If you could only imagine the world you would create if you had no idea what circumstances you would find yourself in, how would that affect your perception of it? John Rawls, a philosopher and author, uses this thought experiment for his moral argument in favor of a just world. This is the “veil or ignorance,” where an individual is shielded from the circumstances in which they were born. It is morally right and in one’s best interests that everyone is treated fairly in this world.
Rawls’ “veil-of-ignorance” thought experiment was meant to expose the injustice in the world. Rawls was a child of the Great Depression in America and had witnessed discrimination against minorities. Rawls also noted the rareness of “rags-to-riches” phenomena. Rawls discovered that there were very few cases in which poor people become rich through extraordinary achievements. This resulted in policymakers and wealthy people adopting a “pull your own bootstraps” attitude to the world. They are less inclined to work to create a fairer world for those less fortunate than they are. Rawls thought of a way to put people in positions where they are more privileged into the shoes that someone could be born into. You might be born in a rich country to good parents or in poverty. The reality of where you were born isn’t always clear. It could be a matter simply of chance. John Rawls suggests a thought experiment in which you’re in a kind of limbo before being born. You are given the task of creating policies that govern the world in which you live. It is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that all people have equal opportunities to grow up in rich and poor situations. It is not worth taking the chance of creating an unbalanced environment and hoping that your life will be better.
It doesn’t mean that a fair world is impossible. A few simple things can help create a more equitable world. These include the right for every person to express their opinions, to be free from discrimination, to have fair trials and to be free from slavery. It is possible to still have wealth inequality in a just and fair world, so long as wealth accumulation isn’t made by exploiting underprivileged workers. The redistribution and assistance to those in need can help reduce wealth inequality. Even if capitalism is a belief system that creates an inevitable separation between the wealthy and the poor, you still believe in fair opportunities for everyone to achieve substantial wealth.
The law on reciprocity tells us to do unto other people as we would like them to do unto us. We all agree that we must treat each other with fairness as if they were our own. It is difficult to do this in practice, as history has shown. Rawls pointed out that people in privilege are less likely to be confronted with injustices and have the ability to advocate for a fairer world. Rawls illustrated this point by using the “veil o’ ignorance”, which Rawls used to show that anyone would be willing to support a more fair world if they were confronted with the possibility of being born into less perfect circumstances.