Theory and Decision

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 267–288 | Cite as

Disparate goods and Rawls' difference principle: A social choice theoretic treatment

  • Allan Gibbard


Rawls' Difference Principle asserts that a basic economic structure is just if it makes the worst off people as well off as is feasible. How well off someone is is to be measured by an ‘index’ of ‘primary social goods’. It is this index that gives content to the principle, and Rawls gives no adequate directions for constructing it. In this essay a version of the difference principle is proposed that fits much of what Rawls says, but that makes use of no index. Instead of invoking an index of primary social goods, the principle formulated here invokes a partial ordering of prospects for opportunities.


Social Choice Economic Structure Difference Principle Theoretic Treatment Social Good 
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  2. Rawls, John: 1971, A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.).Google Scholar
  3. Rawls, John: 1974, ‘Reply to Alexander and Musgrave’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 88, pp. 633–55.Google Scholar
  4. Rawls, John: 1975, ‘A Kantian conception of equality’, Cambridge Review, pp. 94–99.Google Scholar
  5. Rawls, John: 1977, ‘The basic structure as subject’, American Philosophical Quarterly 14, pp. 159–65.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allan Gibbard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA

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