This paper critically engages Cohen’s rejection, in Rescuing Justice and Equality, of Rawls’s conception of redistributive justice. I argue that Cohen’s reading of Rawls is flawed and that his suggested revisions to Rawls’s theory are no improvement. The better interpretation involves seeing Rawls’s project as closer to Kant’s than, as Cohen assumes, to libertarians and egalitarians of his own stripe. Once we interpret Rawls as providing a so-called “public right” account and we add Kant’s account of “private right”, Rawls escapes the problems Cohen charges him with and we obtain good reasons to side with Rawls’s Kantian liberalism against Cohen’s egalitarian anarchism.
- Amartya Sen