Libertarianism: Lesson 2

Free-Market Philosophy

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Nozick has a claim about individuals: “individuals have rights ‘so strong and far-reaching’ that ‘they raise the question of what, if anything, the state may do…only a minimal state, limited to enforcing contracts and protecting people against force, theft, and fraud, is justified. Any more extensive state violates persons’ rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified’”(62).

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“According to Nozick, there is nothing wrong with economic inequality as such. Simply knowing that the Forbes 400 have billions while others are penniless doesn’t enable you to conclude anything about the justice or injustice of the arrangement. 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. What matters is how the distribution came about”(62-63).

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“Nozick argues that distributive justice depends on two requirements – justice in initial holdings and justice in transfer”(63).

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Justice in initial holdings: was it yours in the first place? Examples: cultivating and terra forming Mars. Setting up a foundry to make auto parts or any type of manufacturing.

Justice in transfer:was it a free exchange in the market?

According to Nozick you are entitled to what you have if you meet these two requirements.

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“Provided no one starts out with ill-gotten gains, any distribution that results from a free market is just, however equal or unequal it turns out to be”(63).

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“If it can be shown that those who have landed on top are the beneficiaries of past injustices – such as the enslavement of African Americans or the expropriation of Native Americans – then, according to Nozick, a case can be made for remedying the injustice through taxation, reparations, or other means. But it is important to notice that these measures are for the sake of redressing past wrongs, not for the sake of bringing about greater equality for its own sake”(63).

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Translate this: These measures can only be used for what purpose, redressing past wrongs or bringing about greater equality for its own sake?
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In the next lesson, Sandel has Nozick “illustrate the folly(as he sees it) of redistribution with a hypothetical example about the basketball great Wilt Chamberlain” but Sandel used Michael Jordan instead of Wilt Chamberlain for whatever reason.

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