University of Kansas, Spring 2004
Philosophy 555: Justice and Economic Systems

Class notes: Nozick, chapter 7

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

The following outline is designed to be, and is in some Web browsers, collapsible: by clicking on the heading for a section, you can collapse that section or, if it’s already collapsed, make it expanded again. If you want to print some but not all of this outline, collapse the parts you don’t want to print (so that just their top-level headings remain), and then click here to print this frame.

  1. chapter 7: “Distributive Justice”
    1. preliminaries
      1. transition: Nozick now moves into part II of the book. The first part was devoted to justifying the minimal state; the second part is devoted to showing that no state more elaborate than the minimal one is justified.
      2. relevance of distributive justice: Although distributive justice is an interesting topic in its own right, Nozick’s reason for considering it is that considerations of distributive justice are frequently given in order to (attempt to) justify a state more elaborate than a minimal one, and he wants to show that such considerations do not succeed in justifying a state more elaborate than a minimal one (p. 149.6).
    2. theories of distributive justice
      1. the entitlement theory (p. 153.2)
      2. current time-slice principles (p. 154.3)
      3. end-state principles—a superset of current time-slice principles (p. 155.6)
      4. historical principles—a superset of entitlement principles (p. 155.9–156.1)
      5. patterned principles—some historical principles (pp. 155.9–156.1), plus some non-historical ones (p. 156.6), plus some end-state ones (p. 156.8)
    3. problems with patterned principles
      1. how liberty upsets patterns (p. 163.4)
      2. patterned principles and families (p. 167.4)
      3. patterned principles’ necessitating redistributive activities (p. 168.8)
    4. problems with redistribution
      1. violation of rights (p. 168.9)
      2. akin to forced labor (p. 169.8)
      3. unfairness of taxing labor income but not free time (p. 170.5)
      4. shift from classical-liberal self-ownership to property rights in other people (p. 172.7)
      5. inconsistency in collecting taxes but allowing emigration? (p. 173.8)
    5. acquisition and the Lockean proviso
    6. some questions from Nozick to Rawls
      1. Why is the the subject matter of distributive justice be the total social product, rather than the cooperative surplus (the total social product minus the sum of the individuals’ non-cooperative outputs)? (p. 185.2)
      2. Why isn’t the entitlement theory as good for the cooperative case as for the non-cooperative case? (p. 186.3)
      3. Why focus on the worst-off group, instead of on the worst-off individual? (p. 190.7)
      4. Why regard a subjunctive statement about what it would take for the poor to be better off as warranting an indicative statement about who’s keeping the poor from being better off? (p. 191.7)
      5. Why ignore intra-group cooperation when measuring the benefits of general cooperation? (p. 193.4)
      6. Why is the difference principle a more reasonable basis of cooperation than its opposite? (194–195.4)
    7. two further complaints from Nozick, about Rawls
      1. Because the parties in the original position could choose only end-state principles, not any historical principles, Rawls’s use of the original position prejudges a huge issue (p. 202.3).
      2. It is objectionable, as a matter of method, that Rawls disallows testing his principles in micro-situations (p. 206.3).
    8. the natural lottery
      1. two arguments that Nozick imagines Rawls might be offering (p. 216.3)
        1. the positive argument—showing that the distributive effects of the natural lottery ought to be nullified
        2. the negative argument—rebutting some arguments concluding that the distributive effects of the natural lottery ought not to be nullified
      2. the positive argument—several versions, the most plausible (for attribution to Rawls) of which begs the question (according to Nozick) by assuming equality as norm actions (p. 224.2)
      3. the negative argument—unable (according to Nozick) to rebto govern interut the claim that people are entitled to things that legitimately flow from things to which they are entitled (p. 226.2)