Egalitarianism Against the Veil of Ignorance

28 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2001

See all articles by John E. Roemer

John E. Roemer

Yale University - Department of Political Science; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Date Written: September 2001


J. Rawls and R. Dworkin have each used veils of ignorance to justify equality (Rawls) or to compute what equality entails (Dworkin). J. Harsanyi has also derived a distributive ethic from a veil of ignorance argument, which, although not egalitarian, is believed by Harsanyi to be not excessively inegalitarian.

Harsanyi's analysis does not determine a unique social choice function, but rather a family of such functions. Here, by appending more information to Harsanyi's environment, and an Axiom of Neutrality, I uniquely determine a social welfare function by extending Harsanyi's argument. I show that this function is strongly inegalitarian, in that it recommends resource transfers from disabled to able individuals.

Some concluding remarks are offered against using the veil of ignorance in studying the distributive ethics.

Keywords: Harsanyi, Dworkin, Rawls

JEL Classification: D63

Suggested Citation

Roemer, John E., Egalitarianism Against the Veil of Ignorance (September 2001). Available at SSRN:

John E. Roemer (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5249 (Phone)
203-432-6196 (Fax)


Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

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