The “veil of ignorance,” at the heart of John Rawls’ theory of justice, is a conceptual breakthrough. But his interpretation of its implications is flawed: he has given us a theory of who deserves what that ceases to exist as soon as anyone can be said to deserve anything. Once one fixes a couple of bad connections so that claims of need and claims of desert get adjudicated together, a full theory of justice emerges and implies a complete overhaul of the welfare state.

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