The authors of this book engage in essay form in a lively debate over the fundamental characteristics of legal and moral rights. They examine whether rights fundamentally protect individuals' interests or whether they instead fundamentally enable individuals to make choices. In the course of this debate the authors address many questions through which they clarify, though not finally resolve, a number of controversial present-day political debates, including those over abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights.
In a recent review essay of a two volume anthology on left-libertarianism (edited by two of us), Barbara Fried has insightfully laid out most of the core issues that confront left-libertarianism. We are each left-libertarians, and we would like to take this opportunity to address some of the general issues that she raises. We shall focus, as Fried does much of the time, on the question of whether left-libertarianism is a well-defined and distinct alternative to existing forms of liberal egalitarianism. (...) More specifically, we shall address the following fundamental issues raised by Fried (and others): (1) Does the notion self-ownership have any determinate content? (2) What is the relation between self-ownership and world ownership? (3) How is left-libertarianism different from other forms of liberal egalitarianism (e.g., those of Rawls and Dworkin)? (shrink)
Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in left-libertarianism, which holds (roughly) that agents fully own themselves and that natural resources (land, minerals, air, etc.) belong to everyone in some egalitarian sense. Left-libertarianism agrees with the more familiar right-libertarianism about self-ownership, but radically disagrees with it about the power to acquire ownership of natural resources. Merely being the first person to claim, discover, or mix labor with an unappropriated natural resource does not—left-libertarianism insists—generate a full private property (...) right in that natural resource. (shrink)
Justice and Libertarianism The term ‘justice’ is commonly used in several different ways. Sometimes it designates the moral permissibility of political structures (such as legal systems). Sometimes it designates moral fairness (as opposed to efficiency or other considerations that are relevant to moral permissibility). Sometimes it designates legitimacy in the sense of it being morally impermissible for others to interfere forcibly with the act or omission (e.g., my failing to go to dinner with my mother may be wrong but nonetheless (...) legitimate). Finally, sometimes it designates what we owe each other in the sense of respecting everyone’s rights. Of course, these notions are closely related. What we owe each other may, but need not, be partly based on issues of fairness. Legitimacy and permissibility of political structures are largely, but perhaps not entirely, determined by what rights of non-interference individuals have. Nonetheless, these are distinct notions and we shall focus only on what we owe each other. Justice as what we owe each other is not concerned with impersonal duties (duties owed to no one, i.e., that do not correspond to anyone’s rights). If there are impersonal duties, then something can be just but nonetheless morally impermissible. For brevity, we shall often write of actions being permissible or agents having a moral liberty, but this should always be understood in the interpersonal sense of violating no one’s rights. Libertarianism is sometimes advocated as a derivative set of rules (e.g., derived from rule utilitarian or contractarian doctrines). Here, however, we reserve the term for the natural rights doctrine that agents initially fully own themselves. Agents are full self-owners just in case they own themselves in precisely the same way that they can fully own inanimate objects. Stated slightly differently, full self-owners own themselves in the same way that a full chattel-slaveowner owns a slave. Throughout, we are concerned with moral ownership and not legal ownership.. (shrink)
Some important recent articles, including one in this journal, have sought to devise theories of rights that can transcend the longstanding debate between the Interest Theory and the Will Theory. The present essay argues that those efforts fail and that the Interest Theory and the Will Theory withstand the criticisms that have been levelled against them. To be sure, the criticisms have been valuable in that they have prompted the amplification and clarification of the two dominant theories of rights; but (...) their upshot has been to reveal the need for the improvement, rather than the abandonment, of those theories. (shrink)
The Global Fund is a mechanism for the global application of the Left Libertarian conception of distributive justice. As a form of luck egalitarianism, this conception confers upon each person an entitlement to an equal share of all natural resource values, since natural resources - broadly, geographical sites - are objects for the production of which no person is responsible. Owners of these sites, i.e. states, are liable to a 100% Global Fund tax on their unimproved value: that is, their (...) gross market value minus the value of the improvements added to them by human effort. It is argued that the revenue yielded by this tax would be correspondingly reduced by a further tax on the use of natural resources. (shrink)
This essay argues that the proffered grounds for Cohen's rejection of market relations – that they are sustained by the base motives of greed and fear – are unsound and also unnecessary to explain the maximising behaviour induced by those relations.
This essay argues that a liberalism that avoids legal moralism – that is neutral between rival conceptions of the good – cannot embrace intervention in commercial transactions, but is thereby precluded neither from identifying some such transactions as exploitative nor from redressing them by other means.
There is an important distinction between a person's ’initial genetic endowment’ and his ’post‐conception inputs’ such as nutrition and education. From a left‐libertarian perspective that views persons as self‐owning, children have an enforceable claim that parents should provide adequate ’post‐conception’ inputs. Moreover, with the revolution in genetic science, it is now possible to effect genetic changes without altering identity. If so, children can, in principle, claim a right against ’genetic‐disablement’.
