Front Page Titles (by Subject) Balancing Needs and Abilities - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1
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Balancing Needs and Abilities - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Balancing Needs and Abilities
“Distributive Justice.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 22 (1977): 55–80.
John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971) argues that people choosing a fair and just social contract in an “original position” behind a “veil of ignorance” would follow a “maximin” strategy (i.e., “always choose that state of affairs in which the lowest class will have the best of a bad situation) rather than a maximum utility strategy (i.e., “always choose that state of affairs which has the highest average utility”). Contrary to Rawls, however, a just society and a just distribution requires transcending both strategies and calls for principles that (1) define the fair minimum economic and social position of everyone which lies intermediate between these two strategies; and (2) “allow private appropriation and voluntary exchange to govern the distribution of social goods once the minimum has been guaranteed.”
Sterba agrees with Rawls that deliberators of a social contract in the “original position” would reject the maximum utility strategy since it would not guarantee an acceptable minimum standard of living to everyone. But Sterba contends that this rejection does not entail accepting Rawls's maximin strategy. The original deliberators would also reject maximin (and its “difference principle”) as a distributive strategy because it would provide a minimum social standard that they consider too high. A certain group of individuals, anticipating the added burdens they would have to incur by rising to superior or more advantaged social positions, would choose not to rise socially. Those in the “original position” would object to the “high” minimum guaranteed by the “difference principle” to such a group of “free riders” and thus would reject the maximin strategy.
Four principles would satisfy the desire of those in the “original position” both to guarantee an acceptable minimum distribution of goods to the needy, and to allow those contributing more to society to retain a greater share of what they create:
The acceptable social minimum is secured by the principles of need, savings, and minimal contribution. The principle of appropriation and exchange creates productive incentives by allowing individuals to retain a larger share of what they produce.