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Otsuka SelfOwnership and Equality

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Liberalism without inequality
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  Page 1 of 32Self#Ownership and Equality PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2011.All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of amonograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: Universityof Warwick; date: 01 February 2012 Libertarianism without Inequality  Michael Otsuka Print publication date: 2003Print ISBN-13: 9780199243952Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: Nov-03DOI: 10.1093/0199243956.001.0001Self#Ownership and Equality DOI:10.1093/0199243956.003.0002  Abstract and Keywords Delineates the nature of a libertarian right of self#ownership. Assesses Robert Nozick'sclaim that taxation is on a par with forced labour. Contends that the most defensible version of the Lockean ‘enough and as good’ proviso calls for acquisition of unownednatural resources that is consistent with equality of opportunity for welfare. Argues,contrary to both Nozick and G. A. Cohen, that a robust right of self#ownership iscompatible with this welfare#egalitarian proviso across a wide range of circumstances.  Keywords:  G. A. Cohen, egalitarianism, equality of opportunity for welfare, forcedlabour, libertarianism, John Locke, Lockean proviso, Robert Nozick, self#ownership,taxationG. A. Cohen has argued that the preservation in more than name only of a libertarianright of self#ownership will come into conflict with the realization of any strongly egalitarian principle of distributive justice, and vice versa. One can have either self#ownership or equality only at the cost of the virtual abandonment of the other. 1  Onthis point, he and Robert Nozick are in agreement. 2  Nozick's modus ponens  is Cohen's modus tollens , since Cohen draws the conclusion that self#ownership should give way to make room for equality, whereas Nozick draws the opposite conclusion that equality should yield to self#ownership.In this chapter I argue that the conflict between libertarian self#ownership and equality is largely an illusion. As a matter of contingent fact, a nearly complete reconciliation of the two can be achieved through a properly egalitarian understanding of the Lockeanprinciple of justice in acquisition. To put my thesis more precisely: across a fairly widerange of individuals who differ in their capacity (productive or otherwise) to derive welfare from resources, it will be possible in principle to distribute initially unowned worldly resources so as to achieve equality of opportunity for welfare in a manner which  Page 2 of 32Self#Ownership and Equality PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2011.All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of amonograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: Universityof Warwick; date: 01 February 2012 is compatible with each person's possession of an uninfringed libertarian right of self#ownership that is robust rather than merely formal.My first task, to which I turn in Section I below, is to provide an explanation of whatlibertarian self#ownership is. (p. 12 ) I . . . every man has a  property  in his own  person : this nobody has any right to but himself. The labour  of his body, and the work  of his hands, we may say, are properly his.(ii. 27)‘The central core of the notion of a property right in  X  ’, according to Nozick, ‘is theright to determine what shall be done with  X  ’. 3  Nozick maintains that ‘[t]his notion of property helps us to understand why earlier theorists spoke of people as having property in themselves and their labor. They viewed each person as having a right to decide what would become of himself and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did.’ 4 Nozick condemns the egalitarian for abandoning, and commends the libertarian forhonouring, a full right of self#ownership. 5  In so far as the libertarian endorses, whilethe egalitarian rejects, a stringent 6  right to reap all of the income from one's labour,the libertarian endorses a  fuller  right of self#ownership than the egalitarian. But doesthe libertarian advocate a  full   right of self#ownership? For the purposes of answeringthis question, I shall adopt the following plausible definition of a full right of self#ownership: a person's right of self#ownership is full if and only if that person possesses,to the greatest extent and stringency compatible with the same possession by others, theaforementioned rights ‘to decide what would become of himself and what he would do,and . . . to reap the benefits of what he did’. 7 (p. 13 ) In defending the claim that she respects a full right of self#ownership, thelibertarian must confront the following dilemma: one's possession of a full anduninfringed right of self#ownership either is or it is not compatible with someincursions upon one's body (without one's consent) that result in serious harm.Suppose, for the sake of exposing the first horn of this dilemma, that it is not compatible with any such incursions. 8  It follows that a libertarian is, contrary to the doctrineof double effect, committed to the claim that one may not turn a trolley#car that willotherwise run over five people on to a side track where it will instead run over a sixth,and that the foreseen but unintended killing of the innocent in even a self#defensive  Page 3 of 32Self#Ownership and Equality PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2011.All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of amonograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: Universityof Warwick; date: 01 February 2012  war is never permissible. 9  The libertarian is also committed to the claim that oneacts impermissibly if by one's actions one unforeseeably kills or injures an innocent,non#threatening person even though what one did was not known to carry a risk of harm, or the known risk of harm associated with the activity was so minuscule thatmost would deem the activity justifiable. 10  On this construal of a full right of self#ownership, a libertarian can maintain that she holds the morally pure, principled, anduncompromising position that our rights of self#ownership are full only at the price of a hitherto under#emphasized moral fanaticism. The fanaticism of which I speak is notthe oft#noted fanaticism of a libertarian that rules out even the most trivial amount of forced labour or taxation for the purpose of alleviating a great deal of misery. Rather,it is a fanaticism that rules out any seriously harmful incursions whatsoever upon the bodies of innocents, even when such incursions are merely foreseen as a necessary by#product of the minimization of harm rather than intended as a means of minimizingharm, and even when they are the unforeseen result of activities that carry either noknown or the most minuscule (p. 14 ) known risk of doing harm. 11  Such fanaticismis, moreover, unnecessary in so far as the libertarian could permit such unintentionalincursions without also having to abandon her opposition to redistributive taxationfor the purposes of promoting equality. This is because the libertarian's case againstredistributive taxation is premissed upon a right against being used as a means by beingforced (via incursions or threats of incursions upon one's mind and body) to sacrificelife, limb, or labour. 12  It is not premissed upon a right against harmful incursions uponone's body simpliciter .Now suppose, for the sake of exposing the other horn of the dilemma, that one'spossession of a full and uninfringed right of self#ownership is compatible with someincursions upon one's body (without one's consent) that result in serious harm. Inthis case, the libertarian must explain why these incursions, but not others that thelibertarian denounces as violations of a full right of self#ownership, are compatible with such a right. The libertarian must explain why, for example, one does not violatesomeone's full right of self#ownership if one kills him in the trolley#car case, yet onedoes if one kills him in order to transplant his vital organs. But I do not think such anexplanation is possible. 13 (p. 15 ) The libertarian position that I consider in this chapter avoids this dilemma because it is not committed to a full right of self#ownership. I shall define a ‘libertarianright of self#ownership’ as one that, while less than full because it does not prohibit allunintentional incursions upon one's body, encompasses the following two rights: 14 (1) A very stringent right of control over and use of one's mind and body that bars others from intentionally using one as a means by forcing one to sacrificelife, limb, or labour, where such force operates by means of incursions or  Page 4 of 32Self#Ownership and Equality PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2011.All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of amonograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: Universityof Warwick; date: 01 February 2012 threats of incursions upon one's mind and body (including assault and battery and forcible arrest, detention, and imprisonment). 15 (2) A very stringent right to all of the income that one can gain from one'smind and body (including one's labour) either on one's own or throughunregulated and untaxed voluntary exchanges with other individuals. 16 Egalitarians who are also liberals would say that they are happy to endorse the first of the two libertarian rights of self#ownership just enumerated. 17  Liberal egalitarians would express agreement with libertarians that individuals possess stringent rightsof ownership over their bodies that stand in the way of their being used as means by  being forced to donate vital bodily organs such as a heart or a liver, or being forced todonate non#vital body parts or products such as an eye or a kidney, or blood or bonemarrow. 18  Liberal egalitarians would also (p. 16 ) profess agreement with libertariansthat individuals possess stringent rights of self#ownership that stand in the way of their being used as means by being forced via threat of imprisonment to work for the sake of the good of others. Although they affirm the first of the two libertarian rights of self#ownership, liberalegalitarians typically reject the second, which is widely regarded as prima facie far lesscompelling than the first. 19   Yet Nozick has argued that this second right follows fromthe first. He has famousl y argued that ‘[t]axation of earning from labor is on a par withforced labor’. 20  If Nozick's complaint against redistributive taxation is correct, then,in so far as egalitarianism is achieved through a redistributive tax on income, it willinfringe a right against forced labour that liberal egalitarians claim to recognize.In Section II below I show that Nozick's argument is not essentially a complaint thatsuch taxation is on a par with forced labour but rather the complaint that such taxation violates one's rights of ownership simpliciter . Furthermore, I show that, with theexception of cases in which we need not make use of worldly resources in order toperform labour, Nozick's argument relies upon a suppressed and controversial premissregarding the justifiability of inequality#generating rights of ownership over the world.Having exposed this premiss, I reject it in Section III in favour of a welfare#egalitarianLockean account of our rights of ownership over the world. In Sections IV–V  I show how such an egalitarianism need not come into conflict with an uninfringed libertarian rightof self#ownership that is, moreover, robust rather than merely formal.

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