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Translation of the Last Two Sections of the Afterword

Translation of the Last Two Sections of the Afterword

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Published by: Ionut Sterpan on Aug 22, 2012
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Translation of the last two sections of the afterword:[
]
The difficulty of a practical project of reforming “basic structure” 
 
Schmidtz reaches the normative conclusions outlined here starting from a day-to-day variety of contexts (4). The author is laying down the basis of a conception of justice according to which, inorder to give people their due, one should treat them as if one was a good neighbor to them (4, 6,177). The following sections explore the the nature of our practical difficulty in reforming basicstructure and the implications of that difficulty on the conception of justice as good vicinity. Ipropose a reformulation of that conception that makes explicit the role of organizational pluralism indefining the standards of good vicinity.We know that a full-fledged conception of justice must include a view on the relationship betweenthe individual and the state, not only between individuals. Now assume justice is a matter of goodvicinity. I am building a conception of justice starting from a way of life that I share with myneighbors. An implicit assumption in a debate started by Rawls, continued by Nozick and Schmidtzmust then be that a normative guide between individuals as neighbors should be sufficient todetermine the normative standard of the relationship between idividuals and the state. From this
perspective, the relationship between the individual and the state is not much more than individuals’
with one another through the state, where the state is seen as a mode of organization.What would be the practical relevance of a normative enterprise such as a choosing behind the veil,if we did not implicitly assume that, once convinced, we would also be actually able to reform therules that keep us together? What would be the practical point of saying, as Nozick does, thatindividuals have rights and no one, person or group may do certain things to them without violating
their rights (Nozick 1997, 35), if we didn’t believe that the audience, once convinced, could change
their mode of organization, in other words, could reform the state?
Schmidtz’s critique of Rawls and
the philosophical developments in Elements of Justice pay tribute to a philosophical project of articulating a collective agreement for defining and establishing a basic structure (220-6), as if basicstructure could be effectively reformed, if we so wished.It might be instructive to inquire into the obstructions that such a practical project would meet.Revealing these obstructions will reveal a problem with the simple formulation of justice as being agood neighbor. What are the reasonable expectations that we can have from ourselves in anendeavor to reform basic structure? Assume that all the readers of this book come to agree with itsarguments. What would be the effect? To what extent would we change the way we behave towardsone another?
Let’s look at the influence that organizations are exercising upon individuals, before estimating the
influence that individuals can consciously exert on the organizations they constitute. Politicalorganizations are a clear example. The behavior of large political machines is framing and channeling
individuals’actions and neighbors’
reciprocal treatment, and it regulates the amount of resourcesthat individuals are left with to offering treatment to one another in the way they wish. Firstly,aggregate organizations determine the set of individuals that I can have as neighbors. The regulatory
barriers to economic and cultural entrepreneurship with the „outside” are shaping who to whom can
be a neigh
bor. Discriminatory economic treatment of „foreign” capital and labor, the nationalizedcharacter of education, systematic subsidies of „national” language and culture are such barriers
.Second, the set of neighbors once established, the neighborhood relationships with the people whoare my neighbors are narrowed by a type of lawmaking that imposes exclusive standards for
economic interactions meant to exclude variation. The famous „frame
-
laws” establish ex
-ante what
 
and how can make the object of exchange: they do not emerge as generalizations of solutions toparticular conflicts occured in an initially open network of various dealings. The types of vicinityavailable are also tapered by barriers to voluntary associations that stifle the development of agovernment independent civil society. If we examine the law, we see that political organizationsauthorize a menu of associations and foundations under strict control over sponsorhiparrangements. Third, taxes and monetary policy limit capital accumulation and reduce the level of resources that can be manipulated to enter markets, build enterprises, develop associations, evenusing the allowed channels.Political organizations are just one example of organizations that shape relationships. Looking fromwher
e I stand, individuals’s actions are confined in a nested network of organizations (family,network of acquaintances, the company where they are employed, that company’s partners, the
party, the state) and in the institutions that balance the interests of these organizations, such thattheir daily actions do little more than reflect their roles in these organizations. Individuals
’ day
-to-dayactivities, those that reflect their most urgent individual interests, serve at the same time theinterests of the rest of the participants, as these interests are codified by the existing modes of 
organization. Their nested roles provide a strict framework to individuals’ movements. People have
free will; but they are caught in such a tight adaptive race, that they can hardly afford to stop fromwhat they are doing even if they wanted to. The functions people fulfill for others are codified in theroles that individuals play in the organizations they are part of. And because any individual effortdiverted towards reform represents a temporary deviation of the actor from their usual role, theirmove brings about a temporary shut off of their access to the resources associated with the presentmode of organization. Before the steps of the institutional reform get to be taken, differentindividuals speculate the opportunity and take over the position left vacant together with theimmediate associated advantages. In the meantime inddividuals who direct efforts toward reformare at an adaptive relative disadvantage.Here is another formulation of the situation from a holistic perspective: individuals
daily routines,those that reflect their most urgent interests, are explicable in terms of the interests of theorganizations comprising them, interests that are themselves explicable in terms of largerorganizations such as large parties or states. This methodological flip says that organizationsthemselves have interests and make players of a higher order. It is as if an actor aggregated anumber of individuals as lower order entities such that their daily activities were constitutiveprocesses of his being and behavior. In fact, in common judicial practice we do treat organizations asagents. We would not exagerate too much if we described many aspects of the relationship betweenstates and individuals in the same way we described the relationship of an individal organism withthe miriad cells of which it is composed.This perspective too allows the observation that any conscious effort directed at institutionalimprovement requires that individuals afford taking breaks from their usual activity. In themeantime, while they do not afford taking breaks, their actions are willy nilly contributing to presentorderings. The movements at higher levels of aggregation are thwarting the reformist intentions of lower order actors pretty much as biological systems in the body of a monkey would thwart a host of cells plans to reorganize in a human being. Even if sometimes individuals do afford taking breaks forreflection and for directing their activity towards institutional change, through the largest part of their activity they continue and maintain the very redistributive processes they would like to arrest.If we thus pay due attention to the influence from higher to lower levels of aggregation, we see how
difficult from a practical point of view would a reform of the „basic structure” actually be. It seems
that when they do take place, changes in the basic structure are not effected in contractarianmanner by discussions and constitutional processes initiated by individuals and lead incrementally bythem from the bottom up to the level of state. When they are bottom up, they either don
t meet
 
