EM-P: Operationalizing John Rawls' Seminal Concept, "Justice as Fairness"

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John Rawls (1921 to 2002) was an American political philosopher in the liberal tradition. He is widely considered to be the most important political philosopher of the 20th century and the Father of modern political thought. He revived the tradition of the social contract in his writings. His major works are: A Theory of Justice; Political Liberalism; The Law of the Peoples; and Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. His Justice as Fairness “…envisions a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights cooperating within an egalitarian economic system…” governed by just and fair policies and institutions. Rawls' four major works were used to develop EM-P.

Justice, as Fairness has influenced the following intellectual disciplines for decades. Political Science, Philosophy, Economics, Sociology, History, Law, Theology, Business, Management, etc. Despite the powerful influence of Rawls’s work on these disciplines, critics of his work maintain that it exists solely in ideal theory. Critiques further maintain that there is no way to operationalize Justice as Fairness in the real world because it is a construct rooted in “ideal theory.” This is where Equity Management-Plato and the book, Ensuring Justice, Fairness, and Inclusion in America: Managing Equity in the 21st Century, comes into play. The Equity Management-Plato Logic Model, the Plato Software Project, and the Equity Management-Plato Business Model taken together solve the problem of operationalizing Rawls’ Justice as Fairness.

Moreover, this brings us to one of the major problems that many critics level at Rawls, the assertion that he always focuses on “ideal theory.” Ideal theory is the process of achieving justice and fairness when conditions are “ideal,” and he does not discuss to any great extent “nonideal theory,” which involves considering the proper response to injustice. The Seven Pillars website distinguishes between Rawls’ ideal theory and non-ideal theory in the following manner:

Ideal theory “assumes strict compliance and works out the principles that characterize a well-ordered society under favorable circumstances.” Non-ideal theory, on the other hand, “is worked out after an ideal conception of justice has been chosen," and addresses what the parties are to do when conditions are not as perfect as they are assumed to be in ideal theory.

Rawls’ ideal theory attempts to define how different peoples, who are just, or at least decent, “should” behave regarding one another. He refers to this ideal condition as a "realistic utopia."

[two] ideas motivate the Law of Peoples. The first is that the great evils of human history-unjust war, oppression, religious persecution, slavery, and the net result from political injustice with its cruelty and callousness. The second is that once political injustice has been eliminated by following just (or at least decent) social policies and establishing just (or at least decent) basic institutions, these great evils will eventually disappear. I call a world in which these great evils have been eliminated and just (or at least decent) basic institutions established by liberal and decent peoples who honor the Law of Peoples a “realistic utopia.

Rawls maintains that such a society is realistic because it could and may exist; utopian because it "joins reasonableness and justice with conditions enabling citizens to realize their fundamental interests."

The next step in the process is to set about designing Equity Management-Plato using the philosophies and principles derived from Rawls’ four major works: A Theory of Justice, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Political Liberalism and The Law of the Peoples: with the Idea of Public Reason Revisited. The central tenant of Rawls’ Theory of Justice is his concept of “Justice as Fairness,” which Rawls sees as being a theory of justice for a liberal society wherein citizens are “free” and “equal” and society is “just,” “fair,” and “inclusive.” Rawls maintains that Justice, as Fairness is the most egalitarian, and it is also the most plausible interpretation of liberalism's fundamental concepts. Rawls sees his concept of Justice as Fairness as the only framework for the legitimate use of political power. For Rawls, legitimacy is only the minimal standard of political acceptability. A political order can be just, run in keeping with the law, and still not be fair. Laws must also be fair for the state to be legitimate and stable. In his theory of Justice as Fairness, Rawls has outlined a panoply of “tests” to which any society that aspires to be just, fair, and inclusive, should subject itself and all policies, programs, and “basic societal structures. Mostly, Rawls does not put these tests in any order or give any indication as to how to perform them. The objective of this book is to solve the problems above.

Despite eschewing non-ideal theory, Rawls was aware of the importance of the issues within the non-ideal theory. Rawls believed that the pursuit of non-ideal theory should follow the development of ideal theory. Rawls believed that ideal theory was more salient than non-idea theory. Hence, Rawls devotes a little time discussing the application of the principles of Justice as Fairness within the realm of non-ideal theory. This book introduces and explains in detail a policy, management model, and a set of tools designed to create justice, fairness, and inclusion, that falls in the realm of “nonideal theory.” This schema is called “Equity Management-Plato.” Equity Management is the just, fair, and inclusive public policy portion of the schema, and Plato is the just, fair, and inclusive basic societal structure or software that embodies Equity Management and that drives it. Situating Equity Management-Plato in the realm of non-ideal theory is appropriate because few could make the case that conditions in America or anywhere else in the world are ideal.

