In society, people are concerned with the issue of justice. Justice is seen as the foundation on which people can live in harmony with others. Human rights activists are usually up in arms where they feel that personal liberties are being infringed on. There are scholars who have debated on the concept of justice and given their arguments in support of their theories.
The Theory of Justice
The theory of justice is based on three principles of utilitarianism, fairness and Libertarianism. The principle of utilitarianism states that justice is attained where the laws and the institutions in the region are structured in such a way that the happiness of the people is secured. People should be able to flourish and the social organization and conditions enable the people achieve what is good for them. There are certain needs that people should have such as basic needs without which a person’s physical and mental health would be adversely affected. Utilitarianism is therefore concerned with provision of basic needs, education, and employment, the current distribution of wealth and opportunities in the society and per capita income of the population.
There are also other concerns such as poverty rates, social mobility and the amount of leisure that individuals can have in the society. Therefore according to this concept, an individual should be able to determine his goals and end and the opportunity and means to achieve his goals. This is interpreted as justice prevailing in the society. The attainment of justice is therefore achieved by a competitive free market which is capitalistic in nature, public education available for the masses funded by the government and a democratic government. In the laws of the country there should also be clauses that protect the rights of the individuals like the Bill of Rights in the US.
Concept of Fairness
Rawls put forward the theory of justice as fairness. He speaks of a hypothetical society where the people are aware of their own motivation however, they have no specific self-interest. They are not concerned with their own social or economic position, gender, skills and experience or their goals in life. They are therefore not rational. These people are said to be operating under the veil of ignorance. That is why the situation can be described to be a hypothetical situation. In this status, the people are to evaluate how the society’s institutions should be governed.
In evaluating the alternatives, an individual should choose the governance principles with the least bad outcomes. This rule is known as the Maximin rule of choice (Rawls, 13). This hypothetical state in which the people are not pursuing their own self-interest is known as OP, which is the original position. These people would end up coming up with principles that are fair therefore displaying justice. The two principles by which these people these people will operate with are the equal liberty principle and the difference principle.
The equal liberty principle states that each person is entitled to the maximum civil liberties which are also available to everyone else. The difference principle states that inequalities in the society are actually allowed. They are allowed where these inequalities will be to the advantage of everyone in the society and if these inequalities favour the least in the society. The positions where there are inequalities are allowed as long as everyone in society has the opportunity to be in these positions.
Since the people are operating under the veil of ignorance, they do not know whether when the veil is finally lifted they will be in the positions of the favoured or the least in the society. The knowledge that they have to choose the principles by which the institutions of the region will be governed is therefore taken very seriously (Robinson, 2009). They choose the alternatives well using the Maximin rule. According to Rawls, justice can only be attained by the people who are in the hypothetical situation known as the original position. Since they are not aware of their self-interests, they will choose principles that will work for the favoured and the least in the society. In essence, a person will end up looking out for everyone else in the society and through this mind set true justice will be attained.
Rawls argues that there are those liberties which all individuals would want or require they be in the laws of the country. These liberties are the freedom of speech, freedom, worship and assembly. People would also want to be protected from physically or psychologically attacked by any other member in the society. The people in the OP would therefore choose to have to have everyone have access to the full measure of these civil liberties. In this theory of justice how does the concept of inequality fit in? It would be expected that the people in the OP would not want any situations to arise where there are inequalities. However, Rawls argues that inequalities would be chosen by people in the OP if they favoured the least. Secondly, where these inequalities are better than absolute equality
then inequalities will be preferred. Thirdly, everyone has the same opportunity to take advantage of these positions. What the people in the OP would not agree to is the inequality in opportunity to attain such positions.
Justice in the Constitution of the United States
Justice in the United States Constitution is expressed in the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the constitution. The Bill of Rights refers to the ten amendments to the constitution that reveal the civil rights that an individual is entitled to have. The first amendment gives the people the right to assembly, speech and press. The people are therefore able to demonstrate on any issue which they have a grievance on. The press is allowed to express itself and the public are not restricted in what they speak. The second amendment allowed the people the freedom to keep arms. Another amendment that demonstrates justice is the fourth amendment which protects the people from unwarranted seizure and search of their property or materials. This checks the power that the law enforcement officers have.
The Fifth Amendment concerns how the law enforcement officers treat the people. They are not allowed to arrest a person and detain them without presenting a charge to court. A person is also protected from self-incrimination and double jeopardy. The people who have been arrested are entitled to a trial that is timely and before an impartial judge. The court is also not allowed to charge the accused excessive bail as this would be highly unfair. A person is also protected from cruel punishment. There is also the Civil Rights Act that states that no person shall be discriminated against when it comes to employment or voting due to their
gender, race or ethnicity. The law has also abolished slavery. The constitution of the United States therefore ensures that justice prevails in the country.
The recurring theme in the concept of justice is the people having a right to their civil liberties without limitation. The people should also be able to have access to education, employment, sufficient income, property and social mobility. The laws of the country should ensure the people benefit and live good lives.
Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Robinson, Robert. A Defence of the Maximin In Rawls Theory of Justice. Journal of
Humanity and Social Sciences, 4.2 (2009) :172-175