The theory of justice is a political ideology developed by John Rawls (1921-2002) in order to explain the functionality of a distributive society. It brings forth an important aspect of the society trying to set forth principles for an equal and just distribution of goods.

The two main principles discussed are:

(1) the greatest equal liberty principle

(2) and the equal opportunity principle with the differentiation aspect.

The first principle assumes equality between citizens on a political level and means the latter should be endured fundamental rights such as liberty of conscience and freedom of association, freedom of speech and liberty of the person, the rights to vote, to hold public office, or to be treated in accordance with the rule of law. The limitation provided is that a person’s liberty should not infringe upon that of any other member.

The second principle is divided into two parts. On one hand, Rawls argues for equality of opportunity, meaning that citizens endowed with the same talents and aspirations should be given the same chance to succeed, regardless of its social background and class. The main common factor is the genetic programming and natural inclinations, which become the centerpiece of his system.

On the other hand, the differentiation intervenes regarding the distribution of wealth and income. From that point of view, Rawls argues not only for a discrimination between the citizens, but that the ones who should be advantaged should be the ones who are worst off. In a nutshell, the economic inequality should be dealt with according to the difference principle to the greatest advantage of those who are most advantaged.

In this manner, Rawls considers that a citizen does not need to have more resources allocated simply thanks to the natural gifts he/she was bestowed with at birth. However, this does not mean they are entitled to the same share. A person is welcome to use his/her natural abilities and gifts to their advantage, but in doing so they must contribute to the prosperity of the entire society.

Thus these two principles advanced by Rawls endorse a stable social unity. If a society is based on the difference principle, citizens with greater natural potential are not getting richer at the expense of those less favored, but the economy works to everyone’s advantage, creating a climate of social fairness that is at the core of the theory of justice.