In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 489 question of principles of justification distinct but related to that issue, is essential to further discussion. Stout's treatment of these issues is incisive and is a genuine aid to the task of sorting out the several distinct but related issues involved in the controversy over the foundations of knowledge. Despite my disagreement with most of the substantive conclusions drawn, I am grateful to the author for many challenging and informative discussions. I recommend the work to anyone interested in the central problem of the foundations of knowledge, whether theoretical or ethical. Center for Thomistic Studies University of St. Thomas Houston, Temas PATRICK LEE The Economics of Justice. By RICHARD A. POSNER. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981. Pp. 415. $25.00. This is a collection of previously published essays. The author frequently admits that the reader might judge that there is no evident and compelling unifying thread in this compilation. The book is divided into four sections. The first presents Posner's suggestion that the ethic of wealthmaximization is preferable to both utilitarianism and a Kantian ethic. In the second group of essays he argues that the social and legal arrangements of primitive societies can be understood as insurance of wealthmaximization . In the third section he interprets both the concept of privacy and American laws regarding privacy. Finally, he applies his economic ethic to questions of discrimination and affirmative action. Posner offers an intriguing interpretation of the development of privacy practices and laws; he focuses on information costs. Primitive cultures ·were intimate, information about others was readily available, privacy was minimal. Language was more proper, more careful, to avoid offending the many others who might be listening. Posner would say that this care in communication was an increased "cost" accompanying a situation of relatively free information. More recently human beings are able to have protected space, making information less available. Privacy laws are interpreted as ways of protecting individuals from informationsearches launched by others. Posner tends to think that people want privacy for bad reasons, as a protective device so that they can deceive or dissemble. Privacy is not seen primarily as a necessary protection of human dignity, a good to be encouraged and widened. Indeed, Posner may well be nght in describing the yearning for .privacy as reflective of 490 BOOK REVIEWS human evil. From the very beginning of the Bible, the J udaeo-Christiart tradition has described the natural, good human condition as one of openness ; only because of sin did Adam turn to clothing as protective of privacy. The category of " information costs" is Posner's device for tying together the discussions of privacy and discrimination. He suggests that a possible economic argument for discrimination is that it is too costly to gather detailed information about every individual job applicant (or potential home purchaser, or medical school applicant, etc.). If negative personal qualities correlate with some easily-identifiable characteristic (e.g., race, sex), then it is cost-efficient to discriminate against those members of the identifiable class. It is not then a matter of immoral prejudice but rather an economic question of information costs. Posner does argue that the negative economic effect on objects of discrimination (as a group) can be so significant as to make discrimination unjust. This is an example of his application of the ethic of wealth-maximization; discrimination can so disadvantage a minority group as to offset the gains (in terms of information costs) realized by the majority. Posner is speaking, then, about a social ethic, about social justice in the sense recently popularized by John Rawls. He is explicitly not speaking of a personal ethic or a private ethic. Indeed, upon reflection the reader realizes that we have here an atypical use of " ethic." Posner is dealing with social structures, with the organization of society. He presumes that humans are " rational maximizers of their satisfactions " (p. 1) and proceeds to discuss how a legal system might build upon such a human nature to yield "just" structures. (In particular, as we have already noted, he tests his ideas in the instances of privacy and discrimination .) It is instructive to compare recent Roman Catholic social teaching with what Posner (and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 489-493
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.