Lecture 15 - Compensation versus Redistribution

author: Ian Shapiro, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: Aug. 19, 2014,   recorded: March 2010,   views: 1372
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)
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The class's examination of Nozick's minimal state has raised a number of important questions, most of which are rooted in his troublesome model of compensation. Nozick would respond with his threefold account of justice: (1) justice in acquisition, (2) justice in transfer, and (3) rectification of past injustices. Nozick brilliantly demonstrates that "liberty upsets patterns"--even though we can originally start off with any just distribution, allowing voluntary transactions creates an unequal distribution of wealth. At some point, transactions actually stop being voluntary, however, when some would say the government should step in. But Nozick argues that because there is a deep pluralism of values and since we cannot agree on what this point should be, we must keep this redistribution to an absolute minimum so as not to impose anyone's views on anyone else. This is how he distinguishes between redistribution and compensation. His model of compensation is backward-looking and doesn't require us to agree on a pattern. It asks what is necessary to make the harmed person whole again. Although addressing individual harms is easier than looking for a pattern applicable to society as a whole, Nozick fails to address the question of how far backward we must look in compensating for past injustices.

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