Discussion Paper

No. 2018-78 | November 01, 2018
The economics of justice as fairness


In this paper, the authors challenge the common interpretation of Rawls' Theory of Justice as Fairness by showing that this theory, as outlined in the restatement (Rawls, Justice as Fairness: a Restatement, 2001), goes well beyond the definition of a distributive value judgment, in such a way as to embrace efficiency issues as well. A simple model is discussed to support our interpretation of the difference principle, by which inequalities are shown to be permitted as far as they stimulate a greater effort in education in the population, and so economic growth. To their knowledge, this is the only possibility for the inequality to be 'bought' by both the most-, and above all, the least-advantaged individual as suggested by the difference principle. Finally, by recalling the old tradition of 'universal ex-post efficiency', the authors show that a unique optimal social contract does not exist behind the veil of ignorance; more precisely, the sole set of potentially Rawls-optimal social contracts can be identified a priori, and partial justice orderings derived accordingly.

JEL Classification:

D63, D31, J31


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Cite As

Antonio Abatemarco and Francesca Stroffolini (2018). The economics of justice as fairness. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2018-78, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2018-78

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