The first principle of societies

Status: Draft
Confidence: Likely

To make it clear where I’m coming from, my first principle of how societies should be organized:

If we randomly permute people in society, we should minimize how unavoidably worse off people can be.

This is also the basis of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice: if you are to decide the rules of society, you must do so from behind a veil of ignorance of what position you would occupy or what you would consider a good life.

If you were to be randomly permuted with someone and go from being a cis-gendered, heterosexual, neurotypical, Caucasian male to being a transgendered, homosexual, neurodivergent, dark skinned female, that should have as little implication for your prospects and happiness as possible.

If the permutation leaves you suffering with multiple sclerosis or other debilitating disease that we cannot fully treat, then you will be worse off, but as a society we have no way right now to avoid that. As our knowledge grows hopefully it would be come avoidable.

If you are permuted from massive wealth to little wealth, that should have as little implication for your happiness as possible. That means a safety net so someone without massive resources isn’t more at the mercy of chance problems than someone with major wealth. That means the children of someone who isn’t massively wealthy having the same access to education and opportunities as the children of the wealthy.

Some might say that this shift in wealth intrinsically means you’re worse off. It doesn’t particularly. Wealth ceases to add much to happiness or quality of life fairly early, and in a society with strong public spaces and institutions that point comes even earlier.

It also means you should not lose say in your society from permutation, whether permutation of where you live or who you are.

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