For the people interested in moral philosophy, and in particular theories of justice and equality: I’m writing a series of articles to formulate a unified theory of justice, with the help of a mathematical model called the quasi-maximin theory.
The draft of the first part can be downloaded here: A quantitative model for a theory of justice, part I: Derivation and implications of the quasi-maximin principle
In this article we start with a unified mathematical formulation of three major consequentialist theories of justice: strict egalitarianism, maximin and utilitarianism. These theories can be represented in a continuum of theories that look at the quality of life (generalized well-being) of a set of individuals. Using the Rawlsian argument of the veil of ignorance and assuming a high but not maximum level of risk aversion, we arrive at a form of prioritarianism we will call quasi-maximin theory (QMM), which lies between maximin and utilitarianism. QMM-theory is also shown to unify both needs for equity and efficiency. We briefly overview the application of QMM-theory to different economical and political issues. QMM-prioritarianism is distinguished from absolute prioritarianism, which is shown to lie between an extreme form of sufficiantarianism and utilitarianism. We demonstrate that QMM is a better principle than absolute prioritarianism, that it can incorporate sufficiantarianism, and that it avoids problems of intransitivity in decision theory. Further problems of intergenerational justice and population ethics (e.g. the repugnant conclusion) will be dealt with in more detail.
The draft of the second article can be downloaded here: A quantitative model for a theory of justice, part II: The extended quasi-maximin principle and moral psychology
In this article, we will look for ethical principles or moral intuitions that can overrule the quasi-maximin theory (QMM) and cannot be derived from the Rawlsian original position. One intuition is the ethics of care and intersubjective empathy. To avoid inequality and discrimination in this ethics, we need a kind of “tolerated choice equality”. A second moral intuition is the deontological (Kantian) ethics of the basic right: the right not to be treated as merely means to an end. By looking at moral dilemmas, we demonstrate that this basic right often overrules the QMM-principle. We will present a mathematical equation that unifies this basic right principle with the QMM-principle. The advantages of this “extended QMM-theory” will be discussed. Finally, we postulate that the symmetry principle behind the QMM-formulation, the tolerated choice equality and the basic right equality are the three most important principles in a theory of equality.