Justice as fairness and justice as entitlement

‘Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking someone else will pay – that ‘someone else’ is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only [individual] taxpayers ‘money’.
Margaret Thatcher.

Does Margaret Thatcher in the above quote reflect a Rawlsian or a Nozickian vision of distributive justice? Do you agree with the above statement? Discuss with reference to the competing concepts of justice as fairness and justice as entitlement.
Introduction:
Taxation is at the centre of the smooth running of any democratic government and in line with the point being made by Margaret Thatcher it is the only source of money available to a government that it can use legitimately without having to pay back with interest. It is a central policy issue for every political party as people constantly debate whether; wealthy people should be taxed more in order to cover the expense of running a country, or should wealthy people be entitled to keep what they earn and have every citizen pay the same rate of income tax regardless of their financial wealth. The notion of justice while being central to the legal and political philosophies of all democratic states, is a notion that is impossible to define justice, as what is considered just and equal to one person of group of people is unjust and unequal to another. Therefore the potential scope for this justice is unlimited however due to constraints for the purpose of this essay distributive justice will focus solely on wealth distribution and level of taxation imposed on a state’s citizens according to their wealth, as mentioned in the quote from Margaret Thatcher above. The essay will attempt to define justice, compare and contrast the theories of Rawls and Nozick in relation to the points being made by Thatcher in the above quote along with references to the competing concepts of justice as fairness and justice as entitlement. The core concept of Thatcher’s quote is income tax should be avoided and that it should not be the government’s responsibility to collect income tax and redistribute it as it sees fit. It is this view of the quote that will be discussed throughout the essay.
Literature Review:
There is ample literature, both old and recent, on the topic of distributive justice, discussing both the ideas of justice as fairness and justice as entitlement. As justice is a fundamental concept to all democratic nations it is discussed in detail by almost all of the most influential legal philosophers including, Aristotle, Plato, Bentham, Hart, Rawls and Nozick. Freeman constantly discusses the theories of justice while comparing them to utilitarianism, which is helpful as discussing the core issues of the theories of justice can seem quite abstract and this comparison helps make the connection between the theories and more real world examples. Wacks book offers a simplified version of the theories of Rawls and Nozick, compared to Freeman who goes into significantly more detail, along with the other aspects of justice not discussed in this essay such as utilitarianism. Simmonds along with Freeman offers a deep and comprehensive discussion on the theories of Rawls and Nozick. Nayak describes the theory of Nozick in great detail assessing each principle of his theory of justice as entitlement. The difficulty with critically analysing journal articles written on the theories of Rawls and Nozick is that they tend to focus on specific examples such as the United States which results in much of the discussion of the papers is largely irrelevant to this essay as this essay seeks to focus on the general principles of the theories in relation to taxation in a broad sense without focusing on any particular country. Therefore much of the research for this essay has been through the analysis of books that discuss the theories of Rawls and Nozick.
Justice:
Justice has no clear definition in relation to what is fair and equal as this concept is interpreted differently and holds a different meaning to each individual, so what is fundamental to equality of distribution for one person may not even be taken into consideration by another when thinking about distributive justice. Philosophers of jurisprudence, mentioned above, all have differing ideals of what distributive justice is. The added complexity with accurately describing justice and its’ distribution is the difficulty of measuring it. Utilitarianism measures justice through measuring a person’s happiness or utility compared to another person’s, as a result of the difficulty measuring happiness it is converted to something that is tangible and therefore measurable – money which is used to measure a person’s wealth. Therefore taxation and income tax are used as measurements to determine the amount of freedom and equality of its citizens by the percentage amount it taxes its’ citizens and how it uses those taxes to provide services or redistributing the nation’s wealth through its welfare state. The fundamental point of Thatcher’s quote is that if a person believes that wealth should be redistributed that person must realise that they are talking about their wealth and not just the wealth of everyone else. Both Rawls and Nozick describe their ideals of justice of justice in the abstract through creating a nation and a state of affairs that is based on pretence, which creates a difficulty comparing their ideals to the real world example of Thatcher’s Britain.[1]
Rawls and Distributive Justice:
Rawls believed that utilitarianism is an inadequate way of measuring justice as it allows for inequalities which are unacceptable to him.[2] Through his justice as fairness concept Rawls defined the principles of justice he considered to be fundamental in defining justice. Rawls also believed in equality for every citizen in both basic liberties of social life and in the distribution of all forms of social goods. To describe his theory of justice as fairness Rawls creates a fictional a fictional place that is surrounded by a veil of ignorance which prevents the people from forming preconceived judgements about what is just and they have no knowledge of such things as their sex, religion or intelligence, this is known as the ‘original position’.[3] Rawls then goes on to create two principles of justice: the first principle states that ‘each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all,’ while the second principle states that ‘social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.’[4] Therefore Rawls argues that there should be fair and equal opportunity in society along with the elimination of all inequalities of opportunity based on birth or wealth. It may be argued that Rawls theory of justice would result in less productivity, which would result in less wealth which would eventually result in less income tax. Hence, it may be concluded that Rawls theories of justice, specifically his justice as fairness is in a broad sense is in conflict with Thatcher’s quote above. Rawls’ theory also differs with the theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau as he does not claim that people do not form any contract with governments to justify obedience to laws.[5] Rawls accepts capitalism and its’ rules but uses redistribution of wealth through income tax to benefit those who are naturally disadvantaged.[6] Simmonds is very critical of some aspects of Rawls theory such as how people might have a conception of what ‘good’ is as this in itself is different for every person which is similar to Nozick’s view of ‘good’. [7]
