Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier

Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):447-477 (2015)
Recent methodological debates regarding the place of feasibility considerations in normative political theory are hindered for want of a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier. To address this shortfall, I present an analysis of feasibility that generalizes the economic concept of a production possibility frontier and then develop a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier using the familiar possible worlds technology. I then show that this model has significant methodological implications for political philosophy. On the Target View, a political ideal presents a long-term goal for morally progressive reform efforts and, thus, serves as an important reference point for our specification of normative political principles. I use the model to show that we can- not reasonably expect that adopting political ideals as long-term reform objectives will guide us toward the realization of morally optimal feasible states of affairs. I conclude by proposing that political philosophers turn their attention to the analysis of actual social failures rather than political ideals.
Keywords feasibility  ideal theory  political ideals
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267115000164
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A. John Simmons (2010). Ideal and Nonideal Theory. Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (1):5-36.
David Estlund (2014). Utopophobia. Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (2):113-134.

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