Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
to maximise total or, alternatively, average, utility. Who gets what under this
arrangement is irrelevant: person A may get 25 units and person B 10, and the
total is 35 (and average 17.5), but if A got 10 and B 25 the end result would be
the same.

  • Historical theoriesWhat people have done (note the past tense) is relevant to
    the distribution of resources. For example, distribution according to desert, that
    is, hard work, is a historical principle (actually, ‘historical’ is a bad label – it
    would have been better, though less elegant, to talk of person-regardingtheories,
    because it is not necessarily what a person has donethat is relevant – need would
    be person-regarding). Historical theories are further divided into:
    oPatterned Any principle that involves the phrase ‘to each according to
    _____’ (fill in the blank: desert, need, labour and so on) is going to create
    a pattern (Nozick, 1974: 159–60). Nozick includes Rawls’s theory as
    patterned: priority to the worst-off (maximin) generates a pattern.
    oUnpatterned Nozick calls his own theory unpatterned, because whatever
    distribution exists should be the result of choice. You could argue that this is
    patterned with the blank filled in as ‘choice’, but ‘choice’ is not really the same
    as desert or need – the latter two provide objective criteria that can be used
    by a redistributive agency (the state) whereas you choose to do whatever you
    Individuals may, under Nozick’s utopian framework, aim to bring about an end-
    state or patterned distribution, but what may not happen is that the state coerces
    people into creating that end-state or pattern. To appropriate some of Chamberlain’s
    $24,000 is tantamount to forcing him to labour (Nozick, 1974: 172).


Nozick’s comments on the third part of his theory are brief and underdeveloped.
If something was acquired or transferred as the result of fraud, theft or force then
some mechanism is required to rectify the situation (Nozick, 1974: 152–3). All that
Nozick offers in the way of a theory is the suggestion that counterfactual reasoning
be applied: what would be the pattern of holdings if the unjust acquisition/transfer
had not taken place? This raises the problem of increased value: if you steal a dollar
and make a million dollars as a result, what should you pay back – the dollar or
the million dollars? This is a live issue, for unlike Locke, who argued that the United
States was ‘unowned’ prior to European colonisation (Locke, 1988: 299–301),
Nozick argues that native Americans had rights to their land and these were violated
and thus rectification is required. But Manhattan – whose only trace of native
ownership is its name – has increased vastly in value since it was ‘acquired’ by
Europeans: how do we rectify that injustice? Nozick provides no answer.

Left libertarianism

A distinction is made between right libertarianism and left libertarianism. Self-
ownership is the starting point for all libertarians, but right and left libertarians

88 Part 1 Classical ideas

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