Dworkin there is no fixed combination of talents

Dworkin dismisses the first claim because he believesthere is no fixed combination of talents or traits that constitute merit, evenin an abstract sense.

Thusit seems that the right to be judged on merit is not an objection to affirmativeaction, since race could potentially be a legitimate means of determining meritin the circumstance where it would best serve the needs of the public. Dworkinalso dismisses the second possibility—to be judged as an individual—simply becausecolleges routinely dismiss applicants as part of a group, without necessarily assessing them asindividuals beforehand. One example that immediately comes to mind is minimumGPA standards. At first glance, the third possibility sounds plausible because,according to Dworkin, it suggests the principle that every citizen has aconstitutional right not to suffer a disadvantage in “competition” for a publicbenefit due to prejudice or contempt for his or her race, religion, sect, etc. Thecrucial point here is that exclusion based on race is considered unacceptableonly if it is motivated by prejudiceor contempt. Clearly this is not the case with affirmative action.Discussions regarding theethics of affirmative action are typically filled with concepts such as “oppression”and “discrimination,” “infringement” and “contravention.

”  Libertarians,in particular, may be expected to object affirmative action on these grounds. Surprisingly,however, there are certain strands of libertarianism – namely Nozick’s interpretationof distributive justice (entitlement theory) and self-ownership – that seem tosupport the practice of affirmative action. Upon historical examination, one willinevitably discover that the current distribution of holdings in the UnitedStates has been significantly affected by recurring historical injustices (asdefined by the principles of justice in holdings) committed against minoritygroups. In order to avoid Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons,” Nozick employsthe Lockean proviso. He explains that if an appropriation violates the proviso,one must “compensate the others involved so that their situation is notthereby worsened” (Nozick, 214). Similarly, one must provide compensatoryreparations if a transfer is made unjustly. In some instances, the existence ofpast injustices is evident yet the original offenders are not available tocompensate those affected by these violations.

These types of situations areaddressed through Nozick’s principle of rectification.Some people have used theterm “reverse discrimination” to describe affirmative action, a policy aimed atcorrecting the results of past discrimination. This claim suggests thataffirmative action is somehow subject to the same moral judgment as racial andgender discrimination in the past. Both views, however, are fundamentally different.Race and gender discrimination assumes the doctrine of racial inferiority,while affirmative action makes no such assumption.

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Onemight make a different objection: Taxation for affirmative action is akin toseizure of product or property by the state and is, therefore, unjust onlibertarian grounds. Nevertheless, the state requires some funding in order toperform certain functions. Protection of the citizens against rights violationsis one such acceptable function. These funds would inevitably be found throughtaxation as expecting individuals to voluntarily provide funds would result innumerous complications and difficulties; for example, some may provide morefunding than others and others no funding at all, making their equal protectionthrough said funding questionable.If theprotection of rights is justly fundable through taxes, taxation for the meansof ensuring compensation is likewise fundable. The state must ensure thisbecause it cannot expect those who have committed injustices warrantingcompensation to make such compensations voluntarily.  In cases wheredirect compensation is not possible, rectification is necessary; though nooffending party is present to compensate, rectification demands redress ofwrongs.

If protection against violations of the principles of justice inholdings and assurance of compensation are both justly fundable through taxes,funding for rectification of past violations of these principles is also justlyfunded through taxes. Still, one may push the point of unjust taxation further.Let usassume that all members of a society are taxed (to assist with theimplementation of affirmative action).

One might argue that those not directlybenefitting from the program, namely upper-class white males, are effectivelypaying the direct cost of wrongs they did not participate in. Nozick’s accountof the Lockean proviso on appropriation includes a “historical shadow” – onceit is known that one’s ownership of property violates the proviso, there are”stringent limits” on what one may do with it (Nozick, 214). Likewise,violating the principle of justice in transfer involves a comparable historicalshadow; if unjust acquisition may limit one’s property rights, unjust transfermay also limit one’s property rights.

In this way, having unjust holdings notonly limits the offender’s property rights but also the property rights ofthose to whom the offender transfers this property. Therefore, though it mightseem that white males are unjustly paying the direct cost for a past harm, inthis instance they are experiencing limits on their property rights due to thestringent limits on their rights to the property transferred to them(illegitimately) by their ancestors.Walzer’s theory of complexequality is comprised of two ideas: Each kind of resource must be distributedin accordance with the principle appropriate to its sphere and success in one spheremust not “spill” over to allow domination or monopolization in another – “nocitizen’s standing in one sphere…can be undercut by his standing in some othersphere” (Walzer, 493). For Walzer, any race-sensitive preference in theprofessional arena corrupts the sphere of “office” in order to serve the sphereof “welfare.

” If society can preserve the boundaries of the spheres, then,Walzer argues, there is no need for any overall comparison of individualsacross the spheres. In other words, one need not worry that some people have Ferrarisand others not even a car. This position offers a viewof society as one that is at peace with its own traditions and conventions,without the constant strains, comparisons/judgments, and regulation of “simple”equality. Citizens live together in harmony, though no one has exactly thewealth or education or opportunities of anyone else, because each understandsthat he or she has received what justice requires within each sphere. A citizenin this society does not think that his or her self-respect or standing in thecommunity depends on any overall comparison with that of others.This ideal of complexequality is unattainable. It tells us to look at social conventions to discoverthe appropriate principles of distribution for specific goods, but the veryfact that we debate about what justice requires, in particular cases, showsthat we have no such conventions.

Walzer writes: “there are standards (roughlyknowable even when they are also controversial) for every social good and everydistributive sphere in every particular society” (Walzer, 488). Yet many issuesseemingly belong to no settled sphere of justice – they are endlessly debated,subject to negotiation and compromise. This seems to be the case withaffirmative action policies. Hence, theprinciples of justice we use to decide which features of a community arerelevant to a just distribution of its goods and opportunities must beprinciples we accept because they seem right.Their traditional or conventional value or role is of secondary importance.