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Rawls’s difference principle and maximin rule of allocation: a new analysis

Philippe Mongin () and Marcus Pivato ()
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Philippe Mongin: CNRS & HEC Paris

Economic Theory, 2021, vol. 71, issue 4, No 8, 1499-1525

Abstract: Abstract If Rawls’s A Theory of Justice has achieved fame among economists, this is due to his Difference Principle, which says that inequalities of resources should be to the benefit of the less fortunate, or more operationally, that allocations of resources should be ranked by the maximin criterion. We extend the Rawlsian maximin in two ways: first, by resorting to the more general min-of-means formula of decision theory, second, by addressing the case where the resources accruing to each individual are uncertain to society. For the latter purpose, we resort to the ex ante versus ex post distinction of welfare economics. The paper axiomatically characterizes the ex ante and ex post forms of the Rawlsian maximin and compares them in terms of egalitarian criteria. It finally recommends and axiomatizes a compromise egalitarian theory that mixes the two forms.

Keywords: Rawls; Maximin; Difference principle; Ex ante egalitarian; Ex post egalitarian; Min-of-means; D63; D71; D81; I30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1007/s00199-021-01344-x

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