Play egalitarian roulette - with a blindfoldby Margaret Drabble / January 22, 2015 / Leave a comment
If I ruled the world, I would go for global equality. I’ve been going on about this, to absolutely no avail, for many decades, but this would be my chance to make it work. I’d like to put all the world’s assets and cash into a big pot and shake them up and redistribute them like confetti, but I can see that’s not very practical. So I’d compromise and put into play John Rawls’s notion of the “veil of ignorance.” In my interpretation (though not perhaps in his) this would involve asking each and every one of us to choose, blindfolded, into what kind of society we would wish to be born, if we didn’t have any prior knowledge of who we would be or where in that society we would find ourselves—the top, the middle or the bottom of the heap. This would lead to a lot of hard thought about social justice, and some massive redesigning of the status quo in every land on Earth. Out would go grotesque and increasing inequality of income between and within the developed and undeveloped world; out would go deviously greedy, incompetent and mendacious bankers; out would go tax avoidance by clever corporations and the favourable tax status of English private schools. In would come clean water, healthcare, toilets for everyone and assisted dying for those who really want it.
The notion of every single person on this planet being given a chance to play this game of egalitarian roulette fills me with a dizzy delight.
There are some minor problems: at what age should this choice be offered to us, and would all societies have to be put on hold for redesign while awaiting the outcome of the global ballot? There’d be at least a generation of chaos while things sorted themselves out. Rawls may or may not go into this, but luckily I don’t have to. It’s rather like the choice that used to confront those who seriously believed in the resurrection of the body: at what age should we be resurrected and reborn? Most Christian theologians and Renaissance artists decided on the handsome age of 30, though Stanley Spencer was more lenient to the plump and the middle-aged and allowed them to clamber out of their graves looking quite homely.
Let’s not be put…