The financial Crunch of 2008 was easily explained by both the left and right–too easily. Each insisted that events thoroughly confirmed its own long-held views and utterly refuted those of the opposed camp. This essay argues that there are indeed new lessons to be drawn from the Crunch, lessons that involve balancing the bounty of the Invisible Hand against perils of the Prisoner's Dilemma. Liberal moral imperatives are traced to variables of Personal Choice and External Cost that are typically in (...) tension with each other and thus generate needs for institutional reconstructions that change according to time and circumstance. Personal bankruptcy protection, limited liability corporations, and intellectual property are cited as examples. It is argued that the Crunch occurred because of failure adequately to balance these variables. Three paradoxes came to a head in 2008: Paradox of Efficient Markets; Paradox of Reduced Risk; Paradox of Hard-won Knowledge. The essay concludes with suggestions concerning specific lessons to be drawn from the Crunch and a corresponding list of lessons not to be drawn. (shrink)
Individuals care deeply about with whom they associate and on what terms. A liberty to avoid entanglement in the disfavored designs of others is counterposed by an entitlement not to be excluded from valued modes of activity. These interests generate not one but two freedoms of association, the former negative and the latter positive. Often they conflict. This essay begins by setting out several respects in which negative free association is crucial to a liberal order and then examines several pleas (...) for positive association, at least one of which is judged to be compelling. Because the two freedoms of association are in conspicuous tension, the essay concludes with strategies for reconciling their competing claims. (shrink)
In this essay I wish to consider the implications for theory and practice of the following two propositions, either or both of which may be controversial, but which will here be assumed for the sake of argument: Libertarianism is the correct framework for political morality. The vast majority of our fellow citizens disbelieve. 1.
Contract is the dominant model for political philosophy's understanding of government grounded on the consent of the governed. However, there are at least five disabilities attached to classical social contract theory: the grounding contract never actually occurred; its provisions are vague and contestable; the stringency of the obligation thereby established is dubious; trans-generational consent is questionable; interpretive methods for giving effect to the contract are ill-specified. By contrast, the biblical story of the covenant Israel embraces at Sinai is shown to (...) be more adequately attentive to each of these five desiderata. The essay then focuses on the U.S. Constitution, arguing that in many ways it is more reflective of covenantal legitimating themes than those of social contract. The result is a promisingly different mode of understanding government by the consent of the governed. (shrink)
Theorists increasingly tum to autonomy (rather than liberty per se) as a grounding value for liberalism. This is, I argue, an iII-advised strategy. If autonomy is understood to differ from (negative) liberty insofar as it demands from agents significantly greater feats of self-determination, then it is not clear that autonomy is worth having. And, irrespective of whether autonomy is judged to be valuable, autonomy-based liberalisms eilher prescribe essentially the same constraints as classical liberalism - and thus are poIitically innocuous - (...) or else require that the stale act non-neutrally with respect to its citizens - and thus are illiberal. (shrink)
In this paper I shall concern myself with the ontological argument as found in Leibniz. In recent years several authors, notable among them Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm, have contended that to speak of the ontological argument or the Anselmian argument is ambiguous, as in Anselm are to be found two logically independent ontological arguments. The more well-known version is from Proslogion II, and it takes existence as a perfection. This is the form of the argument rejected by Gaunilo, Aquinas, (...) and eventually Kant. Today it is in all but universal disfavor. (shrink)
A small puzzle: the terms ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ initially present themselves as contraries, the one affirming what the other rejects. However, once removed from the dictionary, they function otherwise. The theory of capitalism is very much contained within the science of economics. The positive theory of capitalistic institutions, but also its normative superstructure, rest most easily within the language and methodology of the economist. What distinguishes the free market? It is efficient ; allocation of factors of production are optimized ; (...) individuals maximize their utility ; and so on. These are the terms with which justifications of capitalistic production typically begin – begin, and often end. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is increasingly regarded as a viable alternative to consequentialist or deontological systems of normative ethics. This paper argues that there can be no such triumvirate of contending comprehensive ethical systems. That is not because virtue is unimportant but rather because genuine virtue is excellent and therefore rare. For most people in most morally salient situations there is no possibility of virtuous response because possession of the relevant virtues simply does not obtain nor can be usefully simulated. Instead, the (...) much more universal and important moral requirement is suitable moderation of one’s vices. Nor should it be supposed that the absence of virtue necessarily diminishes the quality of an individual’s life and that person’s value to others. Rather, moral deficiencies are compatible with other excellences and may indeed contribute to them. I conclude that virtue ethics is less worthy of pursuit than vice ethics. (shrink)