better off does. But being worse off than one’s fellows is not itself bad; nor is inequality itself bad; nor do differences in well-being matter more when well-being is lower in an absolute sense. Instead, the good of the relatively worse-off weighs more heavily in the overall good than the good of the relatively better-off does, in virtue of the fact that the former are relatively worse off. This paper articulates and defends the view just described.
This article introduces an intuitive conservation dilemma called the Canyon Dilemma: Is it possible to condemn the mining of the Grand Canyon, even by a poor generation, while also permitting this generation’s mining of an unremarkable small canyon? It then argues that not one of several prominent theories of environmental justice, including various forms of egalitarianism, welfarism, deep-ecological theories, communitarianism and free-market environmentalism, can navigate this dilemma. The article concludes by highlighting the dilemma-navigating potential of the equal-claims idea – the idea that the natural world is something to which every human being, present and future, has an equal, substantive claim.
This article considers whether any interpretation of the idea of equal claims to the natural world can resolve the Canyon Dilemma (i.e. can justify protecting the Grand Canyon but not a small canyon from mining by a poor generation). It first considers and ultimately rejects the idea of subjecting natural resource rights to an intergenerational equal division. It then demonstrates that a pluralist theory of environmental justice committed to both respect for the separateness of persons and to the collective good can justify a type of intergenerational non-absolute equal division of natural resource rights that can navigate the Canyon Dilemma.
Why should ‘better than’ be transitive? The leading answer in ethics is that values do not change with context. But this cannot be the entire source of transitivity, I argue, since transitivity can fail even if values never change, so long as they are complex, with multiple dimensions combined non-additively. I conclude by exploring a new hypothesis: that all alleged cases of nontransitive betterness, such as Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion, can and should be modelled as the result of complexity, not context-relativity.
The original position together with the veil of ignorance have served as one of the main methodological devices to justify principles of distributive justice. Most approaches to this topic have primarily focused on the single person decision-theoretic aspect of the original position. This paper, in contrast, will directly model the basic structure and the economic agents therein to project the economic consequences and social outcomes generated either by utilitarianism or Rawls’s two principles of justice. It will be shown that when the differences in people’s productive abilities are sufficiently great, utilitarianism dominates Rawls’s two principles of justice by providing a higher level of overall well-being to every member of society. Whenever this is the case, the parties can rely on the Principle of Dominance (which is a direct implication of instrumental rationality) to choose utilitarianism over Rawls’s two principles of justice. Furthermore, when this is so, utilitarianism is free from one of its most fundamental criticisms that it ‘does not take seriously the distinction between persons’ (Rawls 1971 : 24).