Coercion, ownership, and the redistributive state: Justificatory liberalism's classical tilt

Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (01):233- (2010)
Abstract
Justificatory liberalism1 rests on a conception of members of the public as free and equal. To say that each is free implies that each has a fundamental claim to act as she sees fit on the basis of her own reasoning. To say that each is equal is to insist that members of the public are symmetrically placed insofar as no one has a natural right to command others, nor does anyone have a natural duty to defer to the reasoning of others. Given this conception of persons as free and equal, the legal authority of the state, because it is based on the use, and the threat of, force against its citizens, is deeply problematic: state functionaries employ power to force citizens, or issue threats to use force against them, to induce conformity to the law. On what grounds could anyone exercise such power and yet claim that she is respecting the person (as free and equal) that is imposed upon? In Immanuel Kant’s eyes, a crucial and necessary condition is that the person imposed upon by the law verifies that following the law is the thing to do — it is what his own reason instructs him to do. If the imposed law reflects the reason of those who are subject to it, Kant and his followers have insisted, in a fundamental sense the law treats them as free and equal (qua legislators) even though (qua subjects) they are bound. “A rational being belongs to the realm of ends as a member when he gives universal laws in it while also himself subject to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when he, as legislator, is subject to the will of no other.”2 Justificatory liberalism thus starts out with the idea of “free persons who have no authority over one another”3 and seeks to show how their reason can lead each to freely accept common laws to which they are subject. Only coercive laws that are publicly justified in this way — they are endorsed by the reason of all members of the public — can respect each as free and equal. “Respect for others requires public justification of coercion: that is the clarion call of justificatory liberalism.”4 My concern in this essay is not to motivate justificatory liberalism, but to investigate its relation to we might call “substantive” liberalisms..
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Jason Brennan (2013). Is Market Society Intrinsically Repugnant? Journal of Business Ethics 112 (2):271-281.
Kevin Vallier (2012). Liberalism, Religion And Integrity. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):149 - 165.
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