Assess whether an unequal distribution of property between individuals could be a feature of a just society

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Assess whether an unequal distribution of property between individuals could be a feature of a just society? (50 marks)

By a ‘just society’ we are referring to the principle of people getting what they deserve – or desert theory. Those such as Nozick believe that individuals have an absolute right to property of income that they themselves create; Marx outlined his belief in absolute equality; Rawls, however, is the only philosopher able to claim the middle ground and suggest a sensible solution: claiming that an unequal distribution of property can, with certain constraints, benefit the poorest in society.

Nozick’s view on the distribution of property focuses on the issue of how it came about. Self-ownership of one’s own talents and abilities is key to his way of thinking. If, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo asked his football club to pay him 25p for each ticket sold, the fans being happy to pay the extra, and 400,000 people watched him play that season – then he would be £10,000,000 better off. This is perfectly just according to Nozick, since Ronaldo is using his own talents to make money; which the fans voluntarily gave to him.

However, in some philosophers eyes, this would be seen as unjust is Ronaldo was allowed to keep all, or even any, of that money. Be that as it may, Nozick stated that people were ‘ends in themselves’ and any attempt to use them in ways they don’t agree to = even for some ‘greater good’ – would violate their liberty. Such as example would be taxation. People, thus, have a right to own what they produce: conservatives would even argue that property becomes part of a person’s personality.

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The only constraints Nozick places on property is that it should be ‘justly acquired’ (not stolen or gained via the forced labour of others), ‘justly transferred’ (fair price given – not cheated or robbed), and the ‘rectification of injustice’ (giving back property that was stolen or otherwise unjustly taken).

If one were to accept Nozick’s view, the result would be a society with huge economic inequalities. There is also the problem with individuals, through no fault of their own, not being able to support themselves. Relying on philanthropy and personal savings that one has been able to save doesn’t seem ...

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