What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Let’s look at what a society governed by Nozick’s principles might look like.  Nozick famously articulates a view of the conditions under which property is legitimately held and his view is this.  It’s legitimate for you to own something if you acquired it in a legitimate way when it was un-owned or if you acquired it in a legitimate way from somebody else who already owned it.  If I got the property from you as the result of your having given it to me then no one can legitimately take that property away from me.  This may sound relatively uncontroversial, but let’s look and see what it implies. 

Suppose each of us starts out with the same amount of money.  Say each of us has $100 and there are thousands and thousands of us all of whom are fans of the great 1970s basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, so suppose you give 25 cents of your money to Wilt Chamberlain and I give 25 cents of my money to Wilt Chamberlain and our friend gives 25 cents of his money to Wilt Chamberlain and so on thousands and thousands of times until Wilt Chamberlain comes to have not the $100 with which each of us started out, but thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.  On Nozick’s picture any decision to take away any of the money which Wilt Chamberlain got through this voluntary and legitimate transaction is a violation of rights. Then no distribution of income, including one in which 1% of the people own 99% of the wealth could ever be illegitimate because what matters is how it actually came into being.  If all that 99% of the wealth came to those individuals as the result of legal transactions then nothing can be done without violating rights to redistribute it.

There is no easy answer to this question.  There is a strong intuitive pull to the view that Nozick advocates—it is in some sense theft to take from Wilt Chamberlain what each of us has voluntarily given to him.  On the other hand without such theft, more commonly known by the term taxation, we will find ourselves perhaps in the sort of situation that neither Rawls nor Nozick wants to be in.

If all of us give our quarters to Wilt Chamberlain and his companions.

Instead of having a society of which we’re all equally a part Wilt and his wealthy friends are able to buy access to the media, are able to buy advertising time for candidates that they support, are able to send their children to schools where they gain power and advantage and access to resources with the result that the fundamental rights which Nozick as well as Rawls was concerned with preserving become difficult for people to exercise. 

 

Robert Nozick: Individual L...

Newsletter: Share: