Grade 9-12

Does Self-Interest Prevent Economic Justice?

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: April 26 2023,
Author: John Kruggel


Students will be able to:

  • Explain how incentives and self-interest impact decision-making.
  • Compare and contrast self-interested decision-making with decision-making done behind the “veil of ignorance.”
  • Explore the differene between outcomes-based and process-based decisions.


In this lesson from the Ethics, Economics, and Social Issues curriculum, students will explore basic ideas of justice and self-interest.

Students begin by exploring government policies such as unemployment insurance, Medicare, immigration, and education funding as a group.

In the first round, students will vote on the policies behind the veil of ignorance, meaning they do not know if each policy will benefit them or not. In the second round, students will be given role cards and vote on those same government policies.

During the second round, groups could be influenced by the interests of their assigned role: a teacher, a retiree, a high-income executive, a college student, or an unemployed person.

After both rounds, groups will share how removing the veil of ignorance impacted their decision-making process as well as the outcome of their vote.