Property and welfare in liberal political philosophy
In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick argues that only a minimal, nightwatchman state is morally justified because a state with more extensive powers "violates persons' rights not to be forced to do certain things". He writes that his view implies that the state may not justly compel "some citizens to aid others". It is the justification of compelling "some citizens to aid others" that is the subject of this dissertation. In arguing for his position, Nozick invokes the name and prestige of two foremost liberal philosophers, Locke and Kant. It is shown that these two philosophers to whom Nozick turns for support do not support him at all, for they, like other philosophers in the liberal tradition such as Mill and Reid, argue that the property rights of the affluent be limited to provide for the needs and welfare of those unable to do so for themselves, that the state may justly compel some citizens to aid others. It is possible that, while Nozick is not, as he believes, a true disciple of Locke and Kant, or, indeed, in the mainstream liberal tradition on this important aspect of distributive justice, he has, nevertheless, produced a theory of property rights that can stand on its own merits, without appeal to Locke and Kant. It is argued that this is not so either, that Nozick fails to give convincing arguments for his strong property rights. The rejection of the idea that redistribution is a legitimate sphere of state action did not originate with Nozick in the twentieth century. The idea is clearly expressed in the writings of Hume in the eighteenth century. In order to show more clearly the implausibility of the minimal state case, Hume's arguments against redistribution are investigated and shown to fail.