John Rawls Addendum Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Dworkin's two models are extremes in their own right with regard to individual rights; the first model puts balancing individual rights against other social goals. The second model holds that one should err on the side of individual rights instead of balancing them among a whole society. These two models do not encompass a middle ground of a liberal democracy such as the U.S. when examining the place that individual rights have in a society; always putting individual rights ahead of the needs of society can be just as damaging to ignoring individual rights in favor of the overall needs of society.

The "two models" approach is especially relevant in light of the new threats to national security posed by terrorism and the acceptable ways of not only preventing terror but also of treating the accused in these situations. The dispute over the civil liberties that are available to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the detention center for individuals accused of terrorism or association with terrorist groups, demonstrates this. Many of the detainees have not been availed of civil liberties such as access to attorneys, freedom of religious expression, and other specific individual liberties. However, proponents of national security insist that denying these individual rights is necessary for the overall security of society, following one model of Dworkin's. An alternate scenario regarding the balance of individual liberties with regard to terrorism is the increased surveillance capabilities of government agencies; airport security has become more invasive regarding personal and property searches. This intrusion on personal liberty is seen as necessary to safeguard the whole, and thus the invasion of individual liberty is justified in light of the need to guarantee security for the whole.

c. We believe that the more dangerous model is one in which individual liberties are not protected; even though national security demands that some individual liberties be subverted (such as the right to privacy when boarding an airplane), overall liberties -- like privacy in one's home, freedom of speech, and other basic freedoms -- ought not to be intruded upon in the name of "overall" security. The potential for government or society to become a monolithic leviathan, controlling all aspects of individual freedoms -- from worship to speech to action -- is too fraught with danger when considering it as a comparison to the free, liberal democracy now in place in the U.S. Some leeway with regard to individual rights must be suffered by the society as a whole in order to protect each individual's autonomy and rights.

Death Penalty with regard to Utilitarianism and Kant's Deontology

The death penalty may be viewed as having positive effects for certain segments of society. For members of a victim's family, there is retribution in the execution of their relative's murderer. For the justice system, costs are theoretically lessened by executing the capital criminal instead of supporting him or her throughout life in prison. There is a deterrent effect on crime if potential capital criminals know the consequences of their actions could be death. Utilitarianism would state that the death penalty, while possibly morally reprehensible, serves the purpose of promoting the greater good. In utilitarianism, the fact that capital punishment might not be just in terms of the individual -- in other words, that no one human has the right to take the life of another human -- the overall good served by executing capital criminals is greater than the lesser evil of killing a fellow human. Deontology, on the other hand, is a theory in ethics where one has an unchanging duty to abide by some set of moral principles above all other priorities (Kant 1990). In the case of the death penalty, the overall good of retribution, reduced cost, and deterrence would not outweigh the individual liberties due to the criminal as a human being. The overriding moral good of not taking life is more important in deontology than the societal goods associated with executing these criminals. In deontology, no matter what the end result of an action might be, no matter how "good" of a situation that an action might create, the means must be just as well; that is to say, the manner of achieving this "good" must also be considered moral or good, and the death penalty cannot be considered prima facie a "good. Therefore, the ends never justify the means in deontology.

1. Freedom of conscience -- freedom of speech -- freedom of political participation -- freedom of the person -- freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure -- right to own personal property

2. Merit and productivity -- these two may be combined because the overall merit of a cause will be reflected by its productivity; not only its quantitative production but also any qualitative value associated with the item (ie art, etc.)

Need and wealth -- these two are combined because wealth will almost automatically dictate need; very wealthy individuals will have very few immediate needs, whereas extremely poor individuals will have significant basic needs, and middle-class individuals will fall somewhere in between these two extremes

Talent and ability -- these two are combined because of their similarities; they are ranked below need and wealth because the possession of talent or ability is not equal to merit and productivity; one may possess immeasurable talent and never accomplish anything with it.

Social status is the last determinant of distribution because it is such a poor measure of need or merit. One may possess significant social status without having any personal merit or talent, and at the same time one may have a high level of ability or productivity and have a very low social status. This is the least important of the determinant distribution factors.

When two or more of the ranked principles above conflict, for example, when one group needs scarce resources based on its merit but another needs these same resources based on its need, the individual situations of each party must be considered in order to choose the most deontological outcome. Although sometimes subjective, an individual assessment of such competition among resources is the most likely way to achieve justice in allocating society's resources.

3. Even in an "equal society," where decisions regarding the allocation of goods are presumably equal, Joe will have significant advantages over Jack based on the merit-based distributions that he will receive. Although Jack might balance these allocations out by receiving need-based distributions, the inherent advantage that Joe has is that his wealth and/or ability will result in his owning more property and having access to more opportunities than Jack, who has no such property or networking capabilities. Even in an equal society, the differences in merit and productivity will create inequality of situations. In the situation where each had equal endowments, the likelihood of an equal match between the two men would be much more likely in a society where all other factors were considered equal. The values of the Basic Structure could influence the outcome in a manner discussed above; Jack's allocation could be equal to Joe's based on each man's distribution of goods, which is based on both merit and need. However, Joe's situation will be improved due to his wealth and social status which gives him intangible advantages over Jack such as public opinion, a relationship with potential opportunities, and a fallback plan in case his original attempts fail.

4. In a system where the principles of Rawlsian thought are to be incorporated, advantaging certain individuals who are equal in all other aspects but for some reason do not have the same "prospect of obtaining the goods" as another person would is part of Rawls' Second Principle. In allowing some preferential treatment among distribution and selection in the name of balancing the distribution of goods more equally, it is possible that a Rawlsian system will contradict itself by unequally sharing society's goods with certain groups; for example, a group may be significantly less educated than another, but under the difference principle would be given jobs or tasks equal to those of the more educated Although it has not been determined scientifically if our abilities and talents (and therefore merit) are products of our environment, should that be found to be the case, a Rawlsian argument regarding equality of opportunity would be much more substantiated scientifically. As it is, the relationship between environment and ability has not been empirically established and is difficult to base judgement on.

5. The Difference Principle, which allocates and redistributes resources toward the most disadvantaged members of society, is a generally positive aim (Rawls 1999). A specific example right now would be the reallocation of resources from other national projects to the hurricane relief effort in the Gulf Coast; although the merit, talents, or abilities of the evacuees do not in themselves merit the type of financial and physical aid that is being given, the need and immediate situation call for many resources to be allocated to this area and these individual citizens on the basis of their need.…

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