Front Page Titles (by Subject) Nozick and the Lockean Proviso - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1
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Nozick and the Lockean Proviso - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1979, vol. 2, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Nozick and the Lockean Proviso
“Nozick on Appropriation.” Mind 87 (January 1978): 109–110.
In Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) Robert Nozick champions and reinterprets John Locke's proviso on the acquisition and appropriation of property (that there remain “enough and as good left in common for others”) to ensure fairness. Employing an amended Lockean proviso as part of his entitlement theory, Nozick stipulates that it limits an individual's right to appropriate objects if the appropriation would worsen the situation of others who would no longer be free to use the good in question. The author subjects Nozick's Lockean proviso to a twofold critique and understands Nozick's “worsen” to mean the net loss of reasonably expected well-being that any non-appropriator incurs from no longer being at liberty to use the object.
Steiner first protests the unfairness of Nozick's proviso. Nozick demands that the person who worsens the situation of others must compensate all the others for this loss (otherwise he would not have just title to the good). This demand, however, burdens the compensator unfairly. For suppose that Ann appropriates some property and thereby “worsens” the situation of Bob, Carl, and Don. For Nozick, this would require Ann to compensate all three. Yet only one of the three—either Bob, Carl, or Don—would have appropriated the property if Ann had not appropriated it. To require Ann to compensate all three, Nozick thereby requires her to compensate two more people than necessary who would have their situation dubiously “worsened” by Ann's appropriation of the property. Furthermore, we do not even know which two to compensate.
A second problem with Nozick's proviso is the impossibility of measuring or calculating how much compensation Ann owes to the other person. Suppose we overlook the first problem and in fact know that Bob would have been the one to appropriate the property if Ann had not appropriated it. In this case, Bob's net “worsening” because of his lack of liberty to use the property must exclude the alternative net “worsening” Ann would have suffered if Bob had appropriated the property. To calculate Bob's compensation thus leads us into a vicious circle: