Nozick: distribution versus production

Nozick considers other historical or “patterned” approaches to justice on pp. 155-160 of ASU, such as “distribute according to moral merit” and “distribute according to usefulness to society” and other formulations. Putting aside definitional problems — i.e. the awkward fact that there are many different conceptions of “morality” and “utility” — Nozick points out how all these alternative approaches to justice all suffer from the same major flaw. They focus exclusively on questions of distribution (who gets what?) and neglect questions of production (who makes what?). Nozick’s entitlement theory of justice, by contrast, emphasizes the problem of production (p. 160, emphasis in original): “The situation is not one of something’s getting made, and there being an open question of who is to get it. Things come into the world already attached to people have entitlements over them.” In other words, most theories of distributive justice erroneously assume that there is already a large enough pie to give away, but in reality, the pie has got to be made before it can be distributed!

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