🏳️‍🌈 What sets us apart from the Taliban?

The economics of the open society

Cooperation or confrontation? To live together in peace the open society depends on John Rawls' reasonable citizen. (I took this photo in the Berlin government district on May 25, 2020)

From our western perspective, the division of good and bad seems to be clear: the ugly Taliban vs the western philanthropic society. But besides attributions, what is the main difference between the Taliban regime and a western-type democracy? 

I guess it is tolerance. It is that citizens with disparate worldviews can live along with different worldviews. So the difference between a fundamentalist movement and a liberal, open society is accepting differences. 

But what does it really mean to be tolerant? 

John Rawls, the famous political philosopher (1921-2002), created an ideal citizen for living peacefully together in a diverse society: the so-called reasonable citizen

What did Rawls mean by "reasonable citizen"? Here is the concept: 

There are as many different worldviews as there are citizens. Because each citizen has their own view about God and life, right and wrong, good and bad. The challenging question is how to put these different worldviews in one single law. The answer is: Just don't do it. The law is better based on just a few common principles. Leif Wenar, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, about John Rawls’ philosophy: "Yet because reasonable citizens are reasonable, they are unwilling to impose their own comprehensive doctrines on others who are also willing to search for mutually agreeable rules. Though each citizen may believe that she knows the truth about the best way to live, none is willing to force other reasonable citizens to live according to her beliefs, even if she belongs to a majority that has the power to enforce those beliefs on everyone."

As a result, reasonable citizens prefer to live in a society in which they can cooperate with their fellow citizens on terms that are acceptable to all. They are willing to propose and abide by mutually acceptable rules, given the assurance that others will do so, too. 

In a way, John Rawls extended the concept of the free market to all of society. A free market is based on few common rules and on voluntary exchange. No one is forced to act. Every economic decision is done of one's own free will and therefore each economic agreement means that both sides are better off. So are Rawls’ reasonable citizens. 

But why wouldn't it be possible for reasonable citizens to agree on one single doctrine? If the reasonable means rational couldn’t it be possible to agree on the one and only right way? Because it is the best way for everybody? Just not possible, Rawls was convinced. Wenar again: "The deepest questions of religion, philosophy, and morality are very difficult to think through. Even conscientious people will answer these questions in different ways, because of their particular life experiences (their upbringing, class, occupation, and so on). Reasonable citizens understand that these deep issues are ones on which people of good will can disagree, and so will be unwilling to impose their own worldviews on those who have reached conclusions different than their own."

So I wonder if the reasonable citizen is the necessary prerequisite for an open society: Is our society really working? Because: How many of us really behave like a reasonable citizen? And if most of us don’t what does it mean for the future of the open society? 

Accepting differences, letting people live according to their own needs and wishes - this is a high standard. At least for me. I pretty often fail in being tolerant. Looking at the current manners in the media, social media, and real life, I guess we all still have a long way to go. 

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