Nozick's Theory Of Social Justice

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One of the most discussed topics in modern-day American politics is the rising wealth gap. This begs an appropriate question; at what point do inequalities of economic liberty and social justice become unjust? Three liberal approaches to justice attempt an answer. In his book Theory of Justice, John Rawls follows a high liberal tradition of thought, asserting that a distributive pattern of justice is most correct. On the other hand, in his book Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick argues for an emergent approach to justice, rooted in libertarian philosophy. Lastly, John Tomasi, in his book Free Market Fairness, offers the most compelling argument of the three. Tomasi purports that the market democratic approach to justice is the appropriate …show more content…
Nozick’s “entitlement theory” revolves around the acquisition and transfer of private property. In contrast to Rawls’ “difference principle”, Nozick believes that any inequality, regardless of whether or not it serves the least well-off member of society, can be just, depending on how that inequality came about. According to Nozick, if inequalities in society did not violate his “entitlement theory”, then the inequality itself must be just. On one hand, Tomasi agrees that thick economic liberty is at least tantamount to all other liberties; on the other hand, Tomasi argues that Nozick’s “emergent” approach to justice properly protects the rights of certain members of society. Tomasi insists that personal economic liberty is important in order for an individual to lead a fulfilled life. He uses the example of feminists in the nineteenth century to insist that a just society allows everyone to pursue their own “self-authorship”. Rawlsian liberals may argue that the market democratic system does not do enough to equalize property holdings, but by not doing so, the market democratic system allows for more economic growth than Rawls’ “property-owning democracy”. On the other hand, Tomasi believes that Nozick’s approach to justice might violate the “self-authorship” of some members of society. For example, Nozick’s approach to justice relies on Coasian bargaining between private …show more content…
Market democracy acts as an effective hybrid between the two schools of liberal thought. Libertarians, with their emphasis that economic liberty is the paramount liberty, are attracted to market democracy’s contention that economic liberties are at least just as important as any other liberty. High liberals, with their emphasis on social justice, are attracted to market democracy’s acknowledgment that social justice is relevant. With that being said, both ideological groups disagree with parts of a market democracy. High liberals may claim that any system with thick economic liberty has potential problems, such as market failure or exploitation of workers. However, market democracy still provides for governmental regulation to step in when market failure occurs. Even though market democracy allows for smaller governmental bodies than most high liberals are probably comfortable with, market democracy recognizes the need for “basic protection” for “highly valued” facets of society, such as governmental intervention if workers’ hours become too long or strenuous. On the other side, libertarians may claim that any system with governmental regulation infringes on paramount economic liberty. However, market democracy’s use of regulation does not infringe on personal economic liberty; rather, it asserts that

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