John E. Roemer

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Discussion Paper

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J. Rawls and R. Dworkin have each used veils of ignorance to justify equality (Rawls) or to compute what equality entails (Dworkin). J. Harsanyi has also derived a distributive ethic from a veil of ignorance argument, which, although not egalitarian, is believed by Harsanyi to be not excessively inegalitarian. Harsanyi’s analysis does not determine a unique social choice function, but rather a family of such functions. Here, by appending more information to Harsanyi’s environment, and an Axiom of Neutrality, I uniquely determine a social welfare function by extending Harsanyi’s argument. I show that this function is strongly inegalitarian, in that it recommends resource transfers from disabled to able individuals. Some concluding remarks are offered against using the veil of ignorance in studying the distributive ethics.

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