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19 Ariz. L. Rev. 45 (1977)
Some Ruminations on Rights

handle is hein.journals/arz19 and id is 53 raw text is: SOME RUMINATIONS ON RIGHTS
Judith Jarvis Thomson*
In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick says that a govern-
ment which imposes taxes for the purpose of redistribution violates the
rights of its citizens.' The word imposes perhaps needs no stress:
Nozick could hardly object to a government's withholding a percentage
of income for this purpose if its citizens had unanimously requested
it to do so. What he objects to-on the ground of its constituting a
violation of rights-is forcing payment for this purpose on those who
do not wish to pay. What we might expect Nozick to give us, then,
is a theory of rights, or at least a clear picture of why this should be
so. In fact, we get neither.
Nozick makes two quite general points about rights, both of them
important. He says, first, that the fact that if we bring about that such
and such is the case there will be more good in the world than there
otherwise would be does not by itself justify our bringing about that
it is the case, and this on the ground that to bring it about may be to
violate a right. This seems to me to be wholly right. Suppose, for
example, that if we bring about that Alfred takes a certain aspirin tablet
there will be more good in the world than there otherwise would be.
This does not by itself justify our bringing about that Alfred takes it,
for it might be that to do so would be to violate a right. For example,
it might be that Bert owns that aspirin tablet and does not wish Alfred
to take it; in that case, to bring about that Alfred takes it would be
to violate a right of Bert's. Indeed, it might be that Alfred himself
owns it but does not wish to take it; in that case, to bring about that
he does would be to violate, paternalistically, a right of Alfred's.
This point, though important, is familiar enough. What is perhaps
* Professor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. B.A. Barnard
College 1950; M.A. Cambridge University 1956; Ph.D. Columbia University 1959.
1. R. NOZICK, ANARCHY, STATE, AND UTOPIA 171-74 (1974).

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