“Should differences in income and wealth matter?” is a paralyzingly big question. Does it refer to some differences? All differences? Daily differences, periodic ones, initial ones? Do they matter regardless of how income and wealth are acquired? Regardless of what can be done with them? Regardless, indeed, of what ‘mattering’ means?
“Does the existence of unequal social and economic starting points in life nullify capitalism's claims to justice?” Notice is hereby given that this essay's answer to this question is an unequivocal “maybe.” For it is a banal but true claim that everything depends upon what is meant by capitalism, justice and life's starting point. And it is a less banal but no less true claim that their meanings are opaque or controversial or both. In what follows I shall devote little (...) attention to the question of what justice is and shall simply presume that it is best characterized by historical entitlement theory. The last part of the essay discusses the notion of life's starting point and vacillates over what it would mean for one such point to be equal to another. Hence, the bulk of my argument is taken up with exploring what capitalism must be like to conform to historical entitlement theory. And my conclusion will be that, insofar as capitalism respects every person's right of self-ownership, its claims to justice require that no one be denied one type of equal payment – a payment which might be rendered at each life's starting point. (shrink)
I shall formulate and motivate a left-libertarian theory of justice. Like the more familiar rightlibertarianism, it holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Unlike right-libertarianism, it holds that natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. Left-libertarianism is, I claim, a plausible version of liberal egalitarianism because it is suitably sensitive to considerations of liberty, security, and equality.
In a paper published in this journal we proposed a method for resolving disputed land claims between two parties (Steiner and Wolff: 2003). In essence the proposal is to hold an auction between the disputants in which the land is given to the higher bidder, but the receipts of the auction to the under-bidder. We claimed that under such circumstances both parties can walk away happy: the higher bidder happy to pay the price bid for the land; the under-bidder happier (...) to have the receipts of the auction when the alternative is to pay for the land at a higher price. (shrink)
Edited by leading contributors to the literature, Freedom: An Anthology is the most complete anthology on social, political and economic freedom ever compiled. Offers a broad guide to the vast literature on social, political and economic freedom. Contains selections from the best scholarship of recent decades as well as classic writings from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant among others. General and sectional introductions help to orient the reader. Compiled and edited by three important contributors to the field.
This essay challenges the coherence of arguments brought in support of prohibiting the sale of human body parts. Considerations of neither social utility nor individual rights nor avoidance of exploitation seem sufficient to ground such a prohibition. Indeed, they may be sufficient to invalidate it.
Historically, liberal political philosophy has had much to say about who is entitled to nationhood. But it has had rather less to say about how to determine the legitimate territorial boundaries of nations and even less to say about what some such nations, so situated, might owe to others. The object of this paper is to show that the foundational principles of liberalism can generate reasonably determinate solutions to these problems. That is, the very same set of basic rights that (...) liberalism ascribes to all persons is itself sufficient to determine which nations they are members of, where those nations, legitimate legal jurisdictions are located, and what amounts of wealth they each owe or are owed by other nations. (shrink)
Judgments about the extent to which an individual is free are easily among the more intractable of the various raw materials which present themselves for philosophical processing. On the one hand, few of us have any qualms about making statements to the effect that Blue is more free than Red. Explicitly or otherwise, such claims are the commonplaces of most history textbooks and of much that passes before us in the news media. And yet, good evidence for the presence of (...) a philosophical puzzle here is to be found in the familiar hesitation we experience when we first reflect on the grounds for such claims. Is it really the case that the average Russian is less free than an Englishman in a dole queue? Are we quite certain that a dirt farmer in the Appalachians enjoys greater personal liberty than the inmate of a well-appointed modern prison? Were citizens of classical Athens more free, or less free, than their counterparts in today's welfare states? (shrink)
Philippe Van Parijs has argued that, in a globalizing economy, acquiring a second language, additional to one's native language, is more necessary for some persons than others and that this asymmetric bilingualism is a form of injustice which should be rectified by a more equitable global sharing of the costs of second-language acquisition. This article responds by suggesting that (1) since native languages have geographic locations, and (2) since locations with less globally useful native languages thereby sustain lowered living (...) costs, then (3) the costs which persons incur, in acquiring a second, more globally useful language, may already be offset by the lower costs they incur by virtue of their living in a location with a less globally useful native language. Hence, theories of justice (such as Van Parijs's) that require the egalitarian redistribution of locational values would impose, rather than remedy, an injustice by redistributing second-language-acquisition costs. Key Words: distributive justice global redistribution linguistic assets locational values Philippe Van Parijs. (shrink)