The Stakeholder Society: A Rawlsian Interpretation

1591 words - 6 pages

In Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott’s The Stakeholder Society, a sweeping proposal is introduced to tackle what the authors view as a widening inequality of opportunity within a system that reinforces this disparity. They claim that these growing economic disparities are “profoundly shaping the future of the next generation,” and that, without intervention, long-held distinctly American tenets will disappear from the moral horizon. The authors’ proposed solution is a stakeholding program, whereby all adults upon reaching the age of twenty-one would be guaranteed a sum of eighty thousand dollars, to be spent as they see fit. While the initial goal of the plan is to address economic inequality through redistribution, the authors extend this hope, asserting, “Through stakeholding, Americans can win a renewed sense that they do indeed live in a land of equal opportunity, where all have a fair chance.” This speaks more to a revival of a common citizenship rather than a mere redistribution. This paper will evaluate the proposal of a stakeholder society from the perspective of John Rawls’s work, A Theory of Justice, where Rawls introduces his notion of justice as fairness as a means to determine the moral validity of society’s basic institutions. This paper will attempt to reflect that, while influenced by a Rawlsian ideology, there are certain key differences between the ideals espoused by Rawls and by the authors. Moreover, it will show that while the plan would indeed serve to address certain societal issues, an assessment of its feasibility will prove critical.
Prior to a discussion of the plan’s value, it is necessary to more completely flesh out a description of the proposal. Firstly, the plan would be funded by an annual two percent tax on the nation’s wealth, and by repayments of the eighty thousand dollars upon death by those financially able to do so. Within ninety days of graduation, each person would be required to apply for his or her stake by presenting a diploma and other documentation to the stakeholding office. For three years thereafter, the individual would be unable to touch the money, however it would be invested in treasuries growing at market interest. Upon reaching twenty-one, each person would be allowed access to the first installment of twenty thousand dollars, with subsequent payments continuing for three years thereafter. Those who do not graduate high school would only be allowed to an annual market return of four thousand dollars, and would not be granted access to the principle save for certain endeavors, such as buying a house or returning to school. In addition, the proposal also includes a flat basic retirement pension based not on a person’s work history or wage rate.
For the authors, the plan is rooted in the ideal of fair and equal opportunity, which would appear to be motivated by Rawls’s Second Principle demand of fair equality of opportunity. Specifically, it would seem that this plan addresses the notion...

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