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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Caveat

While Metcalf's article was crap, indeed, here Brad DeLong masterfully deconstructs Nozick.

7 comments:

  1. "It gets worse: everything that is mine is to some degree derived from previous acts of original appropriation--and those were all illegitimate, since they did not leave enough for the latecomers to take what they want from the common stock of nature." <= I'm pretty sure Nozick argues against that.

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  2. Adriaan, the way this works is, if you want to dispute someone's reading of Nozick, you go find the passage that makes the reading wrong and quote it. Guesses don't cut it.

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  3. Adriaan, Google for: 'Nozick "Lockean proviso"'.

    It's very clear he accepts the proviso.

    It took me about 30 seconds to make sure of that. We live in the age of Google and Wikipedia: there is no excuse for telling someone "I'm pretty sure you're wrong" about a factual matter. You go find out before you criticize them. (I don't mean to sound harsh or angry here, although I fear I may. I'm trying to offer advice on how to handle things like this in the future.)

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  4. Rereading the passage in which Nozick talks about the proviso - pg 178-182 - it's pretty clear that the Delong interpretation doesn't hold up.

    I didn't say that Nozick didn't accept the proviso - unfortunately, he did. I did say that De Long's interpretation is wrong in what the proviso entails. Although it's a common criticism - 'what about the late comers!' - it is clear that this is not relevant for the Lockean proviso: it doesn't deal with late comers, it deals with current people who were at liberty to use something.

    Key passage being: "A process normally giving rise to a permanent bequeathable property right in a previously unonwned thing will not do so if the position of others no longer at liberty to use the thing is thereby worsened." This doesn't allow the De Long interpretation because 'late comers' never were 'at liberty' to use it, period. Nozick is talking about creating private property out of the commons, things that everybody was in fact using at different points in time.

    Nozick continues: "It does not include the worsening due to more limited opportunities to appropriate (the first way above, corresponding to the more stringent condition), and it does not include how I 'worsen" a seller's position if I appropriate materials to make some of what he is selling, and then enter into competition with him."

    Too repeat: 'It does not include the worsening due to more limited opportunities to appropriate". But De Long is saying " those were all illegitimate, since they did not leave enough for the latecomers to take what they want from the common stock of nature."

    It is clear in my interpretation that Nozick denies this explicitly. I think that's a fair interpretation.


    A separate question is, of course, wether or not he should have accepted it in the way that he did. He shouldn't - he did not see that the principles he argued for allowed cases that he thinks are 'exceptions' based on the proviso. But they are not. (Case in point: the water source in the dessert. Furthermore; a plausible theory of obligation, compatible with in stead of an exception too his own theory, seems to me the correct alternative.)

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  5. "Nozick is talking about creating private property out of the commons, things that everybody was in fact using at different points in time."

    Where is this said, that the thing had to be previously used in common?

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  6. He doesn't say it explicitly, if that's what you are asking. But (to me) it seems pretty clear that he does, given the distinction between 'being at liberty to use it' (meaning they had access to it in a relevant way) on the one hand and people who arrived later on the other (the latter having no claim).

    Even if this interpretation is wrong, the literal quote saying that this rule doesn't apply to 'worsening due to more limited opportunities to appropriate' seems that the interpretation of De Long is definitely wrong, regardless wether or not mine is correct.

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  7. "'being at liberty to use it' (meaning they had access to it in a relevant way)"

    "Being at liberty to use" something just does not imply "access in a relevant way." I am at liberty to use Yosemite National Park, despite the fact that at present I have no access to it.

    "Even if this interpretation is wrong, the literal quote saying that this rule doesn't apply to 'worsening due to more limited opportunities to appropriate' seems that the interpretation of De Long is definitely wrong, regardless wether or not mine is correct."

    No, it doesn't. If someone had grabbed up all of the fresh water in the US in 1783, others would be worse off not simply because they couldn't appropriate any, but in many other ways.

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