Economic Justice and Political Theory

Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand, and others devised the libertarian theory. This concept is a political philosophy, which upholds liberty as the primary objective. The aim of this theory is to maximize freedom and autonomy of choice, insisting on voluntary association, political freedom and the primacy of individual judgment (Rawls, 1999).  Libertarianism argues that only a “minimal state” dedicated to protecting people against crimes of robbery, assault and fraud can be morally justified. As such it suggests that the basic question of political philosophy is not how governments are organized but whether we should have any state at all. This argument relates to John Locke’s philosophy in that “government is legitimate only to the degree that it promotes greater security for life, liberty, and property than would exist in a chaotic, pre-political “state of nature” (Rawls, 1999). However, libertarians believe that the need for security justifies a minimal like the state or the night watchman because we cannot prove that citizens will achieve any security intense government intervention.

The resulting principles of economic justice agreed in the libertarian stance is that each individual holds equal rights to the most expansive basic liberties compatible with an equivalent scheme of liberties for other people. This implies that those fundamental liberties include the right to hold office and the right to vote, freedom of choice, liberty of conscience and right to hold personal property. Also, economic and social inequalities must be arranged in such a way that they generate the greatest expected benefits of the least advantaged. This requires that citizens think about economic inequalities by exploring a perfect condition of equality. Deviation from the imagined perfect state of equality is specifically justifiably on condition that the least advantaged in the society must be better off than they would be in the initial condition of perfect equality. As such, Nozick et al. means the “infringement of the equal basic liberties protected by the first principle cannot be justified, or compensated for, by greater social and economic advantages” (Rawls, 1999). Simply put, it is improper to mess with individuals’ basic liberties so as to make the disadvantaged in the society better off as expected by the cited principle. This is because the basic human liberties are fixed.

From the perspective of government distribution of wealth, libertarians seem divided. The Right-wing libertarians argue that unowned properties "may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes his labor with them, or merely claims them—without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them" (Tomasi, 2012). This implies that all properties are originally unowned and thus private individuals could appropriate them willingly without any consent. As such, self-ownership allows an unequal distribution of natural resources and property, which results in concentrations of economic power so long as it is achieved through a non-coercive method.

Contrary, the left-wing libertarians contend that neither mixing nor claiming one’s labor with existing resources is adequate to produce complete private property ownership (Tomasi, 2012). This suggests that property and natural resources should be held in an egalitarian manner either owned or unowned collectively. These libertarians often reject private property ownership in favor of a mutual enjoyment of property and natural resources. According to the general libertarianism, for the state or the government to meddle in such areas, it violates the libertarian principle of freedom and hence illegitimate. This approach emphasizes on freedom as holding greater merit. They believe that all people “are citizens of the land of the free" (Tomasi, 2012).


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