resistance from larger nests of rules (Ostrom 1990, 101), or they look like spontaneous socialconvulsions of short duration. Durable changes are maintained as an indirect effect of interactionsbetween large organizations, homologous to the state, that exert horizontal pressures, from acomparably high aggregation level. My hypothesis is that it is precisely when new higher order actorsenter the picture is the formation of an array of new organizations (firms, parties, churches,
associations) facilitated. As a consequence of these organizations’ interactions and, can then vicinity
relationships on the ground be reshaped. I believe that a check to cycles of activities that redistributefrom the dispersed and less organized to the more organized and concentrated groups may be betterserved through such indirect processes. The key to changing vicinity relationships would rest then in
the number of alternative organizations at individuals’ disposal, such that, at any given time, starting
from their initial positions in the system, individuals could jump sufficiently fast as not to stay toolong disconnected from the resources necessary in the day-to-day adaptive race.
The open character of vicinity as precondition of a standard of good vicinity 
This short outing to political economy and evolutionary thought showed that vicinity itself, with theattributes it happens to have, is already shaped by a larger organizational and institutional dynamics.We did that exercise to prepare the solving of a problem of political philosophy. We have seenearlier, that an encompassing conception of justice must offer a standard of evaluation for allactivities, including activities performed by the state. Roughly, a conception of justice as good vicinityapplied to an organization would be of the form: a particular activity performed by an organization isnot unjust if it does not constrain my activity into applying such treatments to my neighbors that Iwould not apply were I to be a good neighbor. This conception takes as starting point a substantiveidea of good vicinity, with the use of which, I could evaluate the state. The problem here is that thesubstantive standard of good vicinity individuals have at hand is already shaped by and imbued withthe object of evaluation.In order to build an independent standard of evaluation, individuals need more terms of comparisonto give them more vantage points. They need cognitive access to different modes of organization.They need to be able to raise the number of their neighbors and experiment with various kinds of vicinity. Cognitive access depends on experimental access to other organziations because theselection of successful organizations is too complicated a process to be evaluated before actuallyseeing them at work. This is why we cannot call an institution or organziation just if it does not allowexperimental access to alternatives. No aggregating organization gets to the point of qualifying forevaluation unless it allows open access to different sets of neighbors and open sets of vicinity. Theopen character of vicinity is a necessary condition for formulating a non-arbitrary substantive idea of good vicinity.This philosophical observation has a normative implication in favor of organizational pluralism. Aconception of justice as vicinity cannot simply start from our present standard of acceptable vicinity.For the purpose of avoiding circular evaluation or an arbitrarily narrow standard of good vicinity, aconception of justice as good vicinity must rest on a condition of organizational pluralism.I have shown in the largest part of the afterword, that the conceptual discoveries in Elements of Justice mark a philosophical progress and neutralize an important core of social-liberal philosophy.The last two sections showed something more: that the stance Schmidtz provisionally adopted fromRawls, the stance according to which the basic structure is viewed as practically reformable by theconscious efforts of individuals on the ground, is also in need of critical examination. In the previoussection I have sketched the reasonable expectations regarding a project of reforming basic structurein the way this book recommends. If the image on the practicability of reforming basic structure isadequate, then, moving away from redistributive organizational cycles to more productive

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