Essay on Government, Justice, and Human Rights

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ABSTRACT: This paper explores the relationship between justice and government, examining views on the subject expressed by traditional political philosophers such as Rousseau and Locke, as well as those expressed by contemporary political theorists such as John Rawls and Robert Nozick. According to Rawls, justice is one of the fundamental concerns of a governing body; Locke and Rousseau agree that government and justice are essentially connected. Nozick and Max Weber, however, claim that the essential characteristic of government is not justice, but power. This paper argues that government, as an institution formed and controlled by human beings, is subject to the moral injunction to treat human beings as entities accorded certain…show more content…
4). The "well-ordered" society, as described by Rawls, has two characteristics: (1) it furthers the interests of its members and (2) it is organized according to a "public conception of justice" (1971, p. 5). When citizens have a public conception of justice "they understand the need for, and they are prepared to affirm, a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining what they take to be the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation" (1971, p. 5). In this optimal society the principles would generally be the same throughout the society and would be enforced by the State. Clearly, this would represent government at its best: everybody agreeing on the governing principles and the State instituting just those principles. In the opening to his book Rawls sketches, then, an outline of a well-ordered society with three components: (1) it advances the interests of its members, (2) it is governed by a public conception of justice which is (3) itself compliant with a concept of justice which incorporates measures of equality and impartiality. Two of the three components of Rawls' societal exemplar involve justice. Justice, according to him, should be a primary concern of a governing body. He goes on to develop and defend the concept of justice as fairness and to present its
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