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诺齐克的论辩:Two Conceptions of Justice 

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诺齐克的论辩:Two Conceptions of Justice

  Two Conceptions of Justice
 
 
  Robert Nozick
 
  Just as utilitarianism was the setting off point for Rawls, Rawls himself is the setting off point for Nozick particularly in his book, "Anarchy, State and Utopia" which you have read an excerpt from. Nozick''s chief complaint against Rawls: that only a minimal state (government) can be justified. Since Rawls'' rules (that is, his "Principles of Justice") require "big government" (Nozick says), a Rawlsian-type government is politically unjustified. If Nozick is right, this would be important. As we have already noted, all governments are necessarily coercive if only to a limited extent. The more coercive, the more vexing the "Why should I submit to the authority (rules and principles) of this government?" becomes. If the question is more vexing for "big governments" (Rawls, in Nozick''s view), then, if nothing more than a minimal state is ever justified, Rawls can''t satisfactorily say why any citizen should submit to (his version of a just) government. This would, of course, be disastrous since there would then be no reason for any citizen''s allegiance to a Rawlsian type government.
 
  Nozick calls his theory of justice a historical theory of justice. A historical theory of justice has as its main rival what Nozick calls "end-state" theories of justice. One holds an end-state theory of justice just in case one believes that all you need to know, to decide if a government is just or not, is how goods are distributed at a particular time. Thus, for example, if I am an end-state theorist, I might think that merely knowing that a minority of 15% of a population lives well below the poverty line while a majority of lives in extreme wealth, tells me all I need to know to determine that the society is unjust. Of course, if this is what I think, then it doesn''t matter to me how that distribution came about, the mere fact that it exists tells me all I need to know to decide the question of justice.
 
  In fact, however, almost no theory of justice is entirely "end-state" and there is good reason for this. Purely "end-state" theories are implausible. For example, suppose the "end-state" theorist believes that a just society is one in which everyone has equal shares of social and economic goods. Now consider a society in which 15% of the population is well below the poverty level while the majority lives in extreme wealth. Now suppose that the minority who lives below the poverty level are living below the poverty level because they are imprisoned convicted felons who, let us suppose, were given fair trials and found conclusively to be guilty of their crimes. Suppose further that their punishment fits the crimes; that is, suppose for example, that they are convicted armed bank robbers serving 8 years in prison. Well, what''s so unjust about that? After all, haven''t these felons amply deserved their impoverished lives? (Recall that in 8 years time, they will have an opportunity to "try again"). Or consider a society of two people: you and me and suppose we both have $100. According to the egalitarian end-state theorist, our society is just. But wait a minute: suppose the reason I have $100 dollars and you have $100 is because I stole $25 from you when you had $125. Doesn''t the fact that our equality was arrived at through my thievery make the distribution unjust? The point here is that what someone has done to achieve their station in life can determine whether their occupying some station is just or unjust. If that is right, and it certainly seems plausible, then "end-state" theories are implausible.
 
  The alternative to "end-state" theories are "historical" theories and these do just as the name suggests: look at the historical facts about how some pattern of distribution was arrived at to determine whether the society arranged into that pattern is just. Now there are two types of historical theories according to Nozick: patterned and unpatterned. Patterned historical theories distribute according to some pattern such as, "To each according to his need". Unpatterned historical theories do not do this. Nozick''s own historical theory is unpatterned; thus, his theory of justice is a theory of the "minimal state" ("minimal" because it enforces no pattern). We can understand Nozick''s basic point by noting that, according to Nozick, the only question of distribution that matters is: "Did the holder of these goods acquire the goods by legitimate means?". If yes, then the distribution is just. If that is all there is to justice then, of course, Fair Opportunity does not matter nor does the difference principle. Liberty, does, however, matter in just this sense: Nozick thinks that liberty has got to involve the right to retain any good acquired through legitimate means. It is fair enough to think of Nozick as advocating an unrestricted free-market capitalism (which, according to him, represents an "unpatterned historical theory of distribution"). The details of Nozick''s theory don''t matter too much. Now Nozick claims that Rawls is proposing a "patterned" theory, one that distributes according to the pattern set by the Difference Principle; roughly: to the better-off only if it also enhances the least well-off. And Nozick thinks he can show that any "patterned" theory is unjust because it requires re-distributing goods that were legitimately earned - and that, Nozick says, in unjustified.
 
  Here is Nozick''s example:
 
  Imagine a society which is regulated by some pattern (if you like, the Difference Principle). Let''s call the distribution pattern of the society D1. Now imagine that Wilt Chamberlin (or to make the example more contemporary: Vince Carter, or Tim Duncan or.....) has made an arrangement with his team and the fans so that he gets 25 cents for every spectator that attends a home game. The arrangement works like this: as the fans enter the turnstile and surrender their tickets, they have to drop a quarter into the "Funds for Wilt" box to open the gate. At the end of the season, a million people have attended home games making Wilt Chamberlin $250,000 richer. Call this new Distribution, D2.
 
  From this example, Nozick concludes that:
 
  1. Any pattern is vulnerable to disruption by people''s free actions.
 
  2. If D1 is just (and it must be because the pattern theory says it is), then D2 is also just because people have moved from D1 to D2 voluntarily.
 
