Abstract: Critics of Nozick have claimed that his formulation of the Lockean proviso is too permissive to serve as a morally plausible constraint on resource acquisition. In this essay, I advance a new critique of Nozick’s entitlement theory. In particular, I argue that even on his own permissive formulation of the Lockean proviso, he faces a dilemma. Either: (a) Nozick must accept redistributive taxation for the purposes of guaranteeing a compensatory level of welfare, which pushes him far beyond his goal of a minimal state, or (b) he must admit that his entitlement theory cannot satisfy the Lockean proviso. I will develop this dilemma by advancing a unique challenge to the way Nozick and contemporary libertarians like Jan Narveson evaluate the welfare prospects of the poor in conditions of moderate scarcity. In brief, they weight material welfare too heavily and discount more subjective elements of wellbeing, including self-mastery.
Keywords: Robert Nozick, minimal state, Lockean proviso, wealth redistribution, entitlement theory, Jan Narveson
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