In Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, there is an interesting appendix on “Rawlsian Principles” in which the economist and philosopher John Broome raises an objection to Rawls’s Difference Principle (an objection apparently inspired by some opening remarks by Parfit). That principle, recall, states that “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are…to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged.” Rawls also suggests that his Difference Principle expresses a strategy of ‘Maximin,’ or ‘maximizing the minimum.’ Now Broome asks us to suppose that India in 1800 could have had any of the following three constitutions, in each of which primary goods are distributed equally but economic and social well-being is distributed as follows:
On Constitution (1) the Indians and British both get 100.
On Constitution (2) the Indians get 120, the British 110.
On Constitution (3) the Indians get 115, the British 140.
Here’s the puzzle: which of these three constitutions do you think is favored by Rawls’s Difference Principle? (Broome has interesting things to say about this, but I thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts before continuing.)