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Rawlsian Affirmative Action: Compensatory Justice as Seen from the Original Position *
ABSTRACT: In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls presents a method of determining how a just society would allocate its “primary goods”-that is, those things any rational person would desire, such as opportunities, liberties, rights, wealth, and the bases of self-respect. (1) Rawls’ method of adopting the “original position” is supposed to yield a “fair” way of distributing such goods. A just society would also have the need (unmet in the above work) to determine how the victims of injustice ought to be compensated, since history suggests that social contracts are likely to be violated. This paper is an attempt to determine the remedial measures that would be selected using Rawls’ method. I contend that only two of the three most widely used “affirmative action” policies would be selected from the original position. I also sketch another compensatory policy that would pass Rawls’ fairness test.
Affirmative action is public policy designed to compensate the victims of injustice. (2) To be …
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