Libertarian View of Justice – Robert Nozick – Jurisprudence Notes

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Objection to redistribution of wealth:-

o   Reduces incentive to work and overall decreasing wealth and consequentially utility of redistribution (Utilitarian Argument)
o   Redistribution without consent amounts to coercion (Libertarian View)

  • Favour unrestricted markets and oppose government regulation not on grounds of efficiency but human freedom
  • Supports minimal state that limits itself to enforcing contracts, protecting private property and keeping peace (Nozick’s vision of state – Watchman State)
  • They oppose:-

o   Paternalistic Policies such as wearing of helmet while driving two wheeler
o   Moral legislation such as prohibition of abortion
o   Redistribution of wealth or income

  • Nozick rejects the idea that a just distribution consists of a certain pattern-such as equal income, or equal utility, or equal provision of basic needs and rather focuses on how such distribution came into existence.
  • Nozick argues that distributive justice depends on two requirements:-

o   Justice in initial holdings – if the resources you used to make your money were legitimately yours in the first place. (should not be stolen or taken by force or fraud)
o   Justice in transfer – if you made your money either through free exchanges in the marketplace or from gifts voluntarily bestowed upon you by others.

  • For Nozick, if above two requirements are met one is entitled to what he is and cannot be deprived of the same by the state without his consent.
  • He criticizes employment of distributive justice for trying to create equality as it:-

o   Needs repeated intervention in the free market to undo the effects of the choices people make
o   It violates the rights of those whose wealth is being taken away

  • Taxation of earnings from labour is on a par with forced labour.
  • Based on concept of self-ownership
  • If an individual owns himself then he owns his labour and accordingly also the fruits of his labour

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