Why "business's nastier friends" should not be libertarians

Journal of Business Ethics 24 (1):77 - 86 (2000)
Abstract
In this paper I address the issue of how far libertarianism can serve as the theoretical framework for a political morality excluding serious obligations to the needy. This issue has been raised recently by Gillian Brock who argues that even those adopting a thoroughgoing libertarianism, such as that of Robert Nozick, must recognise significant obligations to the needy as a condition of claiming exclusive property rights. I argue that Brock fails to demonstrate this. After briefly describing Brock's main argument I discuss the acquisition of libertarian property rights, and try to show there are sufficient resources in Nozick's account for him to accept her main conclusion in principle without recognising significant obligations. Then, after some supplementary discussion, I sketch two different lines of argument. One uses the issue of corporate liability. The other focusses on problems with Nozick's "entitlement" principle of rectification. I try to show that even if the libertarian entitlement theory of property rights, their acquisition and transfer, is accepted, this gives no grounds for resisting claims for redistribution based on others' needs.
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