Theories of Distributive Justice
If in a community there are few members who hold most of the wealth and positions of power while
the remaining members have next to nothing, it is commonly assumed that there is an unfair
distribution of wealth and opportunity
This is what we would call an unjust society
It is understood that in fact most societies are to some degree unjust in this way. Consequently,
members of such a society, ex- Canada, see a need to rectify the injustice, making their society
In order to build a just society or rectify an unjust one, we first need to determine what counts as a
just society as such. Therefore, we need a comprehensive theory of justice.
Here we will begin by talking about economic distribution of wealth. Our concern more generally is
with quality of life, but today with economic wealth comes power and influence which are closely
related to quality of life of course.
Robert Nozik (1938-2002) offers a libertarian conception of justice that resists this way of...
“Nozick thus challenged the partial conclusion of John Rawls's Second Principle of Justice
of his A Theory of Justice that "social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that
they are to be of greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society." Nozick
suggested, as a critique of Rawls and utilitarianism, that the sacrosanctity of life made
property rights non-negotiable, such that an individual's personal liberty made state
policies of redistribution illegitimate. This principle has served as a foundation for many
right-libertarian arguments in modern politics.” (WIKIPEDIA)
Libertarianism- can be defined as defence of the right of free choice.
According to Nozik, a society is just only when the right (ie- protected freedoms) of its
members are not violated. Call this his principle of justice. Any transaction which is not
done with consent between the parties is therefore unjust, eg- taxation.
For Nozik, justice occurs when each transaction of power/ wealth (holdings) is just in its
own right, that is, it has been consented to freely by both sides. This is the grounds for
his entitlement theory of justice. A just society is one in which each member has holdings
in accordance with her entitlements, ie- in accordance with what she acquires by
This entitlement Theory can be basically laid out as follows:
1. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in acquisitions is
entitled to that holding
2. A person who acquires a holding in accordance with the principle of justice in transfer, from
someone else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding
*No one is entitled to a holding except by repeated application of 1) and 2) By Nozik’s measure a just society only requires that the transfer and acquisition of holdings be just
as he defines it above. It is largely irrelevant how fairly these hol