Libertarian Side Constraints

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  1. profile image0
    Sooner28posted 5 years ago

    Robert Nozick is famous for his Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which is one of the clearest defenses of libertarianism around.  In it, he makes an argument (this isn't the only one) against violating what he calls " moral side constraints" (certain rights that cannot be violated, no matter what goal one wants to achieve).  I'm going to try and summarize my interpretation of part of his argument here to get some discussion going.

    1.  It is immoral to use individuals solely as a means.  This is based on the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, who famously claimed, "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." 

    Nozick adds, "Side constraints express the inviolability of other persons." 

    2.  Redistributive taxation uses individuals solely as a means.

    Nozick asserts, "He does not get some overbalancing good from his sacrifice, and no one is entitled to force this upon him..."

    3.  Therefore, redistributive taxation is immoral.

    I haven't finished the book, and I know there's plenty more Nozick discusses.  I'm just trying to foster discussion.

    1. GA Anderson profile image88
      GA Andersonposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      So how do you feel about redistributive taxation? Or the sanctity of his described "side constraints?"

      Neutral moderators seldom have as much invested as participants... so speak up man!

      I will shoot from the hip and offer the thought that in libertarianism, (like many other schools), there seem to be many positions and thoughts that fall into the "looks good on paper, but..." category.

      For instance; to a libertarian, is there difference between taxation and redistributive taxation? Does a libertarian see all taxation as redistributive?

      How does the author advocate covering the costs that every societal/community group will have? Or does he deny that there are any real costs of community?

      Who pays the sheriff? Or is it each to his own, (regarding protection from harm), in a libertarian view? Does a libertarian even believe in community?


      1. profile image0
        Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

        All taxation is not redistributive for Nozick.  His argument is in favor of a "minimal state" that enforces contracts, prevents fraud, force, etc. 

        Most taxation is though, because of the above argument.

        I'm liberal, so obviously I'm thinking the particular side constraints he chooses are not going to be something I'd necessarily agree with, but again, I want to finish the book before I pass judgment on it all.

        I'm just wondering what other people think about the specific argument I outlined. 

        I don't know if this matters, but Nozick changed his mind later in life.  … _scam.html

        The intellectually lazy route is to say, well he disavowed his own previous beliefs, so I shouldn't take him seriously!

        There's always the possibility he was wrong later in life and was right earlier on.  I don't see myself changing my political philosophy from being a far left liberal to a far-right libertarian, but who knows?

    2. Will Apse profile image91
      Will Apseposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      Why bother with this kind of fantasy stuff? The wild west is not coming back.

      1. GA Anderson profile image88
        GA Andersonposted 5 years agoin reply to this

        Oh my, did someone mess with your Cheerios this morning?

        Or would you rather another Bubblews discussion instead?


      2. profile image0
        Sooner28posted 5 years agoin reply to this

        I'm doing this in the pursuit of truth.  I am a staunch liberal, which reading almost any hub or forum I've started will show.


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