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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 38, Issue 4, October 2012

Alexander Brown
Pages 617-644
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201238434

Rawls, Buchanan, and the Legal Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations

The article responds to an overlooked objection put by Allen Buchanan to John Rawls’s theory of justice: that implementing the Difference Principle over time may require gross and frequent disruptions of people’s framing and execution of long-term plans. Having strengthened Buchanan’s objection to resolve significant weaknesses in his main counterexample, I argue that the best response to this objection draws on the concept of the rule of law, specifically, the legal doctrine of legitimate expectations, which can be found in English, French, and European Union administrative law. I also explore the suitability of incorporating this doctrine into Justice as Fairness given its absence in United States constitutional and administrative law. Finally, I turn to consider the question of what the government owes to agents in whom legitimate expectations are induced and then frustrated. Here I introduce the Precept of Administrative Liability.

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