He writes, "Some individuals may be more motivated and harder working, and thus can legitimately expect greater rewards for their efforts." This is part of a section of the article that is purportedly representing Rawls' view. But that was not Rawls' view.
It is not that individuals that work harder deserve a greater share of resources. After all, Rawls explicitly says that one does not deserve one's natural endowments. One's work ethic is one such character trait. It may be caused simply by good genes and/or the right sort of environment: in short, luck.
It's also not that individuals ought to expect greater reward for their efforts. The only proper motivation for individuals, on Rawls' view, is to uphold and affirm the principles of justice (including the difference principle). They believe that we ought to make the worst off as best off as we can (with some important restrictions.)
It is rather that, for whichever reason we might end up with an inequality, it can be justified (preferred to other distributions) because it benefits the worst off. If anyone can object to inequality, it's those disfavored by that inequality. Ex hypothesi, those very same worst off are better off than they would be under any other distribution. The fact that they are better off gives them a reason to prefer the unequal distribution.
Of course, it would be irrational for an individual to prefer a distribution where she gets $101, and another gets $1 trillion, than one in which both parties get $100. And this is where the restrictions become important.
The principles of justice are lexically ordered. The first principle requires that all citizens are to have the most extensive set of basic liberties compatible with the same set of liberties for all others. This includes the political liberties. If the level of resource inequality interferes with equal liberties, then it is prohibited.
This is clearly the case in the United States today. Money has a corrupting influence on political power in ways that undermine our status as free and equal citizens.
The second principle contains the difference principle: that inequalities must be arranged such that they are to the benefit of the worst off. But, it also insists that such inequalities must be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.
Of course, the wealthy today are at a substantial advantage. Working and middle class children are more likely to become less wealthy than their parents than to stay the same, much less rise above: the United States is one of the worst countries recently measured in a study of intergenerational income mobility.
Rawls is explicitly concerned with substantive, not formal (i.e., legal) equality of opportunity. So, it is not sufficient that the law does not expressly forbid members of a certain class (e.g., women, minorities) to occupy the favorable positions. They must actually be able to obtain the position. Suppose that some trinket is a necessary item for a favorable position. Then contenders must all have the means to acquire the trinket.
I take it that what is obvious to everyone protesting is that the inequality does not meet these conditions. Substantial resource inequality is incompatible with full social and political equality. The widespread sentiment is that the country is being run for and by the fortunate few.
What Mazie says, however, is that "inequality becomes injustice when the cooperative nature of society breaks down and a significant segment of the population finds itself unable to thrive, despite its best efforts."
This is incorrect as applied to the present United States, as is implied in the paragraph. These inequalities are unjust because they violate the two principles of justice. That is, it is obvious that:
1. Resource inequality undermines political equality.
2. Inequalities are not attached to social positions and offices open to all.
3. It is false that the worst off could not do better on a different distribution.
Mazie instructs us to focus our efforts on arguing over the finer points of Rawls rather than engaging in "intellectually bankrupt rhetoric", whatever that is supposed to mean. I'm happy to take him up on that aspect of the challenge, at least (cross-posted here).
Bizarrely, he claims that occupiers are focused on hatred of the rich, rather than frustrated at policies and institutions. Mazie, I see your "Eat the Rich" sign and raise you a "Down with Self-Settled Asset Trusts".
Mazie suggests some ways that we can move toward a more just society, and I am wholeheartedly inclined to agree: "structural changes in campaign financing, the banking system, and the tax code".
Mazie concludes by observing that a political movement is more likely to be successful if it does not focus on bettering the worst off, so we should plump for Rawls' more 'inclusive' formulation of the difference principle.
There are separable questions here:
1. What justice demands.
2. How we can achieve a more just society.
I take it that the point of the exercise is to see that the basic structure of our society is highly unjust already. That's something that is detrimental to all of us. It rightly unsettles most Americans that we are not free and equal citizens: this is a much vaunted and cherished political ideal.
I take it his point was that we must find some common ground on which to motivate coordination of the 99%. He thinks that requires moving to the inclusive formulation, but I don't see how that follows. If we take Rawls' argument seriously, we should all be motivated to make the necessary changes to the basic structure to ensure that we really do live in a society worth pledging allegiance to, with "liberty and justice for all."