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Topic Description

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1.1 Background of the Study

This study rose as a consequence of the researcher’s interest on the consequence of the 2012 pension fund scam in Nigeria on the retirees. One of the reasons for embarking on pension administration in every country is to render people’s savings to them after their retirement. Hence, they have a right to what actually belongs to them (i.e. their contributions to the pension scheme while in active service). The fraud and embezzlement in the management of pension funds in the country is a denial of the retirees of what they actually deserve, merit or their entitlement thereby forcing people who have served their country in all honesty, to retire into abject poverty and penury. This is an infringement on the rights of the retirees. Where then lies the faith of these retirees that their entitlement or rights to their belongings have been denied? Giving to everyone what he or she is entitled to, is his right and that is justice. How can these retirees reclaim what belongs to them? John Rawls claims that ‘justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of system of thought’.1 What will the state do to see that the retirees are given what they are entitled to?

Nozick’s entitlement theory is an attempt to describe ‘justice in holdings’ or what can be said about and done with the property people own when viewed from a principle of justice. Nozick uses this entitlement theory to explain how a person can be entitled to a holding in the society. The denial of one’s entitlement is the denial of one’s right to life and no one should interfere with another’s life.



1.2 Statement of the Problem

Entitlement theory is a theory of private property and distributive justice created by Robert Nozick in his book, Anarchy, State and Utopia. The theory is Nozick’s attempt to describe ‘justice in holdings’ or what can be said about and done with the property people own when viewed from a principle of justice. In line with this, Nozick said ‘whatever arises from a just situation by just steps is itself just’.2 Based on this, this study is bothered by the following problems

  1. The Problem of Individual Appropriation.
  2. The Problem of extent of object one mixes one’s labour with.
  3. The Problem of redistribution of Wealth.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

Nozick uses the apparatus of his theory to find out how possible it is to have a just and stable society of free citizens, who are not under coercion and intimidation by the government and society. On this account, the purpose of this thesis is to examine the extent to which his theory advances in explanation of ownership of property in the society as manifested in strong system of private ownership of property and free market economy. This study also aims at investigating the link between the state and property rights.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The scope of this work is limited to Robert Nozick’s political philosophy, and more precisely his entitlement theory of justice, which has to do with justice in holding or what can be done with the property people own when viewed from the angle of justice. It does not claim to be exhaustive. This is because the problem associated with this topic is not entirely new in the philosophical world.


1.5 Significance of Study

Nozick’s concept of justice, when viewed from the angle of the property people own, has raised a lot of controversy as to how property is going to be allocated; whether it should be based on merit, need, social status, or property rights and non-aggression. Robert Nozick advocated for property rights which goes a long way to creating a strong system of private ownership of property and free market economy. The significance of this work is, therefore, to show the impact of Nozick’s theory on economists, philosophers and students of political economy.

1.6 Thesis of the Study

Nozick’s concept of justice is a philosophical exploration of issues which arise and interconnect when we consider individual rights and the state .The thesis of this work is that justice demands that the state should have the powers to regulate the economic activities of citizens, to redistribute wealth in the direction of greater equality, and to provide social services such as education and health care.

1.7 Research Methodology

In this work, my research is a library research. The data for the study were sourced from books, articles, journals and the internet. In handling these materials, the historical, expository, analytical and critical methods were used. With the historical method, the subject of the enquiry and the philosopher were located within historical perspective. In using the expository method, an attempt was made to understand the author, as the analytical method was used for analysis and critical method was used to subject his views to a closer scrutiny, highlighting the merits and demerits.


1.8 Clarification of Concepts

1.8.1 Appropriation: This is the assigning of resources to individuals.

1.8.2 Libertarianism:  is a political philosophy holding that the role of the state in society ought to be severely limited, confined essentially to police protection, national defense, and the administration of courts of law, with all other tasks commonly performed by modern governments – education, social insurance, welfare, and so forth – taken over by religious bodies, charities, and other private institutions operating in a free market.

1.8.2 Justice In Holding: This justice that pertains to the rights and individuals’ entitlement to property