Theories of Rawls, Locke, and Hospers

Summary of Rawls Work

John Rawls writing revolves around the issue of social contracts in the context of equality, justice, and morality. Social contracts prompt for individuals to give either a mere implicit consent or a hypothetical agreement to constitute a contract. John Locke supports Rawls ideology using an example of a contractual relationship between the citizens and the government, suggesting that the citizens have an obligation to obey and abide by the government laws by simply a tacit consent (Sandel 141).


Accordingly, the bone of contention rises to question whether individuals are bound to fully adhere to a hypothetical agreement with a similar moral degree as they would adhere to a real one. Rawls attempts to respond to the question with the aid of his theory of justice. The theory of justice insists on attaining the aspect of equality while individuals are choosing principles that will govern their collective. Rawls says that the process of agreeing to a fair principle that will serve each individual equally will pose a problem (Sandel 142). As much as the process will try to settle on a compromise, still there will be an aspect of inequality, as the principle will favor the superior bargaining power more than others. Rawls believes that people can only design principles that grant equality if they operate under the veil of ignorance.

On the subject of moral limits, Rawls believes that morality cannot guarantee fairness in a social contract. In other words, actual contracts are autonomous moral instruments that as a contractual agreement can contain a formal consent but still prevailing unfairness. The same argument also challenges the efficiency of the Constitution. Rawls argues that the Constitutions provision cannot be merely derived from the fact that people endorse it (Sandel 142).

As much as consent is a vital element of a contract, Rawls says that sometimes constituting of a contract is not the same as creating a binding moral claim. This explains why an individual can exploit another party in spite the existence of mutual consent. However, a contract can materialize without consent in cases where there was an obligation. Additionally, a perfect contract can only occur between people with equal bargaining power, as it will leave no room for coercion or unfair advantages. Rawls settles for an option of selecting two principles that can achieve justice, these are the principle of utilitarianism and equal basic liberties. However, the utilitarianism can only work best on the basis of the veil of ignorance (Sandel 151).

Summary of John Hospers Libertarian manifesto

Hospers addresses the libertarian thesis, which states that every individual owns and controls their own life. Hospers defines ownership of life as the ability of a person to possess a right to life, liberty, and property. Thereby, the libertarian considers an action that interferes with an individual against themselves as illegitimate. In other words, the theory of Libertarian manifesto simply states that an individual has the mandate to act according to their wishes unless these acts infringe the choices of other people in the society (Hospers 23).

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Hospers interprets the libertarian thesis in several ways. First, it states that no one can be the master of another person as well as no one ought to become a slave of another person. It implies that the existing difference between people in terms of power, skin color, social class, and gender should not allow slavery or undermining f being of another person. Second, an individual cannot dispose of other peoples lives. In other words, an individual is not supposed to enjoy or benefit from the actions of others or force another person to things they are not willing to do. Third, no one should affect a non-voluntary burden on the life of the other. Hence, one cannot rip from where they did not sow. This guides people not to claim the efforts made by other individuals as their own as fair (Hospers 24).

Moreover, Hospers perceives the government as a major organ that tends to interfere with the peoples will. The government policies and regulations affect individual rights to property, liberty, and life (Hospers 27). However, the Libertarian insight inclines to concur with the government only when they set legislation that is in harmony with the theory of Libertarian manifesto. For instance, if the legislation regarding the right to life protects the citizens against any dangerous forces, this will be congruent with the Libertarians thesis (Hospers 27).

Reaction to Rawls Work

Social contracts have to be equal and just for all of the affected partners. Contractual relationships between the government and the citizens ought to be forceful. As much as consent cannot be enough to constitute a contract, a mere tacit consent bounds an individual to obey the laws. In this case, citizens become automatically obliged to the government the moment they enjoy the government facilities like highways. Therefore, the government expects its citizens to abide by the Constitution. However, there is a need to evaluate the level of equality and just expressed in the Constitution for all the types of citizens. According to Rawls, the Constitution provides principles that govern the citizens collectively. However, in economic or political setup, there is difficulty in formulating principles that manifest equality. It becomes complicated to attain parity as individuals with superior bargaining power force the principles to satisfy their personal interest.

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Many people consider consent as an important tool that can provide justice in a social contract. However, relying on Rawls arguments, there might be a mutual consent between partners in a contract and still an element of injustice. Therefore, any form of consent cannot guarantee equality.

As a solution to address this issue, Rawls and Locke believe an absolute social contract can only be attained assuming people act under the veil of ignorance, which means that the society should not pay attention to differences in terms of religion, race, social class, and gender. In this respect, it becomes easier to apply the utilitarian principles as well as the principle of equal basic liberties, since people perceive each other with equal superiority. However, this is unrealistic in the real life since the society is already divided based on religion, race, and class.

Reaction to John Hospers Libertarian manifesto

The theory of Libertarian manifesto insists on respecting peoples rights to liberty, life, and property. Hospers believes that every human being is equal and no one has a right to control others. Additionally, in a religious context, God also created the human being according to His image and likeness. This denotes that no one can be a master over others as it automatically implies that another person will become a slave. Respect to peoples wills and wishes goes to an extent of respecting their properties and resources. An individual does not have an obligation to undertake an action in which they are not willing to participate, whereas it is also unacceptable to coerce someone to take part in an activity that contradicts with their behavior, beliefs, and consent. It is unessential whether the activity will be of their benefit or not.

The government intervention tends to affect the hypothetical laissez-faire within the society. In the absence of the government, individual rights cannot be disturbed. The legislation set by the government can be either against or in favor of Libertarian manifesto depending on how one applies it. For instance, a legislation can protect an individuals right to life by terminating another humans life. The controversies in such a scenario contradict with the libertarian belief about the right to life.

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