Veil of Ignorance

I’m not the only one who thinks that the world is structured unfairly. The rich seem to find it easier to keep making money, and those who are living in poverty are the most vulnerable to life shocks which push them further into poverty.

How would you re-design things if you could? Who would have the wealth? Who would have the power? How would you shape society so that it served all who were a part of it?

John Rawls came up with the concept of the Veil of Ignorance. It’s a way to test ideas for fairness, whether it’s a new tax law to re-creating society as we know it. All you have to do is to imagine that you have no idea what position you would end up in on the other side of that decision. You could have your taxes cut, stay the same, or even increased. You could end up with all the power or none of the power. With that in mind, would you still be comfortable making the decision?

It’s a theoretical experiment of course, but the exercise is important to help create the kind of communities that all members want to be part of.

If you were to create a place where you would be happy in any role that you were given; any gender, any race, any social status, any level of education, any physical ability, what kind of place would you create?

Thinking of your life now, if you were born a different gender or race, or differently abled, or in a different country or social class, would you still be comfortable with the social inequalities of our world? I know I wouldn’t be.

I don’t think a utopia is possible, but I do think there are simple things we can do to begin to shift those social inequalities towards fairness. It starts with generosity.

How you treat those that have less power than you will shape the world we live in.

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