Friday, 20 September 2013

Day 249: Nozick's Entitlement Theory of Justice - what are we REALLY entitled to?

Robert Nozick is best known for his work ‘State, Anarchy and Utopia’ in which he argues against patterned principles of justice and in favour of an entitlement theory of justice (2013:26). We will first consider what the difference is between the two, to then proceed with a critical review of Nozick’s argumentation, herein paying particular attention to the relevance of such a theory in consideration of the present as an outcome of human history.

The difference between patterned theories of justice and unpatterned theories of justice revolves around the means-end question: Is it just (or can it be justified) to use unjust means to attain a just end? For Nozick the answer to this question is ‘No’. In his view, if every step of the process of distribution throughout history is just, then the result is a just distribution (Nozick 1974:151). Herein, the justice of an act of distribution is measured in relation to whether one is entitled to one’s resulting holdings (2013:26). In contrast, patterned theories of justice pertain to ensuring an ideal ‘kind’ of outcome from distribution – where this ‘kind’ is dependent on and determined by the values a particular society holds. If equality is treasured, the outcome of distribution would require being that each one has equal holdings. If the fulfillment of basic rights is valued, then the pattern of distribution would require standing in relation to ensuring each one’s basic needs and rights are met as a minimum condition.

Within his argumentation, Nozick holds two concepts at heart: property and liberty. A problem he sees with patterned theories of justice is that goods are treated as thought they are ‘just here’ and available to be distributed in any way we see fit. He argues that resources cannot merely be allocated according to some patterned principle, because: “The situation is not one of something’s getting made, and there being an open question of who is to get it. Things come into the world already attached to people having entitlements over them” (Nozick 1974:160). Not taking into consideration the source of a good would therefore be a form of stealing. The same logic is used in an attempt to prove that taxation should be included under the category of theft (2013:29).
When it comes to liberty, Nozick argues that if distribution happens in a patterned way, then individuals require sacrificing their freedom to give to charities and gift goods to others, because such acts would upset the particular preferred pattern in question (2013:28).

As noble and logically thought-out his arguments may seem – I simply question the relevance of an entitlement theory of justice. Considering that throughout history, we can see countless examples of ‘unjust initial acquisition’ and ‘unjust transfer’ – where elites were built based on for instance the colonization of an entire people and the appropriation of their resources. The current allocation of resources is still a result of such past events. Therefore, one cannot say that at this point, one can simply go on with making sure that ‘from here-on out’ all distribution is conducted in a just manner – for our starting point is already unjust in itself – leading to unjust advantages and disadvantages. Where Nozick supports the correction of past injustices we must ask how he attempts to do this without a patterned form of distribution – for, it would imply re-constituting history by imagining how distribution would have taken place at each step of the way if no injustice had taken place. As said above, history is filled with unjust transfers and acquisitions, therefore, such a task would involve the creation of an ‘alternate timeline’ of not only a village, a region or a country, but of the world in its entirety. We simply do not have the data or means to construct such an alternate timeline in any accurate way – we cannot ‘predict’ or ‘come to know’ how things ‘would have’ played out if it weren’t for injustice. Therefore, Nozick’s entitlement theory is irrelevant as it is not practically applicable in terms of our current reality. What it does seem to do and seems to have done, is to create a great set of justifications as to why we should not attempt to bring about greater equality or make sure the needy are taken care of – protecting those with significant wealth from any form of accountability with respect to the past and with respect to their fellow human beings.

If one is to constitute an entitlement theory of justice one should utilize human rights as the basis for such a theory, as unless each human being’s rights are provided for, one cannot speak of entitlement, one would instead be protecting an economic system of distribution that does not honor the life of every man, woman and child equally, but places the luxury of some over the bare survival of others. Each one is entitled to a certain level of well-being as it is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, each one is entitled to a certain level of education as it is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, each one is entitled to adequate housing as it is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Such are true entitlements – and unless an entitlement theory of justice comprises a system of distribution that guarantees the fulfillment and honouring of these entitlements at all times – we know we are in fact dealing with deception – the deception of those using fuzzy logic and fear to protect their own self-interest and to protect the elite of the world – where the theory has in fact no foundational basis in reality as that which actually matters in terms of supporting and enhancing (human) life on Earth.

