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By Matthew Clayton, Andrew Williams

One of many primary debates inside of modern Anglo-American political philosophy matters easy methods to formulate an egalitarian idea of distributive justice which provides coherent expression to egalitarian convictions and withstands the main robust anti-egalitarian objections. This publication brings jointly a few of the key contributions to that discuss through a number of the world's prime political philosophers.

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It would not be very plausible, for example, to claim that all of our actions have this function (or must be thought of as part of a 'procedure' with this aim). It does not seem that in general we are under even a 'prima facie' duty to promote the equal welfare of all. A more plausible claim would be that the state, or in Rawls's phrase 'the basic institutions of society' should be understood in this way, that is, as an institution whose function it is to respond to the (equal) claims to welfare of all of its subjects (equal, that is, apart from differences arising from individual choice).

It is only because the contract condition governs the parties' reflections from the outset that their willingness to acknowledge the same principles can give rise to the illusion that this condition is redundant. In general, the class of things that can be agreed to is included within, and is smaller than, the class of things that can be rationally chosen. We can decide to take a chance and at the same time fully intend that, should things turn out badly, we shall do what we can to retrieve our situation.

Alexander and R. A. Musgrave for their papers, and the editors of this Journal for the opportunity to reply. I am indebted to Robert Cooter for advice and comments that enabled me to make many improvements; and to Ariel Pakes for discussion about the argument in section [V in this volume], where I have adopted several of his suggestions for clarifying its assumptions; and to Burton Dreben for a number of revisions, particularly in section I. 21 22 John Rawls are, I believe, rather few such conceptions; and these are sharply distinct so that the choice between them is a choice between disparate things: one cannot continuously vary their basic features so as to pass gradually from one to another.

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