by Jan Narveson
Abstract: It is widely thought that Robert Nozick’s views on rectification of past injustices are of critical importance to his theory of distributive justice, even perhaps justifying wholesale redistributive taxes in the present because of the undoubted injustices that have pervaded much past history. This essay undertakes to correct this impression—not mostly by disagreeing with Nozick’s claims, but nevertheless proceeding on basic libertarian theory. Of enormous importance is the role of putative innocents, who are defrauded by miscreants carefully covering their tracks so that these recipients have no reason to think they are buying stolen property. But of equal importance is simply that the duty to rectify past injustices is not comparable to the original duty to respect property rights in the first place.