Dworkin on choice Notes for November 14

Main points

We talked about Gerald Dworkin’s article, “Is more choice better than less?”** Note: Gerald, not Ronald, Dworkin. Much shorter paragraphs.


One thing we did was walk through the argument about Rawls’s principle of liberty: “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.”

Dworkin noted that the parties in the original position can’t know that the people the represent want ‘the most extensive basic liberty’. Most of us want less liberty than that: we want to restrict liberty to use drugs, engage in sexual acts that we dislike, or pollute the environment, among other things.

Rawls’s answer was that the parties in the original position would ignore this fact. After all, the people they represent don’t have to use the liberty that they get. They can choose not to.

Dworkin pointed out that this reasoning is no good: since everyone gets the relevant liberty, I could still find it objectionable even if I choose not to exercise mine.


Privacy is on my mind, so we spent the bulk of the class talking about examples in which having control over information about yourself, as you would if you had a right to privacy, might be bad for you.

This page was written by Michael Green for Freedom, Markets, & Well-being, PPE 160, Fall 2012. It was posted November 14, 2012.
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