In democracy, what is ‘primary goods’?

  • The notion of primary goods, proposed by John Rawls, spells out the basic entitlements a citizen would be guaranteed in a well-ordered society. 
  • It includes basic rights and liberties, freedom of movement and free choice among the fullest range of occupations, the powers of office and positions of responsibility, income and wealth, and, finally, the social bases of self-respect.
  • Primary goods are evidently identical to the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitutions of liberal democracies.
  • The purpose behind their enumeration in a political philosophical treatise is to underscore their inviolability for any well-governed society.
  • Conversely, to spell them out sheds light on regimes that are democracies in all but name.


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