Social contract theory and ordinal distributive equity

Elisha A. Pazner*, David Schmeidler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of the original position, implicit in some of Lerner's and Harsanyi's works, lies at the heart of Rawls' contractarian approach to the theory of justice. This conceptual framework is used here to analyze the problem of distributive equity. It is shown that in a standard pure exchange economy, a social contract specifying the egalitarian distribution of economic resources might be expected to emerge in the original position. This result holds for any number of individuals and any number of commodities. The analysis does not involve interpersonal welfare comparisons and can be carried out within a purely ordinal framework of individual preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-268
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1976


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