  3. Thus, there are just arrangements (D2) that do not obey the original pattern.
 
  For our purposes, what matters is most is the claim of 1). If patterns can be disrupted by people''s free actions then any pattern (according to Nozick) can only be maintained by infringing on liberty. For suppose we decided to maintain a pattern but that some people decided to make a Wilt-like transaction. Then the pattern could only be maintained by either banning the transactions or constantly re-distributing to maintain the pattern. Either way, we intrude into peoples lives either by stopping their actions or reaching into their (Wilt''s) earnings to redistribute so as to re-establish the pattern. Either course is an infringement on liberty. If that is so, then a respect for liberty is incompatible with patterned conceptions of justice. The objection is a threat to Rawls because Rawls would have to insist, to maintain his pattern (to satisfy the Difference Principle) that Wilt''s earnings must be redistributed so as to benefit the least advantaged. But if Nozick is right, this is an infringement on Walt''s (and possibly the fans'') liberty contra the requirements of the Liberty Principle. The upshot then, for Rawls, is that the Liberty Principle is at odds with the Difference Principle.
 
  We can think of the debate between Nozick and Rawls as one that concerns the relationship between holding property and liberty. Consider the question: Does valuing liberty require recognizing that there are strong "property-rights"; that is, strong protections for holders of property? According to Nozick and other libertarians, the answer is "yes". Libertarians like Nozick believe the state violates rights if it attempts to transfer property from some (the rich) to others (the poor). According to Nozick, where people have liberty, there can be no restrictions on any individual''s property holdings. The libertarian tries to argue from the value of liberty to a very pure form of capitalism (according to which distribution is to be left essentially to the free market). If this line of thinking about what is necessary to liberty is right, then, as Nozick points out, Rawls (and some others who defend what Nozick calls, "patterned" conceptions of justice) may well be in trouble. To see that Rawls may well be in trouble, consider The Difference Principle. According to The Difference Principle, a pattern of distribution that does not favor the least well-off is unjust. Nozick takes this to imply that The Difference Principle is a principle of re-distribution which entitles a government to intervene in such a way as to move from an unjust distribution of social and economic goods to a more just distribution. But Rawls also values liberty. According to Nozick, however, the two principles, the Liberty Principle and the Difference Principle are in conflict: the Difference Principle requires the very kinds of re-distribution the Liberty Principle disallows. Thus, Nozick''s complaint against Rawls is that to satisfy the Difference Principle, economic goods will have to be redistributed by the government. But, since the only question that matters about goods is whether they were legitimately earned, redistribution by government is virtually stealing (remember Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor? Nozick is accusing Rawls of attempting to justify a government of Robin Hood like thieves).
 
  Now it is not at all clear that libertarianism really does protect liberty. To see this, note that leaving distribution only to the free market (and perhaps gifts and charities) is very likely to result in vast inequalities between rich and poor. Since economic means partly determines how many opportunities are available to a person, and since what opportunities someone has determines what they are at liberty to do, economic means partly determines how much liberty someone has. Thus we get, as a general rule: the more means (that is, the richer), the more liberty. The less means (that is, the poorer), the less liberty. Seen in this light, the liberty the libertarian is protecting is the liberty of the rich. The observation that an unimpeded free market leads to the kind of vast economic inequalities that, in turn, lead to vast inequalities in liberty is partly what leads some to welfare liberalism, the view that property must be redistributed from rich to poor to ensure equal liberty to all. To some extent, we can see the issue here as concerning the placement of property entitlements: are they within a "protected sphere" as is freedom of speech, the right to vote and so on, none of which a government is permitted to interfere with (so that there are property rights in some strong sense), or do property entitlements fall outside of this protected sphere and into an arena, like the ability to drive or the ability to practice medicine, where government intervention is permissible?
 
  The debate between Rawls and Nozick, cast in this light, is one that should be familiar. It is essentially the debate between Democrats, on the one hand, and Republicans on the other. The typical Republican position is that "big government" is to be avoided. In particular, what is to be avoided are the "big government" sort of interventions that use people''s tax money to fund social reform whether that reform be the improvement of the lot of society''s disadvantaged, educational reform or what-have-you. Nozick and the Republicans believe that to tax is to take people''s property away - to deprive them of what they have acquired through legitimate means (we hope!). Republicans also tout the virtues of free market capitalism as an important part of liberty - the economic liberties; that is, the liberty to acquire and accumulate wealth. Democrats, on the other hand, are much more often concerned with liberty''s relation to opportunity and the way in which economic disadvantages limit opportunity. So a Democrat is likely to protest to a Republican that a Republican jeopardizes liberty by allowing the kinds of vast inequalities that impede opportunity. Just so, a Republican is likely to protest to a Democrat that the Democratic ideal jeopardizes liberty by interfering (through taxation) with people''s economic liberty (property rights). That is, Republicans and Democrats both accuse each other of not respecting liberty. And this is just what Rawls and Nozick would accuse each other of: not respecting liberty! What is really at stake in both debates is whether economic freedom matters to liberty and if it does whether economic freedom requires strong property rights (that is, rights so strong that they impose an obligation on others not to tamper with them).
 

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