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Social & Political Philosophy: Nozick

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Mark Thorsby

on 24 April 2014

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Transcript of Social & Political Philosophy: Nozick

Social & Political Philosophy
Robert Nozick
"Distributive Justice"
Anarchy, State, and Utopia
Robert Nozick
PhD - Princeton
Key Texts:
1974, "Anarchy, State, & Utopia"
1981, "Philosophical Explanations"
A Defender of Political Libertarianism
The Structure of Anarchy, State, and Utopia
Part 1 - Argument for a minimal state

Part 2 - States more powerful than the 'minimal state' are not morally justified

Part 3 - The minimal state is a framework for Utopia
Some Characteristics of the Minimal State
Only a night-watchmen, or minimal state, is consistent with individual liberty

A minimal state has a monopoly on the use of force

Force is used to guard the citizenry

Beyond this function, the minimal state has no other legitimate function
mark thorsby
Looking at Nozick's discussion of distributive justice from Part 2
No Public Works
No Public Education
No Welfare
No State Pensions
No Social Health Care
"The minimal state is the most extensive state that can be justified" (149) with individual liberty.
2 Key Types of Justice
Distributive Justice
Retributive Justice
Question of Holdings
Question of Just Deserts
1) A free society has no central distribution

2) Redistribution assumes that
a) The first Distribution is Unjust
b) That a redistribution will correct the first distribution

QUESTION: What makes a distribution just?
Entitlement Theory
Three Key Topics:

1) The Original Acquisition of holdings

2) The Transfer of Holdings

3) The Rectification of Injustice of holdings
Justice in Holdings is Historical
"If the world were wholly just, the following would exhaustively cover the subject of justice in holdings.

1. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to that holding

2. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in transfer, from some else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding.

3. No one is entitled to a holding except by (repeated) applications of 1 and 2.
The Exhaustive principle of Justice in Holdings
BUT.... our world is not wholly just, which is why we need a historical concept.
"The general outlines of the theory of justice in holdings are that the holdings of a person are just if he is entitled to them by the principles of justice in acquisition and transfer, or by the principle of rectification of injustice. If each person's holdings are just, then the total set (distributions) of holdings is just." (153)
Historical Principles and End-Result Principles
whether a distribution is just depends upon how it came about.
Time-Slice Principles of Justice
A question of origins
A question
of the form of distribution
One need look only at the distribution matrix & Apply a redistribution matrix
example) Marx
Time-Slice Principles = End State Principle
"Let us call a principle of distribution patterned if it specifies that a distribution is to vary along with some natural dimension, weighted sum of natural dimensions, or lexicographic ordering of natural dimensions." (156)
The idea of patterning applies to the philosopher that articulates a particular pattern of distribution that is just based on some sort of merit and then applies the pattern as a model for analysis.
But when we take the historical nature of holdings into account, we find that...
1) Patterns of distribution exist

2) But patterns are more often determined by the type of holdings people have to exchange
FA Hayek
"our obligation is against all attempts to impress upon society a deliberately chosen pattern of distribution, whether it be an order of equality or of inequality."
One Pattern Suggested
"To each according to how much he benefits others who have the resources for benefiting those who benefit them."
For an entitlement theory of justice, production and distribution are not two seperate issues.
Because things come into the world already attached to people having entitlement over them, we discover that a simple application of a pattern to an existing state of affairs could is amiss.
"To each as they choose, to each as they are chosen"

example) Wilt Chamerlain
"No end-state principle or distributional patterned principle of justice can be continuously realized without continuous interference with people's lives." (163)
In order to maintain a pattern, one would need to interfere with the liberty of others to choose.
Any patterning is either unstable historically or is satisfied by the entitlement system.
"If entitlements to holdings are rights to dispose of them, then social choice must take place within the constraints of how people choose to exercise these rights. If any pattering is legitimate, it falls within the domain of social choice, and hence is constrained by people's rights." (166)
Redistribution & Property Rights
Some Points of Interest
Patterned distributional principles do not give people what entitlement principles do, only better distributed
No right to choose what to do with a holding
No right to choose the pursuit of holdings by other
example) families
Proponents of patterned principles of justice focus upon the criteria for
determining who is to receive holdings
example) Instead of focusing on the right to bequeath we focus on the right o receive
Patterned Principles of distributive justice necessitate
distributive activities
of Rights
Is taxation a violation of the rights of entitlement?
If you say NO, then we need an account of how indvidual liberty can be violated
If you say YES, then taxation of earnings from labor is on par with forced labor
Taxing income to help the needy is not justified by the entitlement theory, despite the laudable goal
"When end-result principles of distributive justice are built into the legal structure of a society, they give each citizen an enforceable claim to some portion of the total social product that is, to some portion of the sum total of the individually and jointly made products." (171)
Thus, each person has a claim to the labor of others, thereby appropriating the actions of others.
If liberty is paramount, we need a minimal social contract

The minimal social contract, of state, should not enforce a distribution pattern of free individuals

Taxation of income is unjust

By extension, Rawls' principles of justice may be insufficient because they ignore the historicity of holdings
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