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Social Justice And Entitlements Essay

1032 words - 5 pages

As part of his “Entitlement Theory of Justice”, Robert Nozick argues that patterned principles of distributive justice are ultimately unjust as they interfere with individuals’ natural rights. A principle of distributive justice is “patterned” if it “specifies that a distribution is to vary along with some natural dimension, weighted sum of natural dimensions, or lexicographic ordering of natural dimensions,” he explains. So, a principle that distributed goods in society to individuals according to need, usefulness to society, intelligence, or some combination thereof is pattered according to Nozick’s definition. In Nozick’s libertarian view, “the minimal state is the most extensive state ...view middle of the document...

IV. No one is entitled to a holding except by (repeated) applications of 1-3.
The principle of justice in acquisition respects how holdings are originally acquired (that is, “staked claim to”), whereas the principle of justice in transfer respects peoples’ right to voluntarily exchange or bequeath their holdings. For those reasons, Nozick’s entitlement theory is historical, meaning that what distribution of holdings is just depends on what actually happened in the past. It’s also not patterned given that holdings don’t uniformly vary with any natural dimension in his scheme; all that’s important are the individual aims of the participants in the acquisition and transfer of holdings and that those acquisitions and transfers meet conditions 1-4 of his theory.
The main problem with patterned principles of distributive justice such as “distribute from each’s need according to each’s need”, as Nozick sees it, are that they don’t take those relevant moral considerations into account. He notes: “We think it is relevant to ask whether someone did something so that he deserved to be punished, deserved to have a lower share.” Rather, that principle merely considers the resulting structure of society after distribution to determine whether such distribution is just or not, effectively ignoring who owns the holdings being distributed in the first place and their intentions for their holdings. For Nozick, the situation is not one where some good is produced and there’s an open question as to who owns it; typically, products are initially owned by their producers. In contrast, the principle to “distribute from each’s need according to each’s need” gives every person claim to some portion of the total social product, therefore giving persons claims to the activities and products of other persons, supporting the idea of property rights in other people. The principle effectively treats all goods in society, including persons’ labor, as “up for grabs” to any needful person, not giving people “the right to choose what to do with what they have”.
Furthermore, as Nozick argues, successive voluntary transfers of goods will upset whatever pattern is originally enforced. Over time, holdings will...

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