Compensation versus Redistribution 
Compensation versus Redistribution
by Yale / Ian Shapiro
Video Lecture 15 of 25
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Date Added: June 18, 2011

Lecture Description

The class's examination of Nozick's minimal state has raised a number of important questions, most of which are rooted in his troublesome model of compensation. Nozick would respond with his threefold account of justice: (1) justice in acquisition, (2) justice in transfer, and (3) rectification of past injustices. Nozick brilliantly demonstrates that "liberty upsets patterns"--even though we can originally start off with any just distribution, allowing voluntary transactions creates an unequal distribution of wealth. At some point, transactions actually stop being voluntary, however, when some would say the government should step in. But Nozick argues that because there is a deep pluralism of values and since we cannot agree on what this point should be, we must keep this redistribution to an absolute minimum so as not to impose anyone's views on anyone else. This is how he distinguishes between redistribution and compensation. His model of compensation is backward-looking and doesn't require us to agree on a pattern. It asks what is necessary to make the harmed person whole again. Although addressing individual harms is easier than looking for a pattern applicable to society as a whole, Nozick fails to address the question of how far backward we must look in compensating for past injustices.

Reading assignment:
Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, chapters 6-7, pp. 149-64, 167-82

Course Index

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question, "When do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

Course Structure:
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.

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