It's interesting, I suppose. In the way that all pseudo-intellectual garbage written in the hope that most people won't really think too hard about it is. Not the first time I've heard this, and it's not really gained any ground since then. The problem is that while modern liberals latch onto the idea of the veil of ignorance, they don't actually practice it in any meaningful way. Worse, they actually do the opposite, but claim that they're not. When they ask people to think of the rules they should have if they didn't know what their condition would be, what they're really doing is asking what rules people think they should follow if they were the most downtrodden members of society. It's not a veil of ignorance, but a veil of poverty.
Even the example the author provides illustrates this. The NFL rule of giving the first draft pick to the team with the worst record last year isn't based on not knowing what your win/loss record might be, but supposing that if you came in last place. The question asked is "if you were the worst team in the league, wouldn't you want/need the best pick in the draft to offset that?". Similarly, liberal social policy doesn't at all ask "what if you had no idea how you'd turn out?", but "what if you turned out poor?". They mask this with the concept that since you don't know what your fortunes will be, you should imagine that they could be really bad, but that's really not any different at all than what the author accuses conservatives of doing (just in reverse).
Interestingly enough, the whole "veil of opulence" idea appears to stop right at the edge of liberal projection. Liberals project the idea that we should set up rules assuming we might be the poorest, sickest, and most disadvantaged within society, so they project the opposite onto conservatives. But again, the examples used are telling. In the first (regarding tax policy), the author speculates a question he thinks conservatives are asking, but I've never once in my life heard a conservative argue against higher taxes on the rich by asking people to imagine how they'd like to pay those taxes if they were rich themselves. We use lots of arguments against such things, but not that one. On the flip side though, is the quote by Obama basically making exactly the "veil of poverty" argument. Obama makes it about poor people paying more so that rich people pay less. Not exactly the veil of ignorance that he should be espousing, it is?
And in the second example, he talks about health care, and gives a decent example of a conservative justice asking how you'd feel if you were in group X having to pay for group Y. But let's not forget that this is in response to a law which targets group X to pay for group Y. The principle behind it is *not* about the veil of ignorance at all.
I think the fundamental problem with the whole subject is that in order to really utilize the concept of a veil of ignorance, you would have to imagine objectively how each group of people in society might be affected by a given law. This means imagining you were in group A, and asking "is this fair to group A", then imagining you're in group B and doing the same, then group C, group D, etc, and then coming up with a rule that is most fair to the whole. The concept fails because ultimately it requires that you judge each groups gains and losses. And while that might be legitimate, it's *not* how most liberals make social decisions anyway, so using it as some kind of yardstick against conservatives seems somewhat pointless. Not to mention, even if you can ignore your own place in society, you're still effectively picking which groups you like versus those you don't. It's strange that the author assumes that conservatives can't possibly be unbiased in that choices, while presumably assuming that liberals can. I think that's his own self delusion.
Um... This is also where I point out that conservative ideology already incorporates this concept, and far more honestly and consistently than the left's does. Instead of a "veil of ignorance", conservatives use a methodology I've pointed out repeatedly in the past (in this thread in fact): We identify actions which cause harm to others, and create a set of rules that limits it. Of course, to do this, you must be able to differentiate between an act which harms someone and failing to act to help that person. So while a liberal will ask "What tax policy would you want if you were poor", and conclude that we should have high taxes on the wealthy to pay for benefits for the poor, conservatives do *not* ask the opposite question (despite the authors claim). We ask "what tax policy will generate funding for the things that government must do, while negatively impacting all tax payers the least?". It's also why we fight for smaller government. We realize that every time government is expanded, it requires additional harm be done to someone to pay for it.
IMO, a lot of liberal intellectuals would really do well for themselves if they'd abandon the assumption that conservatives are just liberals who hold the opposite positions on most things. We're not. We view some pretty basic concepts about society differently, and thus arrive at different solutions than liberals. We don't think in terms of "rich versus poor". But liberals assume that since they think in terms of helping the poor at the expense of the rich, that if conservatives oppose them it must be because they want to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor (pretty much exactly Obama's words btw). But that is simply flat out wrong. We oppose such things because we oppose in general the concept of government deciding after the fact that it should adjust people's outcomes. Because at the end of the day isn't the best set of rules consistent with the veil of ignorance going to be those which don't reward *any* group at the expense of another? A government that doesn't pay attention to whether you are rich or poor should be the correct answer if you honestly answer that question. But, as we all know, that's *not* the answer the left gives. Interestingly enough, it *is* the answer that the right gives.
Veil of ignorance indeed. Perhaps the author should lift his off his own head first.