Thick or thin, thick and thin, which is the most applicable in decision-making? Englishmen describe thick and thin as a situation where a person has undergone great tribulation pertaining a particular difficulty or problem. The cause of disagreement is not about the actual meaning but rather the application of the words.
Once “and” is replaced by the introduction of “or” we derive a very totally different meaning hence the statement changes its original meaning from “thick and thin” to “thick or thin”. Now, what is the meaning of the new derivative? Which now portrays a comparative outlook and meaning which requires a fresh elaborate definition and elucidation by the author.
“Thick” meaning as an adverb is deep, dense or a heavy mass while “thin” as an adverb is with little thickness or depth. The word “thickness” again appears in the definition of thin and not thick. Then what is the definition of thickness? Thickness is the distance between one side of an object to the other or the distance through an object.
I will use pedagogies to elucidate the meaning “thick or thin” in application to decision making process by those mandated to take up the task. Decision-making is a human workmanship governed by natural human laws. The natural law constraints are categorised into two: property and political constraints. In property constraints, there are two branches, which include provisos of no waste and provisos of, as much of good is available to the common.
To the political side of view, the natural constraints appear in two branches liberty and licence. In the world, you are not limited to create a state of your own but you are hence not licenced to kill people unlawfully in your own self-created state because it contradicts the natural law as it is elaborately described by John Locke in his “Second Treatise of Government 1681”.
Shifting back to decision making, in the modern era enlightenment we focus on the Legislatures and Executers in our own countries. In the context of the Kenyan Government, the arms of government are the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. They are all independent as well as interrelated but they interrelate disciplinary. The government has mandated the Legislature to make laws and the Executive to implement the decisions made
This is where I derive, “thick or thin” phrase. Since the formation and establishment of
government systems, the two arms of the government have always been at loggerheads on which should be accorded the most power during decision-making.
During this process, the members of the legislature are elected or nominated as Senators or Members of Parliament in the Senate and National Assembly respectively. Their main function and mandate is to make and amend laws: that is why in they are also referred to as lawmakers.
The laws that are made or amended by these lawmakers are found in a country’s constitution and if a major overhaul of the constitution is necessitated, they call in for a referendum. The executive consists of those who administer the laws and facilitate in enforcing and implementing them. They include the President, Deputy President and the Cabinet ministers. The conflict normally arises when these two branches are under conflict of interests
Both the Legislature and Executive are presented with the veil of ignorance when they are making, amending or enforcing the laws in the country. The veil of ignorance normally imposes the risk of uncertainty during the decision making process hence they avoid selfinterested behaviours. Those involved do not actually know whether the law will act to their favour or against them. They are subjected with uncertainty and unpredictability.
John Rawls made up the phrase, “veil of ignorance” when he was writing about the constitutional laws and how they should be made. He stated that veil rules might produce this distributive uncertainty by either of two methods. One is to place decision makers under a constraint of ignorance about their own identity and attributes. Therefore, it is under a hypothetical original position in which principles of justice are chosen precisely under this constraint. Two was to know the distributive consequences in the future.
Through the “veil of ignorance”, we get the veil rules which are the basis of any formal decision making. The Legislature and the Executive apply them. When it comes to selfinterested decision-making, veil rules focus on the future benefits, burdens of the decision made which will favour their interest hence being detrimental to the quality of the decision. Veil rules should be differentiated from conflict rules because they give certainty to the decision maker of the benefits of a decision made but they exclude the decision makers from any benefits regardless of the beneficiaries between the two parties.
From the conflict of interest rules, we derive two branches of rules. One is the eligibility rules, which bar the decision maker from ineligibility of gaining benefits such as when the Legislature in the Incompatibility clause bars the members from sitting in either the Executive or Judicial branches. So if the members of parliament pass a pay increase to members of the ex-ante then ex-post will not benefit. An example is the French Constituent Assembly of 1791, charged with drafting a new constitution adopted Robespierre’s suggestion for self-denying ordinance. Its members voted themselves ineligible for election to the first ordinary legislature to be assembled under the new constitution.
The second branch is recusal rules, they replace the decision maker with a person who is known and knows that he or she cannot skew the judgment.
This is normally applied when the costs of conflict and veil rules appear to be higher as compared to recusal rules. Where such rules apply are example during impeachment of a President by the bill of impeachment.
The person to preside over the impeachment motion is the Chief Justice not the Vice President because he might be interested in the benefits of being the new president if the impeachment motion is passed.
Tactics used by the veil of ignorance to create uncertainty include prospectivity, generality,
durability, delay and randomisation. They generally apply during constitution making
process. In prospectivity, the decision makers are required to make legal rules without knowing the identity of the violators.
In Generality, the anticipation of decisions made either in favour or disfavour may be governed by a current decision. Durability deals with if a decision made currently may affect a case in the remote future hence uncertainty of the outcome and interests is unpredictable.
Delay tactic delays the effective date of a decision or rule to a near long term rather to a short term hence the future is unpredictable. Example is when the Legislatures pay rise is effected in the next term of office instead of the current one, they will be uncertain if they will benefit because they are not sure if they will be elected back to office. This also applies on emoluments found in the Chapter six of Kenyan constitution; conflict of interests.
The last one is randomisation where it involves random selection in the procedure of decision-making process where it renders unpredictable the burden of decisions made and future advantages.
Example of application is selection of a judge bench, judges vote on certiorari position without knowing the identity of judges who will hear and decide the case.
Having all the above points in mind, we quest to know if the veil of ignorance was either
thick or thin. Was the application of the veil used fully or partially to the decision makers’ knowledge, thinking, background, experience or position in the process of decision-making?
That is why I introduced, “thick or thin”.
“Thick” veil rules are those that put the persons into a pure state egalitarianism of the original position. In the original position they are regarded to have equal morals and not in any
capacity of contingent or social role.
The parties do not know any particular facts about themselves or the society. This prevents existing unbiased assessment of decisions made.
Adopting the “thick” veil of ignorance has been highly criticised because parties are deprived much information about themselves that they are psychologically incapable of making a choice without knowing their fundamental values and commitments.
Therefore, “thin” veil rules can be adopted which presents a different level of impartiality.
The impartial sympathetic spectator found in David Hume and Adam Smith, or the selfinterested rational chooser in John Harsanyi’s average utilitarian account, all have complete
knowledge of everyone’s desires, interests and purposes as well as knowledge of particular
facts about people and their historical situations.
Impartiality considers everybody’s interest for the decision maker where the observer or chooser chooses a rule that maximises the satisfaction summed across all persons. This is a utilitarian requirement that equal consideration should be given to everyone’s requirements.
All decision makers should be in a position to differentiate between the “thick or thin” decision making veil rules and be in a capacity to implement them during their decision
making process. This will prevent self-centred and egocentric interests amongst our leaders.
However, a rational person is one who violates reasonable demands of justice hence unreasonable in that he or she infringes moral requirements of reasoning. Being reasonable, even if not a requirement on rationality, is still and independent aspect of practical reason.