What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Friday, February 10, 2017

No money needed for my article on money and freedom

My article, “Freedom, Money, and Justice as Fairness,” has just been published in the journal Philosophy, Politics & Economics (an ‘early online’ version was posted last June). PPE has made it available for free! So you can read it online or download the PDF version without spending a penny—which seems quite appropriate, given the argument of the paper.

Here is the abstract:
The first principle of Rawls’s conception of justice secures a set of ‘basic liberties’ equally for all citizens within the constitutional structure of society. The ‘worth’ of citizens’ liberties, however, may vary depending upon their wealth. Against Rawls, Cohen contends that an absence of money often can directly constrain citizens’ freedom and not simply its worth. This is because money often can remove legally enforced constraints on what citizens can do. Cohen’s argument – if modified to apply to citizens’ ‘moral powers’ rather than ‘negative liberty’ – threatens a core feature of Rawls’s conception of justice, as it is unclear why the parties within the ‘original position’ would endorse the lexical priority of the first principle over the ‘difference principle’ (which concerns the distribution of wealth) if both principles similarly shape citizens’ freedom. I concede Cohen’s point regarding the relation between freedom and money but argue that it is not fatal to Rawls’s conception of justice if the ‘basic needs principle’ is understood to enjoy lexical priority over the first principle and is modified to include a right to adequate discretionary time. Nonetheless, Cohen’s argument helpfully highlights the infelicitous nature of Rawls’s terminology with respect to liberty: the basic needs principle, the first principle and the difference principle all should be understood as shaping citizens’ freedom to exercise their moral powers.
I was interviewed a few months ago on the article for the UWM magazine In Focus. And if you’re curious about the Canadian lottery (‘Lotto 6/49’) that I mention at the beginning of the article, I posted a link to one of the lottery’s commercials here back in May.

My friend and fellow political philosopher Andrew Lister (of Queen’s University) also has an article on Rawls in the very same issue. It’s called “Markets, Desert, and Reciprocity,” and also is available for free.

(Obviously PPE recognizes that the world needs unimpeded access to this important new work on Rawls!)

UPDATE: Alas, the articles no longer are available for free. *sigh*


  1. Dear Blain,
    I encourage you to deposit your article in the UWM Digital Commons (http://dc.uwm.edu/) so that it will be available to a larger audience. Check out the details of the UWM Open Access Publication Fund (http://uwm.edu/libraries/uoap/) and let me know if I can help you navigate this process as I am the library contact for the philosophy department. Would love to see your work being more broadly read!
    Kate Ganski
    ganski at uwm.edu

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Kate! I'll try to do this over the coming week.