criminal law and the entitlements under the civil.rnRawls derives his fundamental principles of social justicernfrom a hypothetical social contract. Although he claims thatrn”throughout the choice between a private-property economyrnand socialism is left open,” the hypothetical contracting partiesrnwho, “in the original position,” are to make the hypothetical socialrncontract are nevertheless tacitly required to assume the ultimatelyrncollective ownership of all wealth and income. We arerntold, “For simplicity they are required to assume that the chiefrnprimary goods at the disposition of society are rights and liberties,rnpowers and opportunities, income and wealth” (emphasisrnadded). They are to assume, that is to say, that everybody’s incomernand wealth are “at the disposition of that hypostatizedrncollectivity, society; altogether uninhibited, it seems, by anyrnmorally legitimate prior property claims.rnReaders ought to be astonished to confront this assumptionrnof the collective ownership of all wealth and income. Theyrnshould be further flabbergasted to discover that, in explainingrn”The Main Idea of the Theory,” Rawls asserts:rnOnce we decide to look for a conception of justice thatrnnullifies the accidents of natural endowment and therncontingencies of social circumstances as counters in thernquest for political and economic advantage, we are led tornthese principles. They express the result of leaving asidernthose aspects of the social world that seem arbitrary from arnmoral point of view [emphasis added].rnCertainly, if all possible grounds for any differences in desertsrnand entitlements are thus to be dismissed as morally irrelevant,rnthen it does indeed become obvious that everyone’s deserts andrnentitlements must be equal. For it is precisely and only uponrnwhat individuals severally and individually have become andrnnow are, as the result of their different genetic endowments andrntheir different previous experiences and activities, that all theirrnseveral and often very different present deserts and entitlementsrnmust be based.rnIt is, for instance, only and precisely because one particularrnindividual has justly acquired more propert)’ than another thatrntheir property rights, their property entitlements, have becomernunequal. Again, it is because one individual has committed arncrime and another has not that their just deserts necessarily becomernunequal. It is monstrous to dismiss such facts as irrelevantrnon the grounds that they are “arbitrary from a moral point ofrnview.” A conception of justice which demands this dismissal isrnnot justice at all. “Social” justice is no more justice than “people’s”rndemocracy is, or was, democracy.rnRawls regularly describes his conception of social justice asrn”justice as fairness.” “Fairness as justice” would be a more aptrndescription. For suppose that we were charged with making arnfair distribution of some collection of goods among some particularrnset of people. The presumption, albeit a defensible presumption,rnsurely is that a fair distribution would be the onernwhich gave equal shares to all its members. But the only necessaryrnconnection between equality and justice is that the rulesrnof justice, like all rules, apply equally to all the cases which satisfy’rntheir terms.rnSince many speak of equality and social justice as if thesernconceptions are necessarily connected if not logicallyrnequivalent, we should not be surprised to find that Rawls—whornconfesses, with engaging frankness, that “We want to define thernoriginal position so that we get the desired solution”—believesrnthat the hypothetical beings making the original contract cannotrnbut “acknowledge as the first principle of justice one requiringrnan equal distribution. Indeed, this principle is so obviousrnthat we would expect it to occur to anyone immediately.”rnIt is a pity that Rawls seems never to have noticed Aristotie’srntreatment of “distributive justice.” Aristotle does not, of course,rnassume that everything is available for disb-ibution or redistribution.rnHe does start by saying, “If then the unjust is the unequal,rnthe just is the equal—a view that commends itself to all withoutrnproof” But then he goes on at once to argue that “if the personsrnare not equal they will not have equal shares.” So Aristotle’s actualrnconclusion was not a substantial practical prescription butrna purely formal principle.rnThe objection that “social” justice is not a kind of justice is oftenrncountered either by urging that the world would be a betterrnplace if the distribution of income and wealth were differentrnfrom what it actually is or by protesting that this objection is atrnbest trivially verbal. It is easy to argue with the first of these contentions.rnIn my personal ideal world, for instance, successfulrnpop stars would not be voted to become millionaires by the purchasesrnmade by everyone’s teenage children. But this is simplyrnirrelevant. For it is one thing to justify some sort of proceedingrn—that is, to show it to be desirable or excusable or in somernother way preferable to the available alternatives—but it is quiternanother thing to justicize it, to show it to be not merely “socially”rnjust but plain, old-fashioned just.rnTo understand why the issue is most emphatically not triviallyrnverbal, it is sufficient to ask and answer the question of whyrnpeople are so keen to maintain that their actions or policies arernindeed (socially) just. It is, of course, because they want to arrogaternto these actions or policies the psychological associationsrnwhich are presently linked with, and the logical implicationsrnwhich are presently carried by, employments of the word “just.”rnUnderstandably, they want to see themselves, and to be seen byrnothers, as occupying the moral high ground, and to condemnrntiieir political opponents as insensitive and imjust people.rnPerhaps even more importantly, though this is rarely recognized,rnthose who share the socialist ideals of “social” justicernneed to equip themselves with what, if only it were true, wouldrnconstitute a decisive answer to an otherwise properly embarrassingrnquestion: “By what right are you proposing to deploy thernforceful machinery of the state in order to impose upon all concernedrnyour own personal or party vision of an ideal society?”rnFor justice is not an expression of individual or group preferences;rnit is not an individual or part)’ vision of an ideal society.rnTo appeal to justice is to appeal to a standard logically independentrnof all individual and collective interests or preferences.rnThat is why everyone has to allow that what is prescribed byrn(moral) justice may properly, though not always prudently, bernenforced by law. For justice —justice without prefix or suffixisrnthe basic, minimum, essential virtiie. As Adam Smith put itrnin his other masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:rnThe man who barely abstains from violating either thernperson, or the estate, or the reputation of his neighbours,rnhas, surely, little positive merit. He fidfills, however, allrnthe rules of what is peculiarly called justice, and does everythingrnwhich his equals can with propriety force him torndo, or which they can punish him for not doing [emphasisrnadded].rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn