ROBERT NOZICK Distributive Justice. The term “distributive justice” is not a neutral one. Hearing the term. “distribution,” most people presume that some thing or. distributive justice; in the next chapter we shall take up diverse other claims. The term “distributive justice” is not a neutral one. Hearing the term “distribution,”. Entitlement theory is a theory of distributive justice and private property created by Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The theory is Nozick’s.

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To Nozick, no distribution is just and there should not be redistribution at all. This article will shed light particularly on entitlement theory of justice, libertarian rights, individualism and the minimal state and evaluate them from a critical perspective.

The American political philosopher Robert Nozick, a libertarian liberal, best known for his first book Anarchy State and Utopia published in [ 1 ]. Nozick is an advocate for eighteenth century individualism and nineteenth century capitalism. He is not an anarchist but being influenced by the individualist-anarchist Murray Rothbard, proposes a form of radical individualism within a state structure.

Nozick, in particular, is critical of John Rawls, arguably the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century whose book, A Theory of Justice [ 2 ], generated more discussion and commentary than any other book of political and social theory published since World War II. Nozick absolutely rejects the idea of redistribution and maintains that it contradicts the idea of self-ownership. Rawls argues in favour of a diatributive extensive state where the government is obliged to provide citizens with access to the needs that are basic to human life and also to look after the welfare of those who are least well off.

Justixe includes state provided welfare education and health services funded through taxation. His main theme is disttibutive justice: He suggests that it is sometimes justified to treat people unequally where unequal treatment results in improvements for everyone. Therefore, it would appear from the above that Rawls is concerned with distriutive benefit and welfare of the society as a whole and in line with achieving this aim robet is jusstice legitimate means for the government [ 4 ].

To begin with, Nozick seeks to justify the minimal state against the individualist anarchist. He opposes the arguments for a more extensive state and their idea of distributive justice [ 5 ]. He sets out two requirements for a state: One does not have to be a cynic to dispute with this notion but a mere depiction of human nature in any context would serve to disagree with this imaginary Distributve Samaritan role which is rather unscrupulous of human nature and behavior.

Nozick contends, initially there may be several protective associations within the same geographical area.


When clients from different agencies enter into dispute and the agencies cannot agree on how to resolve dishributive matter, they too will enter into conflict. The result of such conflict will onzick that distribugive time a natural monopoly will occur. Eventually there will be only one protective association within a geographical area: The theory also fails detail whether this jusice protective association would be private or public entities and whether it would be charging people any fee or if it is free of cost.

Ironically, Nozick does not consider how the state comes about. He opines, self-interest in his state of nature will ultimately give rise to the state. A critical mind would stop short of acceding to this claim as to how self-interest could give rise to a state, if at all.

Even if one were to defer to this involuntarily for the sake of an argument, would it not lead to chaos and conflict similar to the events from which the dominant protective association evolve albeit a much greater magnitude of chaos and conflict would ensemble prior to the evolution of the state which Nozick indicated.



According to Nozick, the rlbert act of appropriation confers unlimited rights of use and disposition. When asked how the bearers obtain their property, Nozick answers, it is a historical process. He struggles to define in specifying precisely which of several initial methods of initial acquisition is to be preferred.

Nozick attempts to reformulate this limit in terms of a certain welfare baseline. He, however, fails to mention where this baseline needs to be fixed.

The starting point that Locke made was that the earth is a common property whereas Nozick attempts to explain how what is unowned can become private property. One may strongly argue that this acquisition principle is not fitting in this modern technological world; and it seems to justify earlier injustices or at least apply to highly disputable methods [ 9 ]. There may be instances of transfer where one party believes it was a just transfer whereas the other party in the transfer feels it was unjust on them and that they would not have conceded to the transfer had they not been the weaker of the two parties given the increasing influence of the dominant party to keep everyone quiet.

Nozick falls far too short to provide a solution for such an instance [ 11 ]. Justice in rectification involves past injustices arising from failure to fairly apply the first two principles properly that can be put right, i.

Even the briefest survey of human history reveals that the current distribution of property is as much the consequence of theft and conquest as it is the product of libertarian entitlement.

While many injustices can be traced, many others are buried and forgotten and hence the principle has very limited application unless it is assumed that the least well off are most robeft to have been the victims of historical injustice. It may, therefore, be submitted that with its temporary application, the rectification principle lacks the criteria to be a universal one [ 13 ]. This begs yet another question whether the meaning of justice remains unchanged throughout the entitlement theory and its three sub-divisions or whether the meaning of justice is specific nozlck every sub-heads of the entitlement theory.