Equity Management-Plato seeks to provide mechanisms, structures, institutions, and tools for ensuring justice, fairness, and inclusion in America and other countries in the world requires combining numerous theories, philosophies, models, principles, and so forth. This first set of principles, which are combined to form the core of Equity Management-Plato, are the four major principles of justice: (1) Distributive Justice, made up of the sub-principles: “Equality” “Need” and “Equity”; (2) Retributive Justice; (3) Restorative Justice; and (Procedural Justice). These individual principles are coupled with the logic of the public policy life cycle, which is made up of the following: (1) problem identification, (2) solution development; (3) solution implementation; (4) assessment; (5) policy change to create the Equity Management Policy Cycle. The “cyclical” nature of the Equity Management Policy Cycle is important because not all policy problems are linear or time-bound. Implementing a policy solution may mitigate the problem for the time the solution is in place only to have it resurface if the policy is policy, the solution is turned off. Well-designed public policies should be their ameliorative aspects capable of being turned on and off as the policy increases or diminishes in intensity in the manner of a “light switch.” Equity Management-Plato Policy Cycle functions in this manner as it alternates between the different sub-components of Distributive Justice.

Next, upon the basic policy framework mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, which included the principle of policy management and the policy management life cycle, are added the principles of Rawls’ Justice as Fairness. I believe I am the first to attempt a comprehensive operationalization of Rawls’ Justice as Fairness. Equity Management-Plato includes all of the major components of Rawls’ Justice as Fairness: (1) Original Position, (2) Veil of Ignorance, (3) Overlapping Consensus, (4) Reasonable Citizens, (5) Reflective Equilibrium, (6) First Principle of Justice, (7) Second Principle of Justice, (7a) Equal Opportunity Principle, (7b) Difference Principle, and (8) Basic Societal Structures and Institutions.

Chapter 3 through Chapter 7 of the book, Ensuring Justice, Fairness, and Inclusion in America shows how Rawls' Justice as Fairness can be operationalized. The following table (excerpted from the book) identifies the three stages involved in operationalizing Justice as Fairness and how the stages relate to one another.

The Three Stages in Operationalizing Rawls' Justice as Fairness

The following schematic sows the logic model developed out of the principles of Justice as Fairness. The model is explained in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the book, Ensuring Justice, Fairness, and Inclusion in America.

The Justice as Fairness logic model is transformed into the EM-P management model. These changes are explained in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the book, Ensuring Justice, Fairness, and Inclusion in America.

To these Rawlsian principles, the logic model, and the management models, were added the most stringent standard of judicial review in American jurisprudence, “strict scrutiny,” which was amended to allow for cyclical movement between “Race-Neutral” (Equality) and “Race-Conscious” (Equity) as necessitated by changes in the policy environment. The cyclical movement is made possible by adapting the standard policy life cycle to the preceding concepts and principles. Strict scrutiny is now the accepted standard of review for all policies involving race. The following table shows the progression in jurisprudence to get to this current state of affairs.

The Progression of Judicial Review to Strict Scrutiny as The Accepted Standard

Combining strict scrutiny’s evaluative requirements with Rawls’ Second Principle of Justice formed the basis of a revolutionary analytical engine, giving Equity Management-Plato the ability to perform the same policy assessment/evaluation as found in the policy evaluation vehicle called a “disparity study” on a continuous real-time basis. A battery of rulings handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), from Bakke v. The University of California to Fischer v. The University of Texas will circumscribe any solution to the affirmative action problem by mandating the use of “strict scrutiny” when “race” is involved in making public policy. Equity Management is based on these current legal and constitutional challenges to the current justice, fairness, and inclusion paradigm, affirmative action.

The Plato Software System is the component of this solution that represents Rawls’ just “basic societal structures.” It is a paradigm shift from contemporary methods to comply with strict scrutiny because it will make real-time findings of discrimination under strict scrutiny and support, making just, fair, and inclusive public policy. The rationale for the Equity Management-Plato project is that by implementing derivations of the project in the federal government, the 200,000 public-sector agencies, all the K-12 school districts, colleges, universities, and professional schools, many of the problems centered around justice, fairness, and inclusion will be solved. Chapter 5 through Chapter 7 contain the development, and implementation of the Plato Management Information System.

Schematic of The Plato Management Information System

In the Equity Management-Plato project, we are proposing to help solve a myriad of social, economic, and political problems that America now faces and help create a new social contract. Policy and program implementation on this scale will require a team of national experts and specialists to work toward getting Equity Management-Plato developed and implemented. The implementation effort will require America’s leadership to develop the political will to pursue the inevitable. It will also require strategic partnerships with key policymakers and stakeholders that can provide advocacy and other support for this important public policy initiative. Equity Management-Plato will require the support of the American people.

Solving the problems that Equity Management-Plato was designed to solve is no mean feat. The issues are myriad and complicated, but with the coordinated, concentrated, and committed effort, we can achieve our goal, E Pluribus Unum.

This Schematic shows Ethnic Unity in Front of The American Flag

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