Notes and Questions
ROBERT NOZICK, from Anarchy State, and Utopia
1. Robert Nozick defends liberal individualism and private ownership using his own development of Lockean natural rights theory. Ownership is justified, according to Nozick, if it is (a) justly acquired or (b) justly transferred and (c) not subject to the principle of rectification. Explain these three principles. 2.Nozick discusses the distinction between historical and end-state or patterned theories of property distribution. How does a patterned theory of distribution work? Do you agree with Nozick that F. A. Hayek’s theory is a patterned theory? How does Nozick’s own historical theory work? 3. Nozick argues that freedom upsets patterns. Thus, any patterned theory of distribution will require constant interference. How does the Wilt Chamberlain example show that this is true? What does this point amount to? 4. Nozick claims that taxation is equal to forced labor. How does he argue for this claim? 5. How does Nozick explain Locke’s theory of acquisition as he is using it? Does his use depart significantly from Locke’s own? If so, in what way? 6. Does Locke’s proviso still hold, according to Nozick? What are the two interpretations he offers for it? Which does he defend and why? Reasonably interpreted, should Locke’s proviso have a great impact on Nozick’s theory of property?
[From] Anarchy, State, and UtopiaROBERT NOZICK The subject of justice in holdings consists of three major topics. The first is the original acquisition of holdings, the appropriation of unheld things. This includes the issues of how unheld things may come to be held, the process, or processes, by which unheld things may come to be held, the things that may come to be held by these processes, the extent of what comes to be held by a particular process, and so on. We shall refer to the complicated truth about this topic, which we shall not formulate here, as the principle of justice in acquisition. The second topic concerns the transfer of holdings from one person to another. By what processes may a person transfer holdings to another? How may a person acquire a holding from another who holdsUnder this topic come general descriptions of Voluntary exchange, and gift and (on the other and) fraud, as well as reference to particular conventional details fixed upon in a given society. The complicated truth about this subject (with place-holders for conventional details) we shall call the principle of justice in transfer. (And we shall suppose it also includes principles governing how a person may divest himself of a holding, passing it into an unheld state.) If the world were wholly just, the following inductive definition 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 someone 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 complete principle of distributive justice would say simply that a distribution is just if everyone is entitled to the holdings they possess under the distribution. A distribution is just if it arises from another just distribution by legitimate means. The legitimate means of moving from one distribution to another are specified by the principle of justice in transfer. The legitimate first "moves" are specified by the principle of justice in acquisition.1 whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just. The means of change specified by the principle of justice in transfer preserve justice. As correct rules of inference are truth-preserving, and any conclusion deduced via repeated application of such rules from only true premises is itself true, so the means of transition from one situation to another specified by...
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