Justice: A Beginner's Guide (2017) by Raymond Wacks. p. 68.
` More disparaging is the assertion that Rawls fails to offer a theory of justice at all! According to certain critics, justice fundamentally concerns deserts: it is fair and just that we should get what we deserve. If you work hard, you deserve the rewards. But, in Rawls's formula, hard work need be rewarded only to ensure that the worst-off do as well as possible. He says: 'For a society to organize itself with the aim of rewarding moral desert as a first principle would be like having the institution of property in order to punish thieves' [emboldening mine].
I don't understand the emboldened quote.
Don't First World countries like Canada and US already have the "institution of property" "to punish thieves"? Titleholders can use property law to defend their property and sue thieves.
The extent of a contribution someone has made at a given time is often determined impersonally by mechanisms such as markets that price the reward of a given effort in ways that may have little connection to the individual effort involved. This is a problem with viewing the conception of just distributive shares as a process of maximising returns by reference to conscientious effort. It also shows the difficulty of adopting such a principle as a public one. Moral worth, whether defined through conscientious effort or in some other way, is not a principle of distributive justice. Indeed, so little is this the case according to Rawls that there would be something grossly offensive about thinking of justice in this way as he suggests in the following striking comparison: "For a society to organize itself with the aim of rewarding moral desert as a first principle would be like having the institution of property in order to punish thieves".
The reason for this striking analogy concerns the distinction Rawls draws between a conception of reward determined by virtue and one that draws on the correct notion of legitimate expectations. In the latter case the expectations are what arise from doing things encouraged by existing arrangements and these would be best defined, on Rawls' view, by reference to the principle of fairness and the natural duty of justice. Institutions are bound to realise legitimate expectations they have encouraged in relation to these superordinate principles of justice. However, even when we have a system of justice that is governed by such principles there is no way of ensuring that conscientious effort or any other such type of moral worth would lead to higher rewards.