Nozick, in general, contends that people are born with fundamental individual rights. These individual rights are paramount and that there is no need for a system to achieve moral equilibrium.

He rejects all end-result theories, i. It is wrong to treat people as if they are merely of instrumental worth or to sacrifice one person for another. He claims that the rights of others determine constrains on our actions.

He further argues for his entitlement theory where it is permissible for people to have and hold property on however an unequal basis provided it was acquired legitimately in the first place. Thus, if someone acquired a holding justly, any interference with his holdings i.

He further emphasises on the point that labour considerations are not forced by the need to earn so that one can pay tax rather one earns and pay whatever tax turns out to be due. Labour precedes taxation, one labours and pays tax and not the vice versa. On the contrary, Nozick proposes distribution according to intellect and as such the more the intelligent the more he gets.

In consequence, it appears that libertarian principles can be relied upon to support all major taxes. However, Stein argues that Nozick disregards any consideration of social utility in Anarchy State and Utopia [ 1 ]. Nozick, therefore, is mistaken to have made redistribution the only basis to juatice taxation [ 17 ]. Nozick is so opposed to redistribution that a commentator questions whether Nozick is prepared to see people starve to death and obviously so as it appears, if the only alternative is redistribution.

An argument can be put forth in the sense that Nozick reaches universal conclusions from individual motivations without fully considering possible universal implications and that he too easily reaches the point distribytive arguing for absolute rights for freedom of action and from coercion, yet with minimum safeguards for the community. He further argues, what if not enough people volunteer to join the enforcement staff?


Should the state resort to some form of compulsory service? If this is done, would not the very legitimacy of the minimal state be threatened? Christie states that it would be completely undermined [ 18 ].

What is more, Patterson maintains that unless everyone pays for the protection provided by the state, those who pay are being forced to subsidise the protection received by others. This is not the minimal state that Nozick envisaged for, did he? His conception of individual is that of a being condoned off from others, with the area from the individual to the perimeter of the cordon representing inviolable individual rights.

He who cannot produce shall not live? Stein sarcastically remarks, it therefore follows that people can sell themselves to slavery, possibly in exchange for food, and the state should enforce those contracts.

Stein contends that Nozick fails to confront squarely the suffering that possibly could exist under his system, as result of starvation, slavery and horrific debt collection practices. Regarding loans, Nozick would accept agreements in which the creditor has the right to do inhuman things if the debtor does not or cannot pay.

That would mean the rise of individualism and the fall of humanity to a bizarre, irrational and unprincipled financial and economic system that only favours the rich individuals, corporations and such other entities.

Nozick, Robert | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Rawls does not support unconditional property rights as a part of a libertarian entitlement but Nozick does. To Nozick, for a just society, individual liberties, including the rights of property ownership, free exchange, free transfer and free inheritance must be guaranteed and the institutions are needed for these rights are essential requirements, for the reasons of justice.

Unfortunately, Nozick is ready to justicce matters in the hands of these institutions rather than calling for any revision based on assessment of outcomes. Nozick does, however, leave the question open: Nozick puts overreaching emphasis on the self-evident nature of the mozick of liberty.

Nozick characterises rights to liberty in terms of giving the individual control over certain decisions, and each person may exercise his rights as he chooses. But there is no guarantee of any nozock – it is only a right to the choice of action. It is, therefore, submitted that such individualistcapitalist institutions are not preferred in a world which is already stricken with hunger, povertyfamine and destitution.

J Civil Legal Sci 7: This is jhstice open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Select your language of robrt to view the total content in your interested language. Please leave a message, we will get back you shortly. Guidelines Upcoming Special Issues. Justice; Rights; Anarchy; Individualism. The only justifiable state To begin distributove, Nozick seeks to justify the minimal state against the individualist anarchist. Is imposition of taxation tantamount to forced labour? Call for libertarian rights: To what extent does it make sense?

Nozick R Anarchy Sate and Utopia. Tilberg Foreign Law Review 4: Philosophy and Public Affairs 6: Abramson EM Philosophization against Taxation: Arizona Law Review Stein MS Nozick: Northern Illinois Law Review Grey TC Property and Need: Stanford Law Review Journal of Business Rakowski Robett Transferring Wealth Liberally.

Tax Law Review Yale Law Journal Epstein RA Takings: The University of Chicago Law Review