November 21, 2019
Rawls's Difference Principle and maximin rule of allocation: a new analysis
Philippe Mongin, HEC
Abstract : If Rawls's A Theory of Justice has achieved fame among economists, this is largely due to his Di erence Principle, which says that inequalities of resources should be to the benefit of the less fortunate, or more operationally, that allocations of resources should be ranked by the maximin criterion. After noticing that the technical debate over the Difference Principle has remained stuck at the level of the decision theory and welfare theory of the 1970's, the paper reconstructs it in a more thorough way. It aims at extending the Rawlsian maximin to the case where the resources accruing to each individual are uncertain to society, and for this purpose, resorts to two main technical tools, i.e., the min-of-means representation of decision theory and the ex ante versus ex post distinction of welfare theory. The paper axiomatically characterize the ex ante and ex post forms of the Rawlsian maximin and compares them in terms of egalitarian criteria. It nally expresses preference for a compromise egalitarian theory that mixes the two forms.