I am happy to sign this.
Rather than envying the rich, or (a la Rawls) building up the assets or income of the poor, the necessary thing to do is primarily simply to build down the rich to a level where their (i.e., our) lifestyle actually is sustainable, which is argued for in the contraction and convergence model (Meyer, 2001). The place to start, if we are to take justice seriously – and that means being just to our children and to people who are not born yet and who may never be if we do not sort out and build down our ‘externalities’ – is not to seek to haul up the worst off, but to turn the proposition around. In other words, to question the difference principle. To question the thought that a ‘gain’ for some or even for all is really a gain at all. Such questioning, as this conclusion has I hope intimated, may lead us even further from Rawls’s theory than we expected. Into a world in which we no longer believe that economic gain for the worst off is necessarily a good thing, beyond a truly decent level of subsistence. Provided, needless to say, that the world that we create is not the nightmare world of rampant anti-egalitarian capitalism that at present we are perhaps drifting into. Rather, the world that we should build, if this paper is at all right, is a world in which we have a notion of real human needs and of love for one another and of commonality with one another all in the same boat, thus trumping any notion of growth-based ‘wealth-creation’, even one that supposedly contributes to development for the alleged benefit of the worst-off.
Beyond an ungreen-economics-based political philosophy: three strikes against ‘the difference principle’
Rupert Read School of Philosophy, UEA, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK