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Home>Ethics,PoliticalPhilosophy,Summaries,libertarianism>NozickonLockesTheoryof
Acquisition,theLockeanProviso,andCollectiveAssets(Part2)
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NozickonLockesTheoryofAcquisition,theLockeanProviso,
andCollectiveAssets(Part2)
April30th,2009admin
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Thus,onemaynotonlynotappropriatetheonlywaterholeinadesertandchargewhathepleases,but
healsomaynotchargewhathepleasesifitjustsohappensthatcircumstancedestroysallother
wateringholes.Nozickbrieflydeviatesforamomenttoclarifythattheownersrightsarenot
eliminatedinthesecases,butsimplyoverriddentoavoidsomecatastrophe(not,however,insome
adhocway,butinternaltothegiventheoryofproperty).
Delvingintofurtherexposition,Nozickassertsthatsomeoneowningtheentiresupplyofsomething
necessaryforotherstoremainlivingdoesnotalwaysmeanthatappropriationsleadinguptothis
ownershipleftsomepeopleinasituationworsethanthebaseline.Inserviceofthisassertion,hecites
thecaseofamedicalresearcherwhofindsaneffectivetreatmentforadiseasebutrefusestosellit
exceptonhisowntermstheresearcherdoesnotviolatetheprovisobecausehedidnotappropriate
thechemicalmaterialsheusedinawaythat,throughcausingscarcity,violatedtheLockeanproviso.
Ultimately,thisdemonstratesthattheLockeanprovisoisnotanendstateprinciplethestructureof
thesituationthatresultsisnotrelevant,butthenatureoftheactionstakentoreachthatresultis.
Followingthis,Nozickputsforwardhisbeliefthatafreemarketsystemwouldnotactuallycomeinto
conflictwiththeLockeanproviso,makingtheempiricalhistoricalclaimthatpeoplesconcernfor
thepossibilityoftheprovisosviolationaboveotherpossibilitiesisonlyduetotheeffectsofprevious
illegitimatestateaction,endinghisexplorationofthecomplicationintheentitlementtheory
introducedbytheLockeanproviso.

Nozickthenmovesontoaddresswhatheearlierlabeledthenegativeargument:theuseofthe
claimthatpeopledontdeservetheirnaturalassetstorebutapossiblecounterargumenttoRawls
view.HehasusconsiderthefollowingcounterargumenttoRawls(E):
1.Peopledeservetheirnaturalassets.
2.IfpeopledeserveX,theydeserveanyYthatflowsfromX.
3.Peoplesholdingsflowfromtheirnaturalassets.
Therefore,
4.Peopledeservetheirholdings.
5.Ifpeopledeservesomething,thentheyoughttohaveit(andthisoverridesanypresumptionof
equalitytheremaybeaboutthatthing.)
BecauseRawlswouldrebutthiscounterargumentbydenyingthefirstpremise,theconnection
betweennaturalassetsbeingmorallyarbitraryandthestatementthatdistributivesharesshouldnot
dependonnaturalassetsisclearer.Here,Nozickattemptstoshowthattheconceptofdesertneednt
bepresentinanargumentofthissortforittoproperlyfollow.Hestartswithanewcounterargument,
F:
1.IfpeoplehaveX,andtheirhavingX(whetherornottheydeservetohaveit)doesnotviolate
anyoneelses(Lockean)rightorentitlementtoX,andYflowsfrom(arisesoutof,andsoon)Xbya
processthatdoesnotitselfviolateanyones(Lockean)rightsorentitlements,Thenthepersonis
entitledtoY.
2.Peopleshavingthenaturalassetstheydodoesnotviolateanyoneelses(Lockean)entitlementsor
rights.
Theargumentwouldthenproceedtoarguethatpeopleareentitledtothefruitsoftheirlaborandto
whatothersvoluntarilygiveorexchangewiththem.Nozick,quitesuccinctly,phraseshisobjectionto
holdingequivalencebetweendesertandentitlement:
Itisnottrue,forexample,thatapersonearnsY(arighttokeepapaintinghesmade,praisefor
writingatheoryofJustice,andsoon)onlyifhesearned(orotherwisedeserves)whateverheused
(includingnaturalassets)intheprocessofearningY.Someofthethingsheuseshejustmayhave,
notillegitimately.Itneedntbethatthefoundationsunderlyingdesertarethemselvesdeserved,allthe
waydown.

Thus,sincepeoplecanbedescribedasentitledtotheirnaturalassetseveniftheycannotbelabeledas
deservingofthem,thenanargumentparalleltoargumentEwithareentitledtoreplacingdeserve
throughoutwillbevalid.ReturningmoreexplicitlytoRawls,NozickthenimpliesthatRawls
argumentisinabind.Recognizingpeoplesentitlementstotheirnaturalassetscouldbenecessaryto
avoidastrictapplicationofthedifferenceprinciplethatwouldentailevenstrongerpropertyrights
thanwealthredistributivetheoriesusuallyyield.

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