Third, it is important to note that Nozick's libertarianism evaluates the justice of states of affairs, such as distributions of property, in terms of the history or process by which that state of affairs arose, and not by the extent to which it satisfies what he calls a patterned or end-state principle of justice. Distributions of property are just, according to Nozick, if they arose from previously just distributions by just procedures. Discerning the justice of current distributions thus requires that we establish a theory of justice in transfer—to tell us which procedures constitute legitimate means of transferring ownership between persons—and a theory of justice in acquisition—to tell us how individuals might come to own external goods that were previously owned by no one. And while Nozick does not fully develop either of these theories, his skeletal position is nevertheless significant, for it implies that it is only the proper historical pedigree that makes a distribution just, and it is only deviations from the proper pedigree that renders a distribution unjust. An implication of this position is that one cannot discern from time-slice statistical data alone—such as the claim that the top fifth of the income distribution in the United States controls more than 80 percent of the nation's wealth—that a distribution is unjust. Rather, the justice of a distribution depends on how it came about—by force or by trade? By differing degrees of hard work and luck? Or by fraud and theft? Libertarianism's historical focus thus sets the doctrine against both outcome-egalitarian views that hold that only equal distributions are just, utilitarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they maximize utility, and prioritarian views that hold that distributions are just to the extent they benefit the worse-off. Justice in distribution is a matter of respecting people's rights, not of achieving a certain outcome.
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