Does left-libertarianism have coherent foundations?

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 3 (3):337-364 (2004)
Left-libertarian theories of justice hold that agents are full self-owners and that natural resources are owned in some egalitarian manner. Some philosophers find left-libertarianism promising because it seems that it coherently underwrites both some demands of material equality and some limits on the permissible means of promoting such equality. However, the main goal of this article is to argue that, as far as coherence is concerned, at least one formulation of left-libertarianism is in trouble. This formulation is that of Michael Otsuka, who published it first in a 1998 article, and now in his thought-provoking book Libertarianism Without Inequality . In a nutshell, my objection is that the set of reasons that support egalitarian ownership of natural resources as Otsuka understands it stand in a deep tension with the set of reasons that would prompt one to endorse Otsuka’s right to self-ownership. In light of their underlying commitments, a defender of either of the views that left-libertarianism combines would actually have to reject the other. This incoherence, it seems, can only be remedied either by an approach that renders left-libertarianism incomplete in a way that can only be fixed by endorsing more commitments than most left-libertarians would want to or by an approach that leaves left-libertarianism a philosophically shallow theory. Key Words: equality • left-libertarianism • libertarianism • original appropriation • property • self-ownership.
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DOI 10.1177/1470594X04046246
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