Theorist of Modern Liberalism by Jerome C. Foss

Jerome C. Foss, "John Rawls: Theorist of Modern Liberalism," The Heritage Foundation, Makers of American Political Thought Series.

Jerome Foss offers an introduction to the liberalism of John Rawls, and focuses particularly on the differences of that liberalism with the thought of the American founding.


Rawls’s theory is meant to give us a new way of thinking about the legitimacy of our Constitution, our laws, and Supreme Court decisions. He gives us a new standard for judging each and claims that this standard is one upon which all reasonable people should be able to agree. In fact, an unreasonable person is by definition someone who does not agree to the principles of the original position and is unwilling to abstract from his personal interests when advocating for laws or policies. Rawls argues that a constitutional democracy should think of its constitution and laws as something more than the rules for a game in which some people win and others lose. We could all win if we agreed to begin thinking of justice in terms of fairness rather than in terms of truth.

However much Rawls uses familiar parts of the American political tradition to build his theory, his ideas and principles differ markedly from those of the Founders.


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