Beyond an ungreen-economics-based political philosophy: Three strikes against 'the difference principle'

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"Beyond an ungreen-economics-based political philosophy" John Rawls's liberalism is the dominant political philosophy of our time. But is it compatible with the values of green economics? I argue in this paper that it is founded on ungreen economics. In particular, Rawls's 'difference principle', which takes inequalities to be just if they benefit the worst off, is subjected here to three counter-arguments. Firstly, an argument based on one from Norman Daniels. Secondly, an argument based on one from Jerry Cohen. Thirdly, and most originally: inegalitarian modes of 'societal' organisation are ecologically unsustainable. The difference principle unconsciously assumes that the Earth is infinite, that the more we raise the lowest boats the better; disregarding that we may already have raised the lowest boats - in Western societies at least - let alone, obviously, the higher boats, more than the ecosphere can tolerate. (And: in a steady-state, inequalities would be more socially unsustainable than ever.) Three strikes: the difference principle is out...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-183
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Green Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Difference principle
  • Ecological
  • Jerry Cohen
  • Liberalism
  • Norman Daniels
  • Rawls

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