Essential Nozick: Income redistribution is incompatible with liberty
Welcome to the essential ideas of Robert Nozick.
Some people argue that government should redistribute income from
people with higher incomes to those with lower incomes as a way of improving society.
But Nozick argued that income redistribution is incompatible with a free and open society;
and that it violates peoples' rights. Let's explore this idea with an example:
Imagine a world where the people decide everyone will be paid an equal amount.
One day, an amazing basketball star emerges, the greatest to ever play.
Many people love basketball and willingly pay 25 cents from each ticket purchased to
the basketball star to watch him play. Soon four million people have all willingly paid
25 cents to watch him play. The basketball star now has
an income much higher than others. The only way to maintain the income
distribution of equal amounts for everyone is for the government to intervene, either by:
taking his additional income away and giving it back to the people who paid him, or by stopping
people from freely choosing to pay 25 cents to the basketball star in the first place.
To achieve the government imposed distribution of income (in this case equal income for everyone)
the state has to constantly intervene to redistribute income and/or prevent certain
exchanges, all of which reduce freedom. Nozick recognized that for any type of
state-imposed income distribution to be sustained, the government would constantly have to interfere
with peoples' choices and violate their rights. This insight counters many political philosophies
advocating income distribution which remain popular today.
For more information on Robert Nozick, visit EssentialNozick.org, and to learn about
more essential scholars, visit EssentialScholars.org