In conclusion, to proclaim any patterned theory of justice as ‘unjustified’ by default means to ignore the reality of the world and its historical injustices. Nozick’s entitlement theory can only become relevant and applicable once the current distribution has been re-patterned to reflect the values and rights in the constitution.


(Author not specified). 2013. PLS3705: Guide 1. Pretoria: University of South Africa

Nozick, R. 1947. Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic Books.
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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 248: Q&A on Living Income Guaranteed

Here follow questions and perspectives about the Living Income Guaranteed proposal - from the Discussion Forum at
It would be very helpful if all the essential information on your LIG proposal were to be found in one place, preferably a single page or two, instead of being scattered all over numerous blogs and vlogs. What I mean by essential information is how exactly it is to be financed, who are entitled to it and on what conditions.

I am aware that your proposal differs from the one laid out by the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), but what I would like to know is to what extent LIG comply with the four criteria that are adhered to by most proponents of BIEN. Those criteria are that the Basic Income should be: universal, individual, unconditional and high enough for a decent standard of living.

What I have understood so far is that the LIG is means-tested, in other words conditioned on not having wealth or savings or a paid job for that matter, but not conditioned on the willingness to take a job (I only know the latter through correspondence, but have found no references). What this seems to imply is that if you are willing to live with few belongings no one can force you to work. This would make the proposal as a whole partly conditioned.

But what happens if you are not working full-time? Will you be entitled to a Living Income supplement? And if so, how would it be calculated considering the minimum wage is twice the amount of the LIG? Is the minimum wage the same for a part-time job for instance?

As I understand the proposal, it is to be financed solely from sales tax or value added tax, the idea being that the value of labor is directly reflected in the prices of goods and services. But does this mean that income tax is completely abolished? And have you ever considered a negative income tax system which is a model often used in financing a Basic Income?

From what I can see, LIG is to be paid individually and not to households or families, so that settles, I guess, the question of individuality, but how about universality? It is not entirely clear to me whether every individual, including children, will receive it, and, if so, the full amount. Also, if children are included, will their LIG be dependent on what means the parents have, savings, job or otherwise?

It is stated in several places that LIG is to be high enough to secure a decent standard of living, so that would seem to satisfy the last criteria.

I would prefer having all replies here or with links to texts, not videos. Thanks.
“It would be very helpful if all the essential information on your LIG proposal were to be found in one place, preferably a single page or two, instead of being scattered all over numerous blogs and vlogs. What I mean by essential information is how exactly it is to be financed, who are entitled to it and on what conditions.”

Yes, we’re working on exactly that. The information will soon be found on a page on this website.
“I am aware that your proposal differs from the one laid out by the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), but what I would like to know is to what extent LIG comply with the four criteria that are adhered to by most proponents of BIEN. Those criteria are that the Basic Income should be: universal, individual, unconditional and high enough for a decent standard of living.”

The principle of universality in terms of ‘anyone gets a living income regardless of whether one is employed or not’: No – Living Income Guaranteed does not adhere to this principle. It is about making sure that everyone has a Guaranteed Living Income – meaning, an income that secures a dignified life. We suggest the minimum wage to be double a Living Income so that if one is employed – one can afford not only a dignified lifestyle, but one with ‘perks’. In general terms, then, LIG is for those who are unemployed.

In terms of your question on working part-time – labor will be equated at an hourly rate, where the particular rate will also be determined according to one’s skill/educational level. One may thus be able to be employed part-time without requiring a Living Income Guaranteed as one is self-sufficient due to the particular rate one receives as determined by one’s skill / level of education. For those working part time on a minimum wage would mean they would receive the same amount of income as they would being unemployed and receiving LIG. Herein – one can look at setting an absolute minimum of part-time wage at 3/2 of the Living Income Guaranteed in order to create incentive for part-time workers. Alternatively, one can simply accept that those who are currently working part-time to make ends meet, will instead stop working, receive a LIG and from there perhaps have more time to perform the tasks that makes it impossible for them to work full-time in the first place, which are often tasks such as caretaking or studying. Those part-time workers who like to work to keep themselves busy or because they would like to contribute but have no financial reason to do so – can still do this and receive a part-time minimum wage, or can volunteer and receive LIG.

