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Nozick's Account of Justice

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Of the four theories of distributive justice we have discussed in class, the one theory that has the most plausibility is "justice as entitlement." This Nozickian theory is often considered a counterblast to Rawls' "justice as fairness" because it is a theory of extremes in comparison. When Rawls uses the original position to create an ideal of fairness, he, according to Nozick and Sandel, "does not take seriously the distinction between persons because it severely restricts people's rights to use their own natural and social assets" (Sterba pg. 20).

Robert Nozick's "Entitlement Theory" creates a system of distribution that allows for holdings to be attained and transferred by legitimate means. This is in opposition to a redistributive form of justice, such as Rawls', which is an attempt to level the inequality by taking from some to give to others with less. Nozick's form of distribution maintains the respect for people and their holdings by allowing the free market to be a cornerstone of society. Thereby, the government's role in the economic sector would be minimal, allowing for increased productivity levels for those that engage in the free market. The rights of the citizens, and of legal aliens, of a liberal democratic state should not be infringed upon through the use of taxation or illegitimate transfers of holdings; self-ownership is a right that all people in a liberal (the broad sense) state could agree on.

Taxation is a form of forced labor by Nozick's account. Rawls' would argue that taxation is fundamental in maintaining public institutions and goods that benefit all in some cases and those in most need. Taxation would provide those most needy with a base-needs minimum. Nozick's objection to redistribution is that it uses some people as "means to other people's ends" (Swift pg.35). This derives from Immanuel Kant's notion that we should not "treat others as means to our own or other people's ends, but as ends in themselves." I agree with Nozick that taxation for re-distributive purposes is forced labor because it treats people as means, but as Swift remarks on page 35, "taxes also pay for street light, and the police and defense." These are things that we all benefit from; therefore some taxes (though forced) are beneficial to society as a whole and thus should be implemented. The involuntary transfer from the richer to the poorer caused by taxation is a violation of a person's rights, but if it can be proven that the taxes they pay are advantageous to their own purposes then some might consider voluntarily paying taxes. I think the problem arises when fairness is being questioned. Fairness is hard to come by when taxation is being argued. It wouldn't be fair for some have to pay more for the same service that others pay less. Those that do not have the means would argue that taxing the rich more is fair. Hence, the raising and lowering of taxes alternates with the change of parties heading this nation in particular.

When speaking of how Rawls and Nozick differ on their ideas of the "separateness of persons," Adam Swift says: "What if I am one of the people made unhappy for the sake of other people's happiness?" This is a question we must consider when we have worked hard to attain whatever holdings we own and tax season comes around to trim the fruits of our labor. That is not to say that we should not give to the poor, in fact I believe charity is a virtue and that it is a voluntary action and should be done without government mandate. Swift gives three categories on what Nozick believes might be the possessions of individuals: (a) their bodies, (b) land, minerals, etc.; and (c) the products made by combining the two. There is little dispute on whether we own our selves, and what we make with our bodies, but the question of land is not so simple. Land is not an extension of us; we do not enter this world with property rights (ostensibly). However we can inherit land from our descendants or friends or others in legitimate ways.

The three principles that make up Nozick's

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