Nozick on distributive justice

Lecture 5 — Discussion Guide Beginner Utilitarians think that the right thing to do is whatever produces the greatest amount of happiness. According to libertarians, the greatest threat to individual rights comes from the government. You should be able to drive without a seat belt if you want.

Nozick on distributive justice

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References and Further Reading 1. He was also, like so many young intellectuals of that period, drawn initially to the politics of the New Left and to Nozick on distributive justice socialism that was its philosophical inspiration.

But encountering the works of such defenders of capitalism as F. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand eventually led him to renounce those views, and to shift his philosophical focus away from the technical issues then dominating analytic philosophy and toward political theory.

Instead, he moved on to produce groundbreaking work in several other areas of philosophical inquiry, particularly in epistemology and metaphysics. His development of an externalist theory of knowledge and his "closest continuer" account of personal identity have been particularly influential.

It remains to be seen what impact on philosophy will be made by the general theory of objective truth developed in his last book, Invariancespublished shortly before his untimely death from stomach cancer.

In any case, it seems clear, judging from the disproportionate amount of attention that it has received relative to the rest of his writings, that it is his early work in political theory that will stand as his most significant and lasting contribution.

Indeed, these two works essentially revived the discipline of political philosophy within the analytic school, whose practitioners had, until Rawls and Nozick came along, largely neglected it. Libertarianism is a political philosophy holding that the role of the state in society ought to be severely limited, confined essentially to police protection, national defense, and the administration of courts of law, with all other tasks commonly performed by modern governments - education, social insurance, welfare, and so forth - taken over by religious bodies, charities, and other private institutions operating in a free market.

Many libertarians appeal, in defending their position, to economic and sociological considerations - the benefits of market competition, the inherent mechanisms inclining state bureaucracies toward incompetence and inefficiency, the poor record of governmental attempts to deal with specific problems like poverty and pollution, and so forth.

Nozick endorses such arguments, but his main defense of libertarianism is a moral one, his view being that whatever its practical benefits, the strongest reason to advocate a libertarian society is simply that such advocacy follows from a serious respect for individual rights.

The thesis of self-ownership, a notion that goes back in political philosophy at least to John Locke, is just the claim that individuals own themselves - their bodies, talents and abilities, labor, and by extension the fruits or products of their exercise of their talents, abilities and labor.

They have all the prerogatives with respect to themselves that a slaveholder claims with respect to his slaves. But the thesis of self-ownership would in fact rule out slavery as illegitimate, since each individual, as a self-owner, cannot properly be owned by anyone else.

Indeed, many libertarians would argue that unless one accepts the thesis of self-ownership, one has no way of explaining why slavery is evil.

After all, it cannot be merely because slaveholders often treat their slaves badly, since a kind-hearted slaveholder would still be a slaveholder, and thus morally blameworthy, for that.

The reason slavery is immoral must be because it involves a kind of stealing - the stealing of a person from himself.

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But if individuals are inviolable ends-in-themselves as Kant describes them and self-owners, it follows, Nozick says, that they have certain rights, in particular and here again following Locke rights to their lives, liberty, and the fruits of their labor.

To own something, after all, just is to have a right to it, or, more accurately, to possess the bundle of rights - rights to possess something, to dispose of it, to determine what may be done with it, etc. These rights function, Nozick says, as side-constraints on the actions of others; they set limits on how others may, morally speaking, treat a person.

So, for example, since you own yourself, and thus have a right to yourself, others are constrained morally not to kill or maim you since this would involve destroying or damaging your propertyor to kidnap you or forcibly remove one of your bodily organs for transplantation in someone else since this would involve stealing your property.

For if you own yourself, it follows that you have a right to determine whether and how you will use your self-owned body and its powers, e. So far this all might seem fairly uncontroversial. It amounts to a kind of forced labor, for the state so structures the tax system that any time you labor at all, a certain amount of your labor time - the amount that produces the wealth taken away from you forcibly via taxation - is time you involuntarily work, in effect, for the state.

Indeed, such taxation amounts to partial slavery, for in giving every citizen an entitlement to certain benefits welfare, social security, or whateverthe state in effect gives them an entitlement, a right, to a part of the proceeds of your labor, which produces the taxes that fund the benefits; every citizen, that is, becomes in such a system a partial owner of you since they have a partial property right in part of you, i.

Distributive Justice (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

But this is flatly inconsistent with the principle of self-ownership. The various programs of the modern liberal welfare state are thus immoral, not only because they are inefficient and incompetently administered, but because they make slaves of the citizens of such a state.

Indeed, the only sort of state that can be morally justified is what Nozick calls a minimal state or "night-watchman" state, a government which protects individuals, via police and military forces, from force, fraud, and theft, and administers courts of law, but does nothing else.

For the activities of even a minimal state would need to be funded via taxation.Nozick: Anarchy, State and Utopia as a critique of the Rawls distributive justice theory: Here is a paper on the major work of political philosophy of Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia. This book presents itself as a libertarian critique of the Theory of Justice by John Rawls.

Oct 10,  · In the theories of distributive justice, Rawls's idea is commonly contrasted with those of Nozick and timberdesignmag.com Nozick espouses the priority of individual rights; Cohen, the priority of equality.

Other Internet Resources Current Issues in Distributive Justice. Center For Economic And Social Justice This site promotes a new paradigm of economics and development, the “just third way”. Provides links to numerous organisations, reports, articles and statistical data which support its paradigm.

Nozick on distributive justice

Articles. Below are some articles that might interest you. If you would like to suggest an article for this page, please email us. WHO OWNS ME? Students first discuss the arguments behind redistributive taxation. If you live in a society that has a system of progressive taxation, aren’t you obligated to pay your taxes?

Nozick classifies theories of justice as (1) either end-result or historical, and (2) either patterned or unpatterned. The entitlement theory is historical and unpatterned.

Nozick, Robert | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy