In his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”, Robert Nozick offers the Wilt Chamberlain thought experiment in order to demonstrate how a conception of justice based on “end-state patterned distributions” (as he put it) would require constant coercive interventions on the part of the state, in order to maintain the desired pattern. This, in turn, would undermine theories of justice that incorporated liberty into their framework. John Rawls’ theory of justice is one such example. I will briefly outline the thought experiment and the problem it poses, consider some objections to Nozick, and conclude that despite these objections, Nozick succeeds.
In any given exchange market (whether free or otherwise), goods and services are traded as a matter of course, in the pursuit of both individual and social goals. Those trades will result in substantive outcomes both for the individuals involved in trades, and more broadly for society as a whole. It has been suggested that some of those outcomes may be undeserved. If we assume this to be the case, the question then arises, are undeserved market outcomes are unjust? Any reasonable answer to this question requires a coherent idea of justice within which we could determine what is deserved and undeserved, and judge the justice of those deserts. In the interest of space, this essay will briefly describe two essential notions of justice, and rule one of them out as the less coherent of the two. Once an acceptable sense of justice is established, I will then proceed to render a decision on the question of desert and justice in the market.
In his famous Paris Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argues that a society organized around the principle of private property and the commercial production of commodities forces man to stand in opposition to his own nature in order to subsist, and that this self-oppositional stance is best described as ‘alienated’ (or ‘estranged’) labor. To fully understand what Marx means by ‘alienated labor’, and under what circumstances labor becomes alienated, we must therefore first understand what Marx means by ‘human nature’. From there, we can understand what it means to be alienated from it, and the various ways in which this alienation is accomplished in a capitalist situation.