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, in order 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 basic structure and the implications of that difficulty on the conception of justice as good vicinity. I propose a reformulation of that conception that makes explicit the role of organizational pluralism in defining the standards of good vicinity. We know that a full-fledged conception of justice must include a view on the relationship between the individual and the state, not only between individuals. Now assume justice is a matter of good vicinity. I am building a conception of justice starting from a way of life that I share with my neighbors. An implicit assumption in a debate started by Rawls, continued by Nozick and Schmidtz must then be that a normative guide between individuals as neighbors should be sufficient to determine 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 the rules that keep us together? What would be the practical point of saying, as Nozick does, that individuals 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 basic structure 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 a good neighbor. What are the reasonable expectations that we can have from ourselves in an endeavor to reform basic structure? Assume that all the readers of this book come to agree with its arguments. What would be the effect? To what extent would we change the way we behave towards one 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. Political organizations 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 resources that 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 neighbor. Discriminatory economic treatment of „foreign” capital and labor, the nationalized character 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 who are 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 to particular conflicts occured in an initially open network of various dealings. The types of vicinity available are also tapered by barriers to voluntary associations that stifle the development of a government independent civil society. If we examine the law, we see that political organizations authorize a menu of associations and foundations under strict control over sponsorhip arrangements. 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, even using the allowed channels. Political organizations are just one example of organizations that shape relationships. Looking from where 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 that their daily actions do little more than reflect their roles in these organizations. Individuals’ day-to-day activities, those that reflect their most urgent individual interests, serve at the same time the interests 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 from what they are doing even if they wanted to. The functions people fulfill for others are codified in the roles that individuals play in the organizations they are part of. And because any individual effort diverted towards reform represents a temporary deviation of the actor from their usual role, their move brings about a temporary shut off of their access to the resources associated with the present mode of organization. Before the steps of the institutional reform get to be taken, different individuals speculate the opportunity and take over the position left vacant together with the immediate associated advantages. In the meantime inddividuals who direct efforts toward reform are 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 the organizations comprising them, interests that are themselves explicable in terms of larger organizations such as large parties or states. This methodological flip says that organizations themselves have interests and make players of a higher order. It is as if an actor aggregated a number of individuals as lower order entities such that their daily activities were constitutive processes of his being and behavior. In fact, in common judicial practice we do treat organizations as agents. We would not exagerate too much if we described many aspects of the relationship between states and individuals in the same way we described the relationship of an individal organism with the miriad cells of which it is composed. This perspective too allows the observation that any conscious effort directed at institutional improvement requires that individuals afford taking breaks from their usual activity. In the meantime, while they do not afford taking breaks, their actions are willy nilly contributing to present orderings. 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 for reflection 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 contractarian manner by discussions and constitutional processes initiated by individuals and lead incrementally by them 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 social convulsions of short duration. Durable changes are maintained as an indirect effect of interactions between large organizations, homologous to the state, that exert horizontal pressures, from a comparably high aggregation level. My hypothesis is that it is precisely when new higher order actors enter 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 redistribute from the dispersed and less organized to the more organized and concentrated groups may be better served 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 too long 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 the attributes 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 seen earlier, that an encompassing conception of justice must offer a standard of evaluation for all activities, including activities performed by the state. Roughly, a conception of justice as good vicinity applied to an organization would be of the form: a particular activity performed by an organization is not unjust if it does not constrain my activity into applying such treatments to my neighbors that I would not apply were I to be a good neighbor. This conception takes as starting point a substantive idea of good vicinity, with the use of which, I could evaluate the state. The problem here is that the substantive standard of good vicinity individuals have at hand is already shaped by and imbued with the object of evaluation. In order to build an independent standard of evaluation, individuals need more terms of comparison to 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 the selection of successful organizations is too complicated a process to be evaluated before actually seeing them at work. This is why we cannot call an institution or organziation just if it does not allow experimental access to alternatives. No aggregating organization gets to the point of qualifying for evaluation unless it allows open access to different sets of neighbors and open sets of vicinity. The open 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. A conception 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, a conception 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 from Rawls, the stance according to which the basic structure is viewed as practically reformable by the conscious efforts of individuals on the ground, is also in need of critical examination. In the previous section I have sketched the reasonable expectations regarding a project of reforming basic structure in the way this book recommends. If the image on the practicability of reforming basic structure is adequate, then, moving away from redistributive organizational cycles to more productive

organizational cycles could take place only through indirect means, whose operation is only in part under individuals’ control, namely organizational pluralism. Also, if the argument from the independent standard is correct, then the conception of justice as good vicinity proposed by Schmidtz must rest on a condition of openness to new forms of vicinity. I am indebted to David Schmidtz for the training in moral and political philosophy, and for the enthusiasm occasioned by his arguments. Elements of justice has not been an easy read, but, as Tudor Glodeanu likes to say, there are no shortcuts. I am indebted to Tudor for a translation enterprise that without him might not have begun and for helping me clarify some of the key ideas formulated in the afterword. I wish everyone had a working partner like him and I wish I too could be in that position for others. I thank Carmen Pavel for the satisfaction of discussions of minuteness around the concepts in this book. I do not often have the opportunity for such conversations. I thank the Center for Institutional Analysis and Development and to Dragoș Paul Aligică for the spare time I spent with Schmidtz’s writings and for the chance to share them with others. Ionut Sterpan, Bucharest, June 2012

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