Justice for Hedgehogs

by gannonned

After completing Ronald Dworkin’s 423 page tome of moral, ethical, legal and political philosophy, I find myself almost immediately longing that all the friends I have would read it. The book took me many months to read due to the density and the thoroughness with which I chose to treat many of the philosophical questions. Dworkin rarely blatantly expresses his preferences until late in the book. I am certain it does some injustice to the thoroughness of his erudite and cogent arguments to post a section from his epilogue, but I can’t help but think it applies to almost everything I’ve been thinking about which was, after all, the point of his book.

Ronald Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs:
“…The rich think they live better when they are even richer. In America and many other places they use their wealth politically, to persuade the public to elect or accept leaders who will do that for them. They say that the justice we have imagined is socialism that threatens our freedom. Not everyone is gullible: many people lead contented lives without wealth. But many others are persuaded; they vote for low taxes to keep the jackpot full in case they too can win it, even though that is a lottery they are almost bound to lose. Nothing better illustrates the tragedy of an unexamined life: there are no winners in this macabre dance of greed and delusion. No respectable or even intelligent theory of value supposes that making and spending money has any value or importance in itself and almost everything people buy with that money lacks any importance as well. The ridiculous dream of a princely life is kept alive by ethical sleepwalkers. And they in turn keep injustice alive because their self-contempt breeds a politics of contempt for others. Dignity is indivisible.
But remember, finally, the truth as well as its corruption. The justice we have imagined begins in what seems an unchallengeable proposition: that government must treat those under its dominion with equal concern and respect. That justice does not threaten—it expands—our liberty. It does not trade freedom for equality or the other way around. It does not cripple enterprise for the sake of cheats. It favors neither big nor small government but only just government. It is drawn from dignity and aims at dignity. It makes it easier and more likely for each of us to live a good life as well. Remember, too, that the stakes are more than mortal. Without dignity our lives are only blinks of duration. But if we manage to lead a good life well, we create something more. We write a subscript to out mortality…”