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Discussion Paper

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The veil of ignorance has been used often as a tool for recommending what justice requires with respect to the distribution of wealth. We show that John Harsanyi’s and Ronald Dworkin’s conceptions of the veil, when modeled formally, recommend wealth allocations in conflict with the prominently espoused view that priority should be given to the worse off with respect to wealth allocation. It follows that those who believe that justice requires impartiality and priority must seek some method of assuring the former other than the veil of ignorance. We propose that impartiality and solidarity are fundamentals of justice, and study the relationship among these two axioms and priority. We characterize axiomatically resource allocation rules that jointly satisfy impartiality, solidarity, and priority: they comprise a class of general indices of wealth and welfare, including, as polar cases, the classical equal-wealth and equal-welfare rules.

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