Children – Ideally, yes, children should receive a LIG, which would be available to the parents up until a specified age, after which, the parents are locked out and the LIG is solely accessible by the child. A child’s LIG is not dependent on the parents’ income. However – one would require investigating the financial capabilities of a particular economy at the implementation stage. It is possible that one would require to continue with a basic child grant system until the economy expands sufficiently to allow for a LIG for every child.

Individual – yes – Living Income Guaranteed is not given to families but to individuals.

Unconditional – yes, but only insofar as discussed above. Meaning – anyone receiving a minimum wage is excluded from LIG. However, there are no other specified conditions such as having to actively search for a job.

High enough for a decent standard of living – yes.

“As I understand the proposal, it is to be financed solely from sales tax or value added tax, the idea being that the value of labor is directly reflected in the prices of goods and services. But does this mean that income tax is completely abolished? And have you ever considered a negative income tax system which is a model often used in financing a Basic Income?”

The primary way of financing LIG would be through the nationalization of resources:

Nationalization of Resources and Social Dividends
One of the ways to fund a Living Income Guaranteed is through the Nationalization of Resources within a particular country. Within this, relevant resources are appropriated towards the public good, where those companies dealing with the production and manufacturing process of these resources will be nationalized. The citizenry would then effectively become shareholders of these companies. Economic profits or surplus value generated by publicly owned companies would partially (or wholly if possible) finance the Living Income Guaranteed.
Aside from the obvious funding function of such a step, the nationalization of resources and connected enterprises also provides an opportunity for the management of the country’s resources by the people of that country, and is thus in fact an extension of direct democracy.

On Taxation:

Within the Living Income Guaranteed, Direct or Personal Tax methods will be discontinued. Only Indirect Tax methods will be facilitated in the form of inter alia Value Added Tax (VAT), Sales Tax and Import Duties. When a society and system is in place which effectively tends to all points of requirement within a country, one does not require an extensive government structure to tend to those points which the private sphere has not yet covered. As such, there is no longer a need for excessive taxation, as the role and functions the government will be required to execute and fund, will be minimal.
The amount of tax an individual takes on, will then be directly related to one’s activity and participation within a particular system or section of society (eg. Toll roads / Road pricing).

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 247: Only in a Broken System does Misery equal Profit

cn_image.size_.trips-with-benefits-voluntourism-illustration-0213.png.scaled1000 Growing up and living in a First World Country where your Basic Human Rights are actually ‘met’ (albeit through considerable compromises) – you are made sure to be reminded of the many places and many people who are not in the same fortunate position as you’re in. “Empty your plate, don’t you know there’s starving children in Africa who don’t have anything to eat?”, “You should be happy going to school, in country XYZ they don’t get even get to go to school because there aren’t any”, “Stop whining, in country SomethingSomething you’d be living on the street by now”.

The message that gets ingrained is “Don’t complain, you should be happy – out there it is HELL”. So not only is one molded into an obedient citizen, made sure to ‘not bite the hand that feeds it’, we also get imprinted with immense guilt for having the niceties we have – knowing fully that if we had been born somewhere else, things would look a whole lot different.

So, what do we law-abiding-guilt-bearing-citizens do? Once in a while, as we get some ‘time-off’ from being a wage-slave – we want to go and do some ‘good’ in the world. We sign up to take care of the poor people, the less fortunate, the parentless, the hopeless, the marginalized and abused ones ‘out there’. We grab together our hard-worked savings and pay some travelling company to go work somewhere for free.

