Jealousy and Confidence: An Essay on the Limits of Authority

Dissertation, Stanford University (1996)
Abstract
This work defends the limited government of classical liberalism by appeal to Rawls' principle of legitimacy, Sowell's analysis of political visions, and a critique of the model of social causation informing distributive theory. I reason that social theories generally propose schemes of social organization; some proposed social schemes are extensive; only states enact extensive social schemes; states act through laws; laws are commands coupled with threats. Thus extensive social theories tacitly propose state commands and threats. Laws are often justified by appeal to theories of harm , property , market failure, and social goals. I focus on harm and property, and argue that the wrongfulness which marks harm must not be drawn from private moral visions: this limits the positive rights the law may endorse. I then survey the history of Western property theory to show how certain common law principles offer worthwhile limitations on state force. Lastly, I critique the assumptions underlying discourse in distributive justice
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