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By David Conway (auth.)

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Extra info for Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal

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The 22 Classical Liberalism stranger's failure to help the baby, I maintain, cannot be thought of as a case of worsening that baby's life as opposed simply to refraining from benefiting it. The case where the life of a baby depends upon the assistance of a perfect stranger, however, is highly exceptional. I have begun by focusing on this extreme and highly atypical case to contrast it with another. This is where a mother survives the birth of her baby. Would its natural mother (and father) be worsening its life, if she (and he) failed to look after it in circumstances in which it depends for its survival on her (or his) care?

Their grounds, claims Nagel, are that its basic structure demands of them too great a sacrifice of their interests by comparison with a feasible alternative. There is, he says, a feasible alternative which would not require of anyone such large sacrifices of interest. This alternative is provided by a form of order in which there is equality of resources, apart from differences created by individual effort. To institute such a form of order would involve a transfer of resources from the well-off in capitalism to the badly-off in capitalism.

He writes, 'since membership in our society is given, ... we cannot know what we would have been like had we not belonged to it (perhaps the thought lacks sense) .... ' 15 Because we are creatures whose identity and nature is so much a social artefact, argues Rawls, we can form no determinate notion of what we might or would have been able to obtain for ourselves outside of society, since we would not have existed outside society. Thus, Rawls responds, 'no sense can be made of the notion of that part of an individual's social benefits that exceed what would have been their situation in ...

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