We are getting our holiday, we’re helping those poor people – it’s a Win-Win situation, right?
Is this ‘voluntourism’ phenomenon an expression of our altruism and good hearts? Or is it just another way devised by a crooked system to make money out of whatever will tickle our fancy?
In fact, 'voluntourism', as it's been dubbed, is the fastest growing travel sector, worth an estimated £1.3 billion globally.
Let us have a look at how the market responds to our demand for Guilt-Relief and Exotic Holidays:
'I thought, even if I can make a jot of difference, it's got to be worth it. So I started looking on the internet. Eventually, I came across an orphanage called the Dream House on the borders of Thailand and Burma, which rescued children at risk of being trafficked. There were videos on the website and it all looked amazing.'
A Thai charity, Starfish, was offering two-week voluntary placements at the orphanage for £400, with basic accommodation included.
Caroline paid in advance, and in January this year she travelled to Thailand. On arrival, she met other volunteers, many of them teenagers on their gap years, all signed up to help at the orphanage.
But within days of starting the placement, Caroline sensed that something was seriously wrong. 'I was pretty shocked at the conditions,' she says. 'The children slept on the floor - although there wasn't even a floor, just carpet underlay - with no beds or blankets. The youngest was only two years old.
'At dinner, they had one chicken between 29 children and a few vegetables. All the volunteers were coming in and giving £200 a week. So where was all the money going?'
Ah… the ways of Supply and Demand: you wish to relieve your guilt – and so we shall provide you with the opportunity to do so. The ways of the free market are cold; the market does not look at your intentions, the market does not care about the repercussions of serving demands – all it does is reek money and provide the quickest and best way to cash it in.

We end up with fake orphanage centers with children trained to act according to our idea of what ‘poor orphans on the other side of the world’ act like – because that is the experience we desire, and our money bring to life such an attraction.
The shocking revelation has been that volunteers, who have intentions to give some love back to children in real need, are tragically and inadvertently having the opposite effect.'
Not only are we maintaining the atrocities we would like to see eradicated within the world, we are in effect enhancing them and not in any way whatsoever addressing the very system, the very design which is responsible for them in the first place. After all, what this ‘voluntourism’ point illustrates, is that we cannot address the symptoms of a broken system through utilizing the same broken system as medium towards a solution.
'One volunteer I heard of turned up to teach at a school, and wondered why he didn't get a very warm reaction. Towards the end of his time there he discovered the local teacher had been fired because a Westerner was coming in to teach for free.'
In a world driven and moved by profit only, we cannot expect to alleviate poverty or alleviate the hardship of people through a profit-driven medium, as it is the very profit starting point, the worshipping of profit/money over Life/People – that lies at the heart of the problem, that pumps and thrusts its poison all throughout the body, leaving no area untouched.

While we see the hardship of remote places on our television screen, we want to travel to those distant places in the belief that the problem and solution lie in the same place. There is actually little that can be done by travelling to the other side of the world for a few weeks / a year and trying to alleviate the symptoms of a much darker dis-ease. It’s not by coincidence or genuine will to ‘work hard’ that we’ve created a Safe First World Bubble for ourselves. We need only to flip through history to see that we’ve acquired our wealth and security through the exploitation of others. In the past in direct forms, through conquest, through colonization – and today indirectly through economic ties whose nature and flow had already been determined, shaped and solidified within the previous Era of exploitation, now merely extending the same relationship in a different form – but really, nothing has changed.

Unless we change the values and principles of the system at home that we live by, we are not going to be able to bring about change ‘out there’. We are the power-center that maintains the problem, if we want to bring about change – we are right where we need to be.

The first step towards a global effect is to put into place the values and principles we want to live by and that we want to see others live by. A good place to start, would be the enforcement and safeguarding of Human Rights which can practically be employed through the implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed. Since the Right to Life has been historically linked to the ownership of money, making sure that everyone has enough money/funds available to live a dignified life is an absolute must.
To find out more about the Living Income Guaranteed, please visit: and

All quotes from:
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Thursday, 5 September 2013

Day 246: Green Economics – the Newest Fad?

Reading through a magazine, I came across an article on how traditional neoclassical economics is just not up to the task of providing an effective system of distribution for the world – with which I agree. 

At the bottom of the article, was a whole list to numerous websites promoting different forms of ‘alternative economics’. Being interested in exploring what’s out there on the internet in relation to new developments in economics, I copied the list eagerly to go through the various websites.
As I browsed my way through the 10 or so different websites, a communal theme started to make its appearance throughout the websites – they all looked ‘fresh’ and ‘green’ and we’re all about : reduce carbon emissions, shrink your ecological footprint – essentially: ‘save the planet’.
Something was just not right with this picture.

And then it hit me: this is just another fad.

Just as we have Spirituality within the realms of Religion, the Organic / Raw Food movement in terms of Food – we now have ‘Green Economics’ in the realm of Economy.

