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Equality vs. Entitlement Robert Nozick. Nozicks Libertarian Theory Libertarians in general defend market freedoms and oppose redistributive taxation schemes.

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Presentation on theme: "Equality vs. Entitlement Robert Nozick. Nozicks Libertarian Theory Libertarians in general defend market freedoms and oppose redistributive taxation schemes."— Presentation transcript:

1 Equality vs. Entitlement Robert Nozick

2 Nozicks Libertarian Theory Libertarians in general defend market freedoms and oppose redistributive taxation schemes in order to implement a liberal theory of equality. Nozick defends a specific kind of libertarian view known as entitlement theory. The core idea of Nozicks entitlement view is the following: if we assume that everyone is entitled to the goods they currently possess, then a just distribution is simply whatever results from peoples free exchanges of goods.

3 The main principles of Entitlement Theory A Principle of Transfer that maintains that whatever is justly acquired can be justly transferred. A Principle of Just Initial Acquisition which gives an account of how people come to initially justly own things that can be transferred under the principle of transfer. A Principle of Rectification of Injustice which gives an account of what to do when holdings are unjustly acquired and transferred.

4 The Wilt Chamberlin Example It is not clear how those holding alternative conceptions of distributive justice can reject the [entitlement theory]. For suppose a distribution favored by one of these non-entitlement conceptions is realized. Let us suppose it is your favorite one and let us call this distribution D1; perhaps everyone has an equal share, perhaps shares vary in accordance with some dimension you treasure. Now suppose that Wilt Chamberlin is greatly in demand by basketball teams, being a great gate attraction… He signs the following sort of contract with a team: In each home game, 25 cents from the price of each ticket of admission goes to him…The season starts, and people cheerfully attend his teams games; they buy their tickets each time dropping a separate 25 cents of their admission price into a special box with Chamberlins name on it…Let us suppose in one season one million persons attend his home games, Wilt Chamberlin winds up with 250,000, a much larger sum than the average income and larger than even anyone else has. Is he entitled to his income? Is new distribution D2 unjust?

5 The Wilt Chamberlin Argument 1. Assume that D1 is a just distribution. 2. Assume that D2 is a distribution arrived at in accordance with the principles of just acquisition of initial holdings, transfer, and rectification. 3. Further assume that in D2 a sole individual or small group G has a far larger sum of money than both the average income in society and any sole individual. 4. In D2 members of G are entitled to their holdings. No one outside of G can complain, since they freely gave it to the members of G. 5. So, D2 is a just distribution.

6 The Self Ownership Claims Redistributive Taxation is incompatible with recognizing people as self owners. Only unrestricted capitalism recognizes self ownership. Recognizing people as self-owners is crucial to treating people as equals. Central Question: Does self-ownership yield absolute property rights necessarily?

7 Lockes Mixing Labor Argument 1. I am a source of value and I own myself. 2. Therefore, my labor has value. 3. If I mix my labor with something, that is not owned I come to give it value. 4. If I bring value to something that is not owned, I come to own it. Mixing my labor with something not owned is a way of acquiring that thing. Q : What counts as labor? Q: Why doesnt mixing labor with something just create a loss rather than an acquisition?

8 Lockean Provisos In order to own x by mixing my labor with x, I must satisfy two conditions: Leave Enough : I must leave enough for others. Leave Good Enough: I must leave good enough for others. If I am picking apples, and there are 50 apples 5 of which are rotten, I can only come to own the apples by picking them if I leave enough for others, and not just the rotten apples.

9 Property Rights and the Commons 1. In order to leave enough and as good enough for others, we need to avoid a tragedy of the commons. A situation in which free access to a good leads to a depletion of resources, since there is no rational reason for any specific person to refrain from taking more than they need. 2. Allowing property rights over a commons excludes others but generates a situation in which no one is worse off. Both those that have the property rights in the common and those that dont are no worse off than in a situation where the commons is unregulated and eventually depleted. 3. Property rights acquired in scenarios that dont make anyone worse off pass the Lockean provisos.

10 The Lockean Proviso Argument 1. People own themselves. 2. The world is unowned. 3. You can acquire absolute rights over a disproportionate share of the world, if you do not worsen the conditions of others. 4. It is relatively easy to acquire absolute rights over a disproportionate share of the world. 5. So, once people have appropriate private property, a free market in capital and labor is morally required.

11 Objections to the LP Argument Why is the world initially unowned? It is possible to begin with any of the following assumptions: (a) The world is unowned. (b) The world is owned by everyone. (c) The world is owned by some, but not others. Nozick assumes (a), but why not (b) or (c)?

12 Objections to the LP Argument What does it mean to not worsen the condition of others ? The argument crucially involves the notion of worsening the condition of others. Nozick assumes two things: (a) Worsening the condition of others is measured in material welfare. (b) The determination of whether a person is made worse of materially is done by comparison to what would happen to the common good prior to appropriation.

13 Worsening the condition of others It is possible to interpret the notion of worsening the condition of others in multiple ways: (a) Material –worsening of the condition of others. Reducing a persons material wealth. (b) Liberty –worsening of the conditions of others. Reducing a persons freedoms. Thus, it is possible that certain acts of appropriation increase the material welfare of all parties, while at the same time reducing the freedoms available to all the parties.

14 Materially Better off, Liberally Worse off Suppose there is a commons that Jane and Bill both have access to. The commons at T1 is unowned, and as a consequence of the tragedy of the commons, the resources will be depleted putting both Jane and Bill in the worst of all situations. Now suppose at T2 that Jane acquires the land by mixing her labor and gaining exclusive property rights in the land. Finally, Jane also offers Bill a job on the land where he can earn a wage.

15 Materially Better off, Liberally Worse offw In the situation described the following is true: (a) Bill and Jane are both materially better off when at least one of them owns the land and offers the other a job, then when the land is unowned by either of them and subject to the tragedy of the commons. (b) Although bill is no worse off materially when Jane gives him a job, he is worse off in terms of his freedoms. He could have chosen a different lifestyle were it the case that Jane did not own the land. (c) In general: not being worse off is not equivalent to being better off.


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