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A Dog-Eat-Dog World: Rand vs. Rawls

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RawlsVsRand.jpgToday’s quiz: Match the political philosopher with his or her view of human nature.

Hint: They both believe we should design political systems for a society of rational citizens all pursuing their own self-interest. 

A: You meet a man. He appears to be like you—a rational fellow looking out for himself. You recognize that his goal is the same as yours—to keep as much of his own stuff as possible and get as much of the other fellow’s as he can. A third man, similarly rational and selfish, joins you. What should you all do? You realize that with all these rational selfish individuals, there is an inherent conflict of interest. So before the fighting begins, you all strike some deal. None of you will get everything he wants, but each will walk away with something. You will each need to restrain your rational self-interest, but at least the deal keeps you all from a battle of blood and guts.

B: You meet a man. He appears to be like you—a rational fellow looking out for himself. You recognize that his goal is the same as yours—to get as much of value out of the interaction as possible. A third man, similarly rational and selfish, joins you. What should you all do? You realize that all these rational selfish individuals are different. What is valuable to one is not necessarily valuable to the other. In fact nothing the other guy has is inherently valuable to you. Really, nothing has any value in and of itself. Something has value only to the extent you keep your wits about you and act rationally. If all of you do the same, you find no conflicts of interest. No blood. No battle.

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