One of the guiding principles in the quest to promote human welfare in the world is the need to achieve the common good. To achieve this feat, it is important to acknowledge the importance of creating an inclusive society that promotes the values of equality, justice, responsibility, and entitlement (Wolff 12). These values should form the basis of governance across all forms of jurisdictions. A just and equal society embraces the rule of law, as well as the need to promote responsible and accountable leadership. Everyone is entitled to enjoy basic human rights, as well as the privilege to exercise one’s freedom of speech, ownership, worship, and association among others. Over the years, the concept of justice and entitlement has been the subject of major debates across the world as more people seek to understand the value of distributive justice (Foley 38). This debate gained a lot of momentum over the last several centuries owing to the emergence of the creative industry where the issue of intellectual property rights remains a divisive issue. However, this issue has been widely analyzed and demystified by the entitlement theory. The theory created by Robert Nozick explains the way the principle of justice applies when determining the rights granted by law to an individual who owns a property.
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The entitlement theory has three main guiding principles. The first one is the principle of justice in acquisition, which focuses on guiding the process of acquiring a property for the first time. This is very important, especially in situations where the acquisition is being done by a registered group or by more than one person. Its focus is ensuring that all the involved parties have all the information necessary in ensuring they make the right decisions. The second one is the principle of justice in a transfer that focuses on guiding the process of transferring property from one owner to another (Wolff 23).
It is important to ensure that any form of transfers happen in an open and just manner to avoid the new owner inheriting risks or burdens that they do not involve them. All parties are entitled to getting all the necessary information such as the history of the property before agreeing to any transfer. The third one is the principle of rectification of injustice, which focuses on guiding the process of addressing cases involving property acquired or transferred through unlawful means. In such situations, it is important to acknowledge the plight of the victims and the need for them to be compensated in case there are any losses incurred (Foley 50). Also, this principle advocate for engaging the people affected by injustice in establishing the elements that might have influenced the phenomenon. This plays a crucial role in ensuring that such injustices do not happen again in the future.
In line with the three crucial principles, Nozick argued that the third principle who be of no use if the world embraces the need to achieve the common good by promoting justice. Also, he believed that the concept of justice in the ownership and transfer of property is an entitlement (Hevia 99). Everyone who owns a property should have entitlement over all the decisions regarding its transfer, changes, or development. The same case applies to all the property that someone acquires through a transfer made through a legal process. This means that property owned by a group or more than one individual should exercise distributive entitlement whereby all the individuals have equal access to benefits and influence in making decisions (Cairns 129). However, society is filled with different personalities and these principles are not applied accordingly. Many people tend to violate them in a bid to defraud others of their rightful properties without showing any regard to the law or the principle of the common good. Just as Nozick argued, embracing justice is the only way in which people can enjoy full entitlement to their holdings (Wolff 31). This will eliminate the need to engage the third principle of justice where the law has to intervene in restoring the entitlement rights of a property to the rightful owner.
The effectiveness of the concept of a free-market economy is highly dependent on the principle of justice and entitlement. In a governance setting, taxation is one of the common ways through which governments raise revenue for running its operations. Taxation often applies the pay as you earn strategy, which means that people on the high-income bracket pay more taxes compared to those on the lower levels. Most governments use the tax revenue to support programs geared towards eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life. Proponents of the principle of justice believe that is unjust to subject rich people to high taxes in a bid to get money to support the poor (Lieberman 119). Their argument is based on the notion that all people should be entitled to their full pay regardless of their economic status. Instead, the government should devise alternative strategies for generating money to support the empowerment programs as part of fulfilling their responsibility to the citizens.
In a society where justice and the principle of entitlement are fully embraced, an activity like taxation should be done voluntarily. However, this cannot be applicable because all citizens have a responsibility to support their respective governments in improving the quality of life and eventually achieving the common good. The main reasoning behind this argument is the fact that all human beings can attain a certain level of welfare in life depending on their abilities and accessible opportunities (Lieberman 131). Since the level of income cannot be equal across all people, then it makes sense if people pay their taxes depending on their economic status. This means that the higher the income the higher the taxation and vice versa. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure equal distribution of resources to empower all its citizens with reliable income-generating activities.
Over the years, the concept of justice and entitlement has come under serious criticism due to its inability to promote the spirit of competitiveness. Most of its critics argue that embracing justice in the entitlement rights over properties can lead to the majority of resources in a country being controlled by very few people (Foley 116). For example, in a situation where a property is passed through successive generations as inheritance can lead to major inequalities because those that assume the entitlement for the holdings do not know the real source of resources used in developing it. Also, this can lead to unsustainable development due to a lack of healthy competition (Lerner and Mikula 108). However, this situation can be rectified through taxation, whereby people that receive property in the form of inheritance are required to pay some tax to the government as a means of bequeathing their value. Taxation plays a very crucial role in the growth and development of any government. However, it is important to ensure that it is done in a just manner, putting into consideration the different levels of income and the need to promote the principle of entitlement. Apart from Nozick, other legal philosophers such as Rawls and Aristotle also emphasized these sentiments by arguing that the concept of justice and entitlement is applied similarly to utilitarianism (Cairns 146). Also, they believe that justice is a relative concept whose meaning and application vary from one jurisdiction to another.
The entitlement theory of justice is one of the oldest and widely applied concepts in societies across the world. Over the years, it has been used to promote the need to create an inclusive society where equality, human welfare, and the common good are the defining elements. People have the right to enjoy various freedoms and rights provided by the constitutions that govern their respective countries. Some of the most controversial entitlements that people believe have been violated by many legal systems include taxation, as well as ownership, and transfer of property. All people have the responsibility of paying taxes to their respective authorities as a way of promoting development. It is not possible to exempt anyone from taxation simply because of the feeling of being entitled to choose whatever they want to do with their money. It is the responsibility of the government to promote justice through equal distribution of resources, empowerment programs, and regulating the ability of people to have full control over properties transferred to them as an inheritance.
Cairns, James. The Myth of the Age of Entitlement: Millennialism, Austerity, and Hope. University of Toronto Press, 2017.
Foley, Tony. Developing Restorative Justice Jurisprudence: Rethinking Responses to Criminal Wrongdoing. Routledge, 2016.
Hevia, Martin. Reasonableness and Responsibility: A Theory of Contract Law. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
Lerner, Melvin, and Gerold, Mikula. Entitlement and the Affection Bond: Justice in Close Relationships. Springer Science & Business Media.
Lieberman, Jethro. Liberalism Undressed. OUP USA, 2012.
Wolff, Jonathan. Robert Nozick: Property, Justice and the Minimal State. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.