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Journal Article

Principles of Distributive Justice: Experiments in Poland and America

Grzegorz Lissowski, Tadeusz Tyszka and Wlodzimierz Okrasa
The Journal of Conflict Resolution
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 98-119
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/174206
Page Count: 22
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Principles of Distributive Justice: Experiments in Poland and America
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Abstract

In his famous book on a theory of justice, John Rawls argues that under some special conditions, referred to as an "original position," people would unanimously choose as a principle of distributive justice, the principle of maximizing the welfare of the worst-off individual in the society. An experiment was conducted under conditions approximating Rawls's "veil of ignorance." It was a replication of Frohlich, Oppenheimer, and Eavy's experiment, using Polish instead of American students. In accordance with Rawls's prediction, most of experimental groups in both samples reached the consensus. However, the chosen principle was not the Rawlsian principle of maximizing the floor income, but the principle of maximizing the average income with the floor constraint. Moreover, in individual rankings and choices, the principle of maximizing the average income with a floor constraint received the highest ranks, while the Rawlsian principle received the lowest ranks. Our interpretation of these results is that the notion of distributive justice should not be reduced to considering only the welfare of the poorest.

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