“Justice means giving people what they deserve.” This is an interesting idea that has debated for much of human history, dating as far back as to great thinkers such as Aristotle. We may now ask, how would two modern, influential, political theorists respond to this notion? John Rawls’ “Justice as Fairness” and Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” present theories that we can use to determine and make assumptions as to how these two figures would respond. John Rawls’, “Justice as Fairness.” Rawls’ describes justice using two distinct principles: First, the liberty principle. This principle states that people’s equal basic liberties, for instance freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to vote, should always be strictly enforced in law.
Rawls states “the first requires equality in the assignment of basic rights and duties” (Rawls, 206). This is to say that there are certain rights that are in inalienable. The second principle is the know as the difference principle. This second principle states that differences in both social and economic areas are only tolerable when they promote the well-being of the smallest fortunate members of community. Rawls attempts to show to a point, when both principles are combined, form a society characterized by Rawls calls “justice as fairness.” To come to this point, Rawls uses an argument where people in a state of nature, make choices behind what he calls a “veil of ignorance,” using a reasoning system, which Rawls calls the “reflective equilibrium.
” Behind the veil of ignorance, with no inherent knowledge of their own places in civil society, Rawls says that reasonable people will, by default, move towards social and economic positions that maximize the prospects for the worst-off people, and this would be Rawls most just form of society. Taking this into consideration, it can be said that Rawls would argue the statement of “Justice means giving people what they deserve,” could be true. Rawls would argue that people deserve a level of equality and that justice can only be achieved once they people are given what they naturally deserve.Robert Nozick, have a somewhat counter argument to Rawls or almost a direct response, within his work, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” argues that only a “minimal state”, with the sole purpose of the execution of contracts and shielding people against crimes can be morally justified, and just. Nozick suggests that the central question of political theory is not how the state should be organized but whether or not there should be any state at all. His theories resemble John Locke in that government is valid only when it promotes greater safekeeping for the fundamental rights, such as life, liberty, and property, than would potentially exist in a chaotic, state of nature.
Nozick comes to the conclusion that the need for security is the only thing that justifies minimal state, since it cannot be demonstrated that citizens will attain any more security through extensive governmental intervention. Nozick states, “The minimal state s the most extensive state that can be justified. Any state more extensive violates people’s rights” (Nozick, 60). This reiterates that previous points states. While Rawls may have a different view of government, seemly believing that there is a need for government intervention to keep, Nozick does not seem to suggest this. Nozick’s theories would suggest that his response to the statement “Justice means giving people what they deserve,” would be more of a disagreement.
Nozick would be more likely to argue that deserving something is not the same thing as justice. While he would argue that we are all entitled to a certain level of protection for fundamental rights, there seems to be a difference between his idea of protection of those rights and the idea that they are deserved. The main difference between these two political theories is in the treatment of the validity of redistribution of wealth, and this plays into the idea of fairness, and addresses what most people would consider to be just. Rawls’s difference principle is contradicted by Nozick’s “entitlement theory” of justice, which states that individual holdings of social and economic goods are justified only if they derive from just acquisitions or legal transfers, with theft being an exception. Within this system of justice, there is no such thing as “social welfare” or social programs that are paid for through involuntary taxes.
These is also no room within the system for people who do not carry their own weight, free-riders. Nozick’s account of Rawls’s difference principle states that it’s irrational to claim that simply because all people within a society benefit from social cooperation, the least privileged ones are entitled to an equal portion of the earnings of their more successful peers. This is simply inconceivable within Rawls theory. Both theories may have these differences, yet they maintain similarities. Both hold the notion that these is justice in fundamental liberties. Nozick and Rawls have the same first principle of liberty being fundamental to a system of justice, while Nozick rejects Rawls’ difference principle. Nozick seems to believe that entitlement to fairness is insufficient to demand for a redistributionist form of state and maintains the idea of minimalistic states.
Nozick and Rawls Both shared a view of political theory as an exercise in the production of normative theories, with little practical grounding. Both theories rate a society’s success by how closely it’s laws and procedures adhere to their model of justice, rather than whether those laws produce morally maximized outcomes. On the question of Which author’s understanding of justice do you think best represents most people’s intuitive/instinctual beliefs about what justice requires? It can be argued that both of these theorists would be able to find people that would both agree and disagree with the role of justice within society.
Rawls makes an argument that justice can only be achieved through a state that is willing to regulate the actions and wealth of people to ensure that the treatment of individuals is equal. This would most fit with the statement concerning fairness, but it is difficult to determine if this would be in line with the general public’s view on the subject of justice as a whole. It can be argued that it is impossible the generalize how the public views justice. While it may be said that either of these theorists fit the mold, it is impossible to say so without first making a mold. Overall, both Rawls and Nozick present a form of justice and a normative theory by which they seem to believe that the government should institute this form of justice.
While neither would truly be able to fully agree with the statement “Justice means giving people what they deserve.”, it can be argued that Rawls’ view is closer in line to this view point. Rawls would argue that people deserve a level of equality and that justice can only be achieved once they people are given what they naturally deserve, whereas Nozick would be more likely to argue that deserving something is not the same thing as justice. It is impossible to say which author’s understanding of justice best represents most people’s intuitive/instinctual beliefs about what justice requires because I can only give what I know to be instinctive to myself. It almost fees improper to say otherwise.