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Libertarianism on Distributive Justice - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 228
Distributive Justice/Libertarianism/Lamont: in contrast to [desert theories, resource-based view (RBV) and institutional utilitarianism] libertarian theories deny the relevance, for distributive
justice, of both luck and utility. In terms of the political institutions affecting distributive justice, libertarians (also known as classical liberals or right libertarians) typically recommend that in ideally just conditions goods and services be distributed in a free market with minimal state intervention, redistributive measures and protectionism (...). These recommendations are usually
based on what libertarians see as the normative implications of property rights and liberty (Kukathas, 2003(1); Lomasky, 1987(2); Machan, 1989(3); Machan and Rasmussen, 1995(4); Narveson, 1989(5); Nozick, 1974(6)).
Nozick: The starting point for libertarians' strong interpretation of property rights is commonly self-ownership. The most influential libertarian, Robert Nozick (1974)(6), argues that since people own their natural endowments and their labour power, and since they freely exercise these in various ways, they are entitled to the fruits of their labour. Even though outcomes are not justified according to desert (and hence may be the result of luck), Nozick rejects Rawls's description of them as morally arbitrary, since self-ownership gives rise to entitlements (1974(6); ch. 7). Compensation for the influence of luck has no place in the Nozickean conception of justice, nor do any government measures to improve the lives of people or to relieve human suffering. Aid to the less fortunate must result from the indivi-dual voluntary actions of others.
Minimal state: Libertarian theories proposing minimal states on the basis of self-ownership have generally encountered two stumbling blocks internal to the theories themselves (Haworth, 1994). VsMinimal state:
1) Self-ownership: one is in defending the argument that self-ownership implies unequal
and nearly absolute property rights. Critics of libertarianism are more disturbed with the unequal ownership of material goods and natural resources than with self-ownership per se. The problem of how ownership of oneself extends out to ownership of natural resources has plagued all ownership-based libertarian theories. >Natural resources/Libertarianism.
Gaus I 229
2) Injustice: The second problem internal to ownership-based libertarianism is what to do about past injustices. Libertarianism is widely interpreted as advocating a change to a laissez-faire system with government functions limited to minimal taxes for police, defence, and a court system. This interpretation, however, is a mistake for the majority of libertarian theories. Although right libertarians do believe such minimal government is ideal when there has been no injustice, current holdings of goods and land are not morally legitimate under libertarianism if they have come about as a result of past injustices. Given that such past injustices are systemic to any current
society, libertarians have difficulty justifying any move towards a more minimal state, unless they can specify some way of recognizing and rectifying past injustices first. >Inequlities/Nozick.


1. Kukathas, Chandran (2003) The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Lomasky, Loren E. (1987) Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community. New York: Oxford University Press.
3. Machan, Tibor R. (1989) Individuals and their Rights. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
4. Machan, Tibor R. and Douglas B. Rasmussen eds (1995) Liberty for the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Libertarian Thought. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
5. Narveson, Jan (1989) The Libertarian Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
6. Nozick, Robert (1974) Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic

Lamont, Julian, „Distributive Justice“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Libertarianism
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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