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Liberty Upsets Patterns: Justice Approach Essay

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Updated: Jul 3rd, 2022

Nozick’s initial premise asks to imagine a just distribution of income, which will inevitably create a pattern. As soon as P1 is instituted, individuals will engage in dispositions in the name of justice that will create a different pattern, P2, and so on. By the phrase “liberty upsets patterns”, Nozick’s criticizes that theoretical justice approach and also states the matter of fact, that people who are free to bargain or trade will use that freedom to benefit some more than others over time, even if it is not their intention. The freedom will skew any system or pattern of perfect equality as demonstrated by his basketball player example, resulting in the need to formulate new patterns of distribution. In other words, it requires interference with people’s free choice. However, Nozick notably supports liberty as a fundamental right, and therefore such interference would be wrong.

Nozick used the example of a basketball player to demonstrate his point. Given that P1 is established as a just pattern of distribution, the basketball player Wilt Chamberlain continues to drive demand. Therefore, a million fans will pay 25 cents to see him play, providing him with a sum of $250,000. This places far more wealth in the hands of Chamberlain than most others, being either unjust itself or limiting the resources for the ability for others (the poor) to lead happy lives. Therefore, another pattern of distribution would have to be formed. It is important to note that Nozick did not support distributive justice, suggesting that it was unjust because resources are not distributed – they must be gathered, earned, or created by individuals, and then exchanged for something else. Any form of redistribution violates rights, particularly liberty. Nozick suggested his own entitlement theory as an alternative to distributive justice, suggesting that possession of any resource or property must be just in its acquisition, providing another take on Locke’s famous labor perspective.

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