Wilt Chamberlain Redux: Thinking Clearly about Externalities and the Promises of Justice

Reason Papers 39 (2):90-114 (2018)
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Gordon Barnes accuses Robert Nozick and Eric Mack of neglecting, in two ways, the practical, empirical questions relevant to justice in the real world.1 He thinks these omissions show that the argument behind the Wilt Chamberlain example—which Nozick famously made in his seminal Anarchy, State, and Utopia—fails. As a result, he suggests that libertarians should concede that this argument fails. In this article, we show that Barnes’s key arguments hinge on misunderstandings of, or failures to notice, key aspects of the entitlement theory that undergirds Nozick’s and Mack’s work. Once the theory is properly understood, Barnes’s challenges fail to undermine the Chamberlain example, in particular, and the entitlement theory, in general.
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