The Rights Source : Libertarianism, Self-Ownership, and Justice in Transfer

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Centrum för tillämpad etik

Author: Molly Sinderbrand; [2010]

Keywords: ;


In this paper, I plan to explore whether giving gifts, inheritance, or charity can be justified using the concept of self-ownership. I will be using Robert Nozick's principle of justice in transfer in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia as my foundation, and I will determine whether gifts – as a form of transfer – are compatible with this principle. The main argument will be that gifts are not compatible with Nozick's principle of justice in transfer because they cannot be justified using the principle of self-ownership.

The point of this argument against gifting is to show that Nozick's principle of justice in transfer is incomplete. Not all transfer can be justified using self-ownership, and thus we need another principle along with it. It is essentially an argument ad absurdum. If we show that gifting cannot be justified, the only choice is to create a system that does not include gifts, charity, or inheritance. But, as I will discuss in the conclusion, such a system would be intuitively incorrect, and would lead to ridiculous practical consequences. Thus, I aim to show that self-ownership cannot do all of the work in Nozick's theory – he must add another principle that can account for gifting.

In the first chapter, I will outline the arguments for the principle of self-ownership, and how these arguments lead to property ownership. I will also describe what it means to own property, or to have a right to property. In the second chapter, I will examine the principle of justice in transfer and the free market, and some of the objections to them. The third chapter deals with the argument specifically against gifting, and the fourth chapter shows how the arguments against gifting do not extend to market transfer. In the fifth chapter, I will describe and refute some possible objections to the idea that gifting cannot be justified using self-ownership within the principle of justice in transfer. In the conclusion, I will look at some of the practical consequences that show us why a system without gifting would be absurd.

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