What all these movements have in common, is that they jump ahead of the issues that are relevant. Without first providing and ensuring dignified living conditions so all can have a life of delight on Earth, Spirituality immediately jumps to saving your ‘Beingness’ and ensuring that your Beingness can transcend to higher planes. But what is the value of such an objective if we can’t even manifest a sense of brotherhood and solidarity on Earth, within our societies and relations to one another? What is the point of ‘attaining our higher selves’ when we obsessively and compulsively wage War and destroy life?

What is the point of pushing and insisting on Organic Food when we have not even established basic Food Security for everyone on the globe?

What is the point of trying to save the planet through changing the way we do economics if we can’t even set our economic system up in a way that saves everyone from economic hardship? How can we expect to fulfill such a great responsibility as ‘saving the planet’ and ‘taking care of the Earth’, when we haven’t even proven our responsibility towards each other, towards one another as human beings? How can we expect people to support ‘Green Economics’ to ‘save the planet’ when every moment of the day is spent towards survival? How can we expect people to start treating the planet with dignity, respect and care when we haven’t shown that we can live these principles towards another?

If we can’t even actively secure Human Rights and treat one another as we would like to be treated – then we can’t engage ourselves towards saving the Planet. Our efforts towards ensuring that every human being on Earth in fact has a living standard that we would all deem acceptable – has been negligible to say the least. To at this stage demand everyone to treat the planet, nature, the Animal Kingdom with respect – would simply be a spit in the face of those who have never received any such kindness. When people are treated with disrespect and disregard, one is tacitly giving permission to those who receive such treatment, to transfer this treatment in kind to others. 

I’m not saying that nutritious food and ecologically balanced methods of producing and distributing goods is not important – as certainly these points would benefit ourselves, the planet and future generations; but the point is to acknowledge our track records, which is looking kind of dismal at the moment, and to not overreach in our objectives. Our race to ‘save the planet’ is currently one ran knee-deep in the mud, we may be spending a lot of energy on it but it’s not getting us far. So let us rather spend our energy towards getting the fundamentals right, towards getting in place the foundation that will ensure an effective campaign towards a harmonious management of our home, the Earth, by first establishing such a relationship towards one another – and then from there it will simply be a walk in the park, to extend this treatment to the Planet.   

The first step towards fostering an attitude and character conducive to the restoration of the Earth to a state of balance, is to first restore faith in humanity and our capacity to care, through implementing a system such as the Living Income Guaranteed by the Equal Life Foundation. This is a practical way to acknowledge our common humanity, our common Right to Life and to truly develop a sense of respect for Life on Earth, and Earth as Life. We cannot allow ourselves to ignore the impact human activity has on the Earth and the Environment. Only through equipping every human being with the necessary resources to sustain a dignified life, and equipping everyone with the tools of education, can we move as One towards caring for our Planet.

About the Living Income Guaranteed – from the LIG website

Why a L.I.G.?

The Living Income Guaranteed (“L.I.G.”) by the Equal Life Foundation is a Proposal geared towards addressing the most immediate Human Rights problems modern societies are faced with today. Current systems and approaches that have been implemented towards prosperity and well-being of the citizens within nations have been able to facilitate economic growth, but though the bounties of this growth have not yet been able to reach everyone.

The Living Income Guaranteed is aimed at assisting and supporting those individuals within society that find themselves in a disadvantaged position as a result from structural ineffectiveness and inadequacies, through providing Equality of Opportunity for all. The Living Income Guaranteed will function as the medium through which a state is able to remediate the most direct negative effects of a capitalistic system, while still being able to maintain some of the perks that such a system represents and embodies. The Living Income Guaranteed will thus aid in balancing Growth with Sustainability whilst effectively securing Human Rights.

What is L.I.G.?

Living Income Guaranteed stands for the provision of a Living Income for each citizen that is unable to sustain themselves financially to live a dignified life. Unlike the Basic Income Grant proposals, the Living Income Guaranteed is not invariably provided but distributed by a means-test. The Living Income Guaranteed is a social security net which everyone can apply to, when it is necessitated. This principle locks in with the Duties of the Government as laid out within most Bill of Rights, where the State is responsible to ensure the livelihood and well-being of its citizens when the citizen is unable to do so for him or herself.

For more information, visit:

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