Nozick and Distributive Justice:
Nozick theories of justice and specifically his theory of justice as entitlement argue that an individual’s rights must not be interfered with by society and that it should be at an individual’s discretion what they wish to do with their wealth or any aspect of their lives. This is a bold theory that does not sit well with many the notion of taxation. Nozick was opposed to the idea of the state redistributing resources through an income tax forced upon its citizens. He believes that the state should only interfere in the lives of its’ citizens to offer them protection.[8] Nozick saw it fundamentally important that the state protected the resources individuals already had and should not be concerned about redistributing those resources.[9] Nozick’s theory of justice as entitlement contains three principles: the first states the methods by which persons can acquire ownership of previously unowned resources, the second determines the method by which the ownership of resources may be transferred and finally if a transaction of ownership is carried out fraudulently how may this be rectified.[10] Nozick makes a number of assumptions that are not realistic in the real world, the first is that his theories are based on an oversimplified conception that an individual is isolated from society and will not suffer adverse effects from varying changes in society.[11] Nozick is vehemently against the notion of income tax even going as far as comparing it to forced labour is extreme and goes much further than Thatcher in the quote above. In contrast to Rawls theory, where it is acceptable to for the less advantage to gain from the more advantaged in society hence, the more advantaged suffer losses that Rawls believes are justified, Nozick believes that each person should be individual in their right whether than be through natural talents or wealth that is acquired a person is under no obligation to provide for some individual who is less advantaged than themselves.[12] Following from the description of Nozick’s theory Nayak concludes that his theory is based on a hypothetical utopia which is somewhat difficult to relate to in real world that Thatcher is speaking about.[13]
Conclusion:
To conclude, both concepts of justice as fairness, created by Rawls and justice as entitlement, conceived by Nozick are theories abstract from the real world. It is a combination of both theories that are present in reality with individuals given varying degrees of freedom and liberty by the states in which they reside. Both theories seek to explain and offer a solution to distributive justice however, the only conclusive result of both theories is adding more fuel to the already blazing fire that is the philosophy of distributive justice and have sparked further debate in the area of legal philosophy. However, it is clear that the above quote by Thatcher reflects a Nozickian view of distributive justice that a person’s wealth is theirs to decide how they wish to use it and it should be the approach of the government to keep their interference in individual’s lives to a minimal especially in the area of income tax. There are obvious criticisms to both theories and perhaps that is why a blend of both is what is actually witnessed in the real world. The creation of theories such as those of Rawls and Nozick are interesting and useful in understanding distribution of justice a concept that is fundamentally to each person’s life whether they hold strong or weak views as to how distribution of justice should occur or in other words whether they are Rawlsian or Nozickian, however, a criticism of these theories is that like all theories they are based on unrealistic assumptions and on a deeper reading of Thatcher’s quote she does recognise the need for income tax if they people so desire a redistribution of wealth through a welfare state which would be considered to be more Rawlsian however, on the surface of the quote she is openly opposed to the government collecting income tax from individuals and redistributing it which is clearly a Nozickian approach. Neither Rawls nor Nozick focus their theories on distribution of wealth they both focus their theories on other aspects of life such as moral conflicts but as with almost everything in modern life these theories have been adapted by modern philosophers to theories of wealth. The other aspects of their theories were not discussed in this essay as it focused on the justice of income taxation which has an obvious connection with wealth.
Bibliography.
Journal Articles:
Blake M, ‘Distributive Justice, State Coercion, and Autonomy’ 2001 30(3) Philosophy and Public Affairs 257.
Kaufman A, ‘The Myth of the Patterned Principle: Rawls, Nozick and Entitlements’ 2004 36(4) North-eastern Political Science Association 559.
Murphy C, ‘Distributive Justice, Modern Significance’ 1972 17 American Journal of Jurisprudence 153.
Navak P, Nozick’s Entitlement Theory and Distributive Justice’ 1989 24(4) Economic and Political Weekly 2.
O’Kelley C, ‘Rawls, Justice and the Income Tax’ 1981 16(1) Georgia Law Review 1.
Schaefer D, ‘Procedural Versus Substantive Justice: Rawls and Nozick’ 2007 24(1) Social Philosophy and Policy.
Sen A, ‘Justice Means Versus Freedoms’ 1990 19(2) Philosophy and Public Affairs 111.
Wei X, ‘From Principle to Context: Marx Versus Nozick and Rawls on Distributive Justice’ 2008 20(3) Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society 473.
Books:
Freeman M.D.A, Introduction to Jurisprudence, 8th edition, Sweet and Maxwell 2008.
Simmonds N. Central Issues in Jurisprudence, 4th edition, Sweet and Maxwell 2013.
Wacks R, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009.

[1] David Schaefer, ‘Procedural Versus Substantive Justice: Rawls and Nozick’ 2007 24(1) Social Philosophy and Policy.
[2] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 264.
[3] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 266.
[4] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 268.
[5] M.D.A. Freeman, Introduction to Jurisprudence, 8th edition, Sweet and Maxwell 2008.
[6] Xiaoping Wei, ‘From Principle to Context: Marx Versus Nozick and Rawls on Distributive Justice’ 2008 20(3) Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society 477.
[7] Nigel Simmonds, Central Issues in Jurisprudence (4th edition, Sweet and Maxwell 2013) 56.
[8] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 273.
[9] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 273.
[10] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 273.
[11] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 275.
[12] Nigel Simmonds, Central Issues in Jurisprudence (4th edition, Sweet and Maxwell 2013) 56.
[12] Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (2nd edition, Oxford University Press 2009) 97.
[13] Pulin Nayak, ‘Nozick’s Entitlement Theory and Distributive Justice’ 1989 24(4) Economics and Politics Weekly 8.

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