James Otteson is the executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, and Teaching Professor of Political Economy, at Wake Forest University in Winston‐​Salem, North Carolina. He also serves as a Senior Scholar at the Fund for American Studies, a Research Professor in the Freedom Center and Department of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in California.

Prof. James Otteson discusses the philosophers John Rawls and Robert Nozick, and their different views on liberty and equality. Rawls considered equality to be the moral benchmark for all social and political institutions, and felt that any deviation from equality must be specially justified. Nozick, on the other hand, considered liberty to be the more important value. He pointed out that there is an inevitable tension between liberty and equality: to maintain equal distribution in society, a central planner would have to constantly interfere with people’s personal choices. Alternatively, if a central planner left people free to make independent choices, any patterns of equality would ultimately be disrupted.

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