Posted on: November 14th 2023

Free and Equal at LAE

LAE Politics, Philosophy and Economics students were fascinated to host Economist and Philosopher Daniel Chandler in an inspirational Q&A session based on his book Free and Equal: What Would a Fair Society Look Like?

Free and Equal expands on the works of Harvard Professor John Rawls who, in the early 1970s, considered the best and most just way society can distribute social goods such as rights, opportunities, wealth, and power. Rawls proposed that people can and should choose a set of basic liberties where there would be equal claim to basic rights and opportunities, and benefits would be maximised to the least advantaged people. In his book, Chandler takes these works as a starting point to consider, against a backdrop of modern-day political and philosophical turbulence, a progressive agenda that would fundamentally reshape our societies for the better. 

It is from this context of justice as fairness that Daniel engaged with LAE students. In the spirit of participation endorsed in the book, the event took the form of an open Q&A session rather than a lecture. Students were challenged to think about how to apply liberal egalitarianism to the modern day world and reflect on policies to make our society better and to ensure that prosperity is shared widely and operates within the limits of a finite planet.

Chaired by student representatives Emmanuella and Seamus, Daniel presented his thesis in a way that really challenged students to think about the application of Rawls' work today. Student questions sought further exploration about the key role for the modern state in enabling individuals to fulfil their potential, and some offered critiques, questioning the idea of a Universal Basic income and whether that could lead to the creation of a dependency culture. Daniel's responses were a model of how to conduct philosophy-based discussion.  

This talk had a significant impact on the students present, and embodied the intellectual value of studying politics, philosophy and economics. The huge queue after the end of the talk testified to the curiosity Daniel's visit awakened in LAE students.