Veil of Ignorance 无知之幕


Thoughts after reading Li Xie’s The Road to Nation Building in the Rain 读李邪《雨中的建国路》有感

The veil of ignorance is a powerful idea. Introduced by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice (1), the veil of ignorance is a method of determining the morality of a certain issue (e.g. slavery) based upon the following principle: imagine that societal roles were completely re-fashioned and redistributed, and that from behind the veil of ignorance, one does not know what role they will be reassigned. Only then can one truly consider the morality of an issue. (2)

Putting this in our current context, we need to consider beyond our immediate needs when we vote. Over the longer period, when we cannot be certain of our role in the society, what form of political leadership would bring about the best for every citizen on the island? A dominant and benevolent one-party system that will be nimble to ride the treacherous ways of tomorrow? Or a system of checks and balances to ensure economy, efficiency and equity in public administration? (3)


(1) Rawls, John. (1971) A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(2) Wikipedia. Veil of Ignorance. URL: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Original Position. URL:

(3) Economy and efficiency has always been the two key pillars of public administration. It was only in 1968 that George Frederickson raised equity as the third pillar of public administration.


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