Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226730936 Will Publish September 2020
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226730769 Will Publish September 2020
E-book $35.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226731094 Will Publish September 2020

Probable Justice

Risk, Insurance, and the Welfare State

Rachel Z. Friedman

Probable Justice

Rachel Z. Friedman

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226730936 Will Publish September 2020
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226730769 Will Publish September 2020
E-book $35.00 ISBN: 9780226731094 Will Publish September 2020
Decades into its existence as a foundational aspect of modern political and economic life, the welfare state has become a political cudgel, used to assign blame for ballooning national debt and tout the need for personal responsibility. At the same time, it affects nearly every citizen and permeates daily life—in the form of pension, disability, and unemployment benefits, healthcare and parental leave policies, and more. At the core of that disjunction is the question of how we as a society decide who should get what benefits—and how much we are willing to pay to do so.

Probable Justice​ traces a history of social insurance from the eighteenth century to today, from the earliest ideas of social accountability through the advanced welfare state of collective responsibility and risk. At the heart of Rachel Z. Friedman’s investigation is a study of how probability theory allows social insurance systems to flexibly measure risk and distribute coverage. The political genius of social insurance, Friedman shows, is that it allows for various accommodations of needs, risks, financing, and political aims—and thereby promotes security and fairness for citizens of liberal democracies.
Out of Many, One
Justice and Chance
The Character of Probability
The Context of This Work
The Approach of the Project
Overview of the Argument
A Qualified Defense
One / The Origins of Risk and the Growth of Insurance
Insurance: A Brief Primer
The Early History of Modern Insurance
Pre-insurance Practices
The Emergence of Premium Insurance
The Theory and Practice of Early Marine Insurance
Probability Theory and the Doctrine of Aleatory Contracts
The Legal Background of Early Probability Theory
Probabilistic Justice
Equipossibility and the Distributive Turn
Life Insurance and Probabilistic Justice
Equity in Empirical Probability Theory
The Birth of Statistical Life Insurance
Mutualism with and without Risk

Two / Probabilistic Justice and the Beginnings of Social Insurance
Precursors to Social Insurance
Social Insurance and the Liberal Idea
Richard Price: Property and Political Arithmetic
Friendly Society Reform: Social Insurance Writ Small
The First Social Insurance Plans: Mutual Insurance Writ Large
Early Proposals
Condorcet: Probability and Perfectibility
Thomas Paine: Welfare without Insurance

Three / The Promise of Probability
The Practical Aims of Late-Classical Probability
Inverse Probability
Epistemic Equiprobability
Between Individual Choice and Social Responsibility
A New Rationale and Its Challenges
Mathematical and Moral Expectation
A Social Duty to Insure?
Social Insurance in Theory and in Practice
Mutualism with and without Risk, Revisited
Causal Laws and Rational Planners
A Social Insurance Moment

Four / The Collectivization of Risk and the Early Welfare States
The Rise of the Collective View of Chance
A New Interpretation of Probability
A Modified Case for Insurance
The Ethical Character of Frequentist Probability
Frequentist Social Welfare
Risk in the Early Welfare States
The Question of Responsibility
The Subjects and Targets of Social Policy
The Flexible Actuarialism of Early Social Insurance

Five / The Egalitarian Welfare State and the Ambiguities of Insurance
The Egalitarian Welfare State Emerges
The Centrality of Insurance to Postwar Egalitarian Welfare
The Amorphous Appeal of Insurance
The Limits of Universal Social Insurance
Subjective Probability and the Personalization of Chance
Keynes’s Transitional Account
The Rise of the Subjectivist View
The Moral Character of Subjective Probability
The Egalitarian Welfare State without Probability
Probability versus Justice
Rawls and Social Insurance without Risk
The Persistence of Probability
Insurance and Distributive Theory after Rawls
The Fate of Social Insurance in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
The Problem of Polarization
The Impact of Information

The Long-Standing Appeal of Insurance
Explaining the Welfare State
The Limits of Social Insurance
A Contemporary Example
Review Quotes
William P. Deringer, author of Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age
Probable Justice advances a strikingly original—and quite brilliant—argument about the common duality of probability as a philosophical concept and social insurance as a political expedient, both of which Friedman reveals are essentially ‘Janus-faced.’”
James Franklin, author of The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal
“Friedman powerfully brings together three traditions of thought: theory on risk and probability, ethical principles of distributive justice, and political theory on the purpose of social insurance or the welfare state. Her image of civil society as a great mutual insurer with coercive power will reorient political thinking on the welfare state.”
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