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G. A. Cohen
Nozick on Appropriation
1. Associated with the recent rightward movement in the politics of Western capitalist societies is the influential political philosophy of libertarianism, whose most impressive exponent is Robert Nozick of Harvard.  The foundational claim of libertarianism is the thesis of self-ownership, which says that each human being is the morally rightful owner of his own person and powers.  He is, consequently,  free (morally speaking) to use those powers as he wishes, provided that he does not deploy them aggressively against others. He may not harm others, and he may, if necessary, be forced not to harm them, but he should never be forced to help them, as people are, according to libertarians, in fact forced to help others, by the supposedly redistributive taxation which sustains the welfare state. That state is, in the libertarian view, entirely wanting in moral justification. Libertarians believe, moreover, not only that people own themselves, but also that they can become, with equally strong moral right, sovereign owners of the potentially indefinitely unequal amounts of worldly resources which they can gather to themselves as a result of proper exercises of their own and/or others’ self-owned personal powers. When, therefore, private property in natural resources has been rightly generated, its morally privileged origin insulates it against expropriation or limitation.
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