by Alonso Meraz
The Veil of ignorance is a concept that was argued by John Rawls. “If we didn’t know our status in society (wealth, race, gender, class, skills, talents, etc.), what kind of society would we think was just? If we were behind the veil of ignorance, the kind of society we would agree to would be a just society.”
This was brought up in class and I found it very interesting and made me think a lot about it. The way many people think about how a society should be is based on their position in that society. Poor people may want the rich people to pay higher taxes, and rich people could care less about what’s going on with the poor people and their rights. Maybe men think woman rights aren’t important, or maybe some people don’t think about the other races in their society. So if you asked someone what would make a just society, they would answer based on their position in that society.
But what if they didn’t know where they stood in that society, what if they couldn’t decide if they were born into a poor or rich family, or a man or woman, white or black. What if it was all random and just the luck of the draw, what kind of society would you like to live in? This question was asked in class, and I was shown three pie charts. One where the rich have most of the wealth in the country, one where it was pretty evenly distributed and had no huge gaps between social classes, and one that was exactly perfectly distributed between the social classes. I chose the second one because it looked equal and fair to me. But actually the first one where the rich had most of the wealth is the country where I am from, U.S.A.
Why did I choose the middle one? Well, If I was placed under the veil of ignorance, and didn’t know anything about where I would end up in society, I would like a society where everyone has the same opportunities, where even the people at the very bottom have the ability to move up, and even the people at the top can fall down the social ladder if they don’t fulfill their duties. Of course there has to be freedom and everyone must follow the same laws. I would like a society where hard work is rewarded. The middle one best represented this kind of society in my opinion. There weren’t any big gaps between the social classes, so it seemed to me that everyone was given the same opportunities, and everyone was in the social class that they deserved to be in. It looked like the people in the top were there because they worked hard to get there.
Why didn’t I choose the first one? Even though it is my country? That’s because most the wealth was in the top social class. More than half of the wealth belonged to the top. What if I chose that one and ended up at the very bottom, what would I do? There has to be a huge gap for a certain reason, right? Maybe the bottom people were born to poor families, didn’t get the same opportunities as everyone else, and cannot join the top social class. I wouldn’t want to be born in that situation and have no way out. So the middle one was more appealing to me. I think the veil of ignorance makes people think about the very worst possible situation. Because if they were put at the bottom, they would still want the opportunity to be successful and happy. And that would be by giving everyone the same opportunities, freedom, and laws. And that in my opinion is a just society.