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Robert Nozick on Inequalities - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 229
Inequalities/Nozick/Lamont: [a] problem internal to ownership-based libertarianism is what to do about past injustices. Libertarianism is widely interpreted as advocating a change to a laissez-faire system with government functions limited to minimal taxes for police, defence, and a court system. This interpretation, however, is a mistake for the majority of libertarian theories. Although right libertarians do believe such minimal government is ideal when there has been no injustice, current holdings of goods and land are not morally legitimate under libertarianism if they have come about as a result of past injustices. Given that such past injustices are systemic to any current
society, libertarians have difficulty justifying any move towards a more minimal state, unless they can specify some way of recognizing and rectifying past injustices first.
Nozick:. As Nozick noted with his own theory:
„In the absence of ta full treatment of the principle of rectification) applied to a particular society, one cannot use the analysis and theory presented here to condemn any particular scheme of transfer payments, unless it is clear that no considerations of rectification of injustice could apply to justify it.“ (1974(1):231)
LamontVsNozick: The treatment Nozick requires, however, is simply beyond our capabilities. We know every existing society is systematically infected with past injustice including theft and forcible seizure of natural resources. So, for instance, even if we could discover all the ways in which the majority of natural resources were unjustly acquired, we have no way of knowing what the distribution would look like if the injustices had not occurred. A theory can make a serious contribution to ongoing debate and policy only if it can offer a realistic proposal for rectifying
past injustice, or if there are other resources in the theory for recommending distributive principles which do not depend on an entirely clean slate. >Distributive Justice/Libertarianism.


1. Nozick, Robert (1974) Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic

Lamont, Julian 2004. „Distributive Justice“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

No I
R. Nozick
Philosophical Explanations Oxford 1981

No II
R., Nozick
The Nature of Rationality 1994

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-09-25
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