Servicerep2 Essay, Research Paper
Thanks to Paul Torek for some thought-provoking comments, to whichI shall reply in two parts. Firstly, I should like to comment onhis intriguing suggestion on how Rawls might react to my hypothetical. Second, I’d like to make some comments on Torek’s own criticisms. 1. Rawls and the HypotheticalThere is the interesting side-issue that I cannothelp but stray into. Namely: how would a Rawlsian reply to my thoughtexperiment? I had considered Torek’s suggestion during the originalwriting, but I thought I’d leave it to come out in the discussion. Now at first glance, it appears that Torek is completely correct:for if Rawls’ first principle of justice, giving priority to libertymeans anything, it means that slavery is impermissible.Redistribution comes into its own only after there are somere-distributable goods, at which point the second principle (theDifference principle) make operate without violating the priorityof the first principle. But I seriously doubt that Rawls would consider this a correctapplication of his principles. It is quite clear that he does notthink that coercive paternalism violates his first principle: The problem of paternalism deserves some discussion here, since it has been mentioned in the argument for equal liberty, and concerns a lesser freedom. In the original position the parties assume that in society they are rational and able to manage their own affairs…But once the ideal conception is chosen, they will want to insure themselves against the possibility that their powers are undeveloped and they cannot rationally advanced their interests…[Mention of children and the mentally disturbed as prime examples, but continues as follows] It is also rational for them to protect themselves against their own irrational inclinations by consenting to a scheme of penalties that may give them a sufficient motive to avoid foolish actions and by accepting certain impositions designed to undo the unfortunate consequences of their imprudent behavior. (section 39, pp.248-249)And when Rawls describes what he has in mind with the first principle,the right of self-ownership does not seem to be quite what he hasin mind: The basic liberties of citizens are, roughly speaking, political liberty (the right to vote and to be eligible for public office) together with freedom of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience together with freedom of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience and freedom of thought; freedom of the person along with the right to hold (personal) property; and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law. (section 11, pp.61)(One might argue that the right of self-ownership is in that listsomewhere, but it hardly seems like that is what Rawls is saying;rather, he has very much the civil libertarians’ narrow viewof liberty even leaving aside mention of private property). And finally, I would point out Rawls’ many denials of the claimthat individuals have deserve their natural talents. To takeonly one example: Perhaps some will think that the person with greater natural endowments deserves those assets and the superior character that made their development possible. Because he is more worthy in this sense, he deserves the greater advantages that he could achieve with them. This view, however, is surely incorrect. It seems to be one of the fixed points
of our considered judgments that no one deserves his place in the distribution of natural endowments, any more than one deserves one’s initial starting place in society… Thus the more advantaged representative man cannot say that he deserves and therefore has a right to a scheme of cooperation in which he is permitted to acquire benefits in ways that do not contribute to the welfare of others. (section 17, pp.104-105)If this doesn’t seem to be an affirmation of the propriety ofredistribution even in the pure service economy, I don’t know whatis! Basically, a common sense reading of Rawls’ principlesmakes it _seem_ that Rawls would answer as Torek says he would. But Rawls actually gives such a qualified and tortured interpretationof his principles that I have to wonder if he would shrink fromredistribution in my hypothetical. My bet is that he would happilyimpose a “tax” such that every hour of paid medical careimposes an obligation to provide e.g. twenty minutes of unpaidcare to the poor; and then he would rationalize this by sayingthat this isn’t really coercive, since the surgeon could pickhow many hours to work (and plus he doesn’t deserve his naturalassets anyway…)2. Torek and the HypotheticalWell, first of all, I did give a few transition stages, and I’mcurious about your reaction to those. For example, I considereda slight modification where we add money (”labor notes”) to thepure service economy. Do you still agree that redistribution isimpermissible then?Now Torek was quite right to point out Nozick’s objection to the”labor mixing” formula. But I didn’t advocate that view, andin fact did deny the deducibility of homesteading from self-ownership. Rather, I was considering the similarities of some of the negativearguments against private property, and showing that they also applyto self-ownership, too. This wasn’t meant to defend property rightsin objects, except insofar as refuting objections to somethingconstitutes a defense. Now I’m trying to get a clear grip on your point that private propertyprima facie seems to restrict liberty. As far as I can tell, I agreewith your conclusion. Namely, we must _first_ establish ownershipin order to say that infering with continued possession reducesliberty; and once we establish that someone owns something, then itno longer makes sense to claim that their action reduces liberty. Again, I think the parallel between self-ownership and ownership ofobjects is quite good: for just as a woman’s refusal to have sexwith a man does not constitute “reducing his liberty,” (since shejustly owns her body), the same woman’s refusal to take the manin as a free tenant in her home “reduces her liberty” iff shejustly owns the home. (In a parallel fashion, the rapist mightdeny that the woman justly owns her body.)Just to take a stab at the underlying question: what justificationcould be given for ownership of things? I make no attempt to “deduce”it from self-ownership. Rather, I think that it just a second,almost as plausible principle that a person who produces somethingfrom previously unowned materials is entitled to own it. I dohowever think that once you accept the idea of self-ownership, thatthe homesteading principle is likely to seem plausible as well. In particular, if you consider my hypothetical and find that theobjections to self-ownership don’t convince you, then you mayfind that they aren’t very good arguments against property in thingseither. At least, the seemingly overriding importance of care forthe poor, equality, etc. will be considerably devalued.