Libertarianism, Legitimation, and the Problems of Regulating Cognition-Enhancing Drugs

Neuroethics 4 (2):119-128 (2011)
Some libertarians tend to advocate the wide availability of cognition-enhancing drugs beyond their current prescription-only status. They suggest that certain kinds of drugs can be a component of a prudential conception of the ‘good life’—they enhance our opportunities and preferences; and therefore, if a person freely chooses to use them, then there is no justification for the kind of prejudicial, authoritative restrictions that are currently deployed in public policy. In particular, this libertarian idea signifies that if enhancements are a prudential ‘good’ for the user, then this can also be construed as a moral good for all rational agents. If this argument is successful, there can be no substantial distinction between the categorical benefits of enhancement, and what is labeled as an enhancement technology. In this paper, I argue that the exclusivity of egotistical choice, and an uncritical deployment of enhancement as a prudential good, underplays the role of a social and political community when creating a procedurally just and effective public policy. Principally, the argument is devoid of any ethical system to permit the external—and therefore public–appreciation of the social context of moral decisions. In effect, libertarian arguments of this sort must disregard any ideas of public ethics, because the liberty to use whatever means available to gain a socio-economic advantage actually extinguishes any professed legitimation strategy. Escaping the procedural aspects of public policy, which are considered integral to authoritative coherence, results in the erosion of any moral obligations. Thus, in a libertarian society, disenfranchised individuals—such as those harmed through addiction—are the unlucky or superfluous product of a liberal and ‘progressive’ society
Keywords Libertarianism  Cognition-enhancing drugs  Public policy  Legitimation  Human rights  Authoritative regulation  Addiction
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DOI 10.1007/s12152-010-9059-3
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Alan Gewirth (1978). Reason and Morality. University of Chicago Press.

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