State and Dystopia


In his latest Forbes column, Richard Epstein tears into the bailout with some help from Robert Nozick:

Disasters like this latest financial meltdown don't just happen. Mistakes this huge require an impoverished political philosophy to grease the skids. Fannie and Freddie didn't design their horrific lending policies by chance. No, behind this lending fiasco lay the strong collective preference for the "patterned principles" of justice that Robert Nozick attacked so powerfully in his 1974 masterpiece, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Believers in patterned principles hold that there is some preordained social order that is more just than others. Accordingly, the function of the state is to use the levers of powers to manipulate behavior to achieve the desired outcomes. These patterned principles stand in opposition to historical principles of justice, which are content to establish the rules of the game and then let the legal moves by individual players determine the social outcomes. For Nozick, the key rules were rules of justice in acquisition (to set up the initial property rights) and justice in transfer, whereby those rights (and others derived from them) could be exchanged or combined through voluntary transactions.


Congress, alas, is a pattern junkie.

Whole thing here. Brian Doherty's 2002 obituary for Nozick here.

(Via Todd Zywicki, who notes, "this has to be the first time in recent memory that a popular op-ed has been organized around Nozickian themes.")