Summary of Robert Nozick’s Major Concept
My understanding of Robert Nozick’s position was immediately captured by the bold statement in the preface to his book, “individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights)” (Nozick & Williams, 2014). The statement appears particularly critical of Rawls’s theory of justice in a way that spurred enhanced interest in the discussions that would follow. He believes that people are born with fundamental rights that should be protected without the system being used to achieve moral evenness through redistribution. According to Wolff (2018), Nozick believes that any distribution of property, regardless of how unequal, is only just if legitimate procedures are used in the transaction and transfer of the property. Nozick explains that appropriation of something unowned through legitimate means where no party is disadvantaged still amounts to justice. Also, voluntary transfer of property ownership to another person and rectifying past injustices in the acquisition of property will constitute justice in a well-ordered society (Schwember, 2017). Moreover, Nozick differentiates between patterned and unpatterned principles of distribution and insists that the justice of a given individual’s possession of and discretionary control over certain economic goods should not be a function of that possession and control contributing to the general welfare or any other overall social end-state or pattern (Carter& Baron, 2017). Therefore, Rawls and Nozick seem to be on the opposite poles of enjoyment of personal liberty as Nozick strongly advises against a society trying to implement a patterned principle of justice, labeling it as an infringement on freedom.
The controversy between John Rawls and Robert Nozick
In Brennan’s (2018) statement, Nozick faults the Distributive Justice argument by Rawls as misleading since it does not appreciate the voluntary and legitimate exchange of holdings by individuals but instead implies a central distribution of goods. He thinks that the system takes away a person’s rights to their talents and natural endowments by punishing them for the benefit of the less advantaged. He also feels that Rawls overlooks the relations between producer and goods and the effort a person might put into developing their talents and abilities. Furthermore, personal autonomy is lost when the system tries to correct the ‘unfairness’ of the market economy by redistributing wealth that individuals of different skills have generated.