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)
The word “justice” is used in several different ways. First, justice is sometimes understood as moral permissibility applied to distributions of benefits and burdens (e.g., income distributions) or social structures (e.g., legal systems). In this sense, justice is distinguished by the kind of entity to which it is applied, rather than a specific kind of moral concern.
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)
Intuitively, a property is intrinsic just in case a thing’s having it (at a time) depends only on what that thing is like (at that time), and not on what any wholly distinct contingent object (or wholly distinct time) is like. A property is extrinsic just in case it is non-intrinsic. Redness and squareness are intrinsic properties. Being next to a red object is extrinsic.
The concept of agent-responsibility for an outcome (that is, of the outcome reflecting the autonomous choice of the agent) is central to both ethics and political philosophy. The concept, however, remains radically under-explored. In particular, the issue of partial responsibility for an outcome needs further development. I propose an account of partial responsibility based on partial causal contribution. Agents who choose autonomously in full knowledge of the consequences are agent-responsible, I claim, for the shift in the objective probability of the (...) outcome in question that her choice induces. Thus, agents will typically be only partially agent-responsible (that is, for a shift of less than 100 percent) for any given outcome. The model has an implication that is generally rejected: that agents who purchase lottery tickets and win are agent-responsible for only part of the winnings. (shrink)
In recent years, interest in desert-based theories of justice has increased, and this seems to represent a challenge to equality-based theories of justice.[i] The best distribution of outcomeadvantage with respect to desert, after all, need not be the most equal distribution of outcomeadvantage. Some individuals may deserve more than others. Outcome egalitarianism is, however, implausible, and so the conflict of outcome desert with outcome equality is of little significance.[ii] Most contemporary versions of egalitarianism are concerned with neutralizing the differential effects (...) of brute luck and not with equality of outcome. I shall argue that, in order to be plausible, a desert-based theory of justice can and must be compatible with this form of egalitarianism. There is, however, a stronger form of brute luck egalitarianism, which, as I shall explain, is concerned with equalizing the advantages from brute luck—and not merely with neutralizing the differential effects thereof. Under idealized conditions in which agents have perfect information about the outcomes that their choices generate, even this stronger form of egalitarianism, I shall show, is compatible with pure desert theory. Under conditions of incomplete information, however, strong brute luck egalitarianism is incompatible with a pure desert theory that appeals, as I shall explain, to moral, rather than prudential, desert. (shrink)
000000001. Introduction Call a theory of the good—be it moral or prudential—aggregative just in case (1) it recognizes local (or location-relative) goodness, and (2) the goodness of states of affairs is based on some aggregation of local goodness. The locations for local goodness might be points or regions in time, space, or space-time; or they might be people, or states of nature.1 Any method of aggregation is allowed: totaling, averaging, measuring the equality of the distribution, measuring the minimum, etc.. Call (...) a theory of the good finitely additive just in case it is aggregative, and for any finite set of locations it aggregates by adding together the goodness at those locations. Standard versions of total utilitarianism typically invoke finitely additive value theories (with people as locations). A puzzle can arise when finitely additive value theories are applied to cases involving an infinite number of locations (people, times, etc.). Suppose, for example, that temporal locations are the locus of value, and that time is discrete, and has no beginning or end.2 How would a finitely additive theory (e.g., a temporal version of total utilitarianism) judge the following two worlds? Goodness at Locations (e.g. times) w1:..., 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, ..... w2:..., 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, ..... Example 1 At each time w1 contains 2 units of goodness and w2 contains only 1. Intuitively, we claim, if the locations are the same in each world, finitely additive theorists will want to claim that w1 is better than w2. But it's not clear how they could coherently hold this view. For using standard mathematics the sum of each is the same infinity, and so there seems to be no basis for claiming that one is better than the other.3 (Appealing to Cantorian infinities is of no help here, since for any Cantorian infinite N, 2xN=1xN.). (shrink)
In the old days, material egalitarians tended to favor equality of outcome advantage, on some suitable conception of advantage (happiness, resources, etc.). Under the influence of Dworkin’s seminal articles on equality[i], contemporary material egalitarians have tended to favor equality of brute luck advantage—on the grounds that this permits people to be held appropriately accountable for the benefits and burdens of their choices. I shall argue, however, that a plausible conception of egalitarian justice requires neither that brute luck advantage always be (...) equalized nor that people always bear the full cost of their voluntary choices. Instead, justice requires that initial opportunities for advantage be equalized—roughly along the lines suggested by Arneson and Cohen.[ii] Brute luck egalitarianism and initial opportunity egalitarianism are fairly similar in motivation, and as a result they have not been adequately distinguished. Once the two views are more clearly contrasted, equality of opportunity for advantage will, I claim, be seen to be a more plausible conception of equality. (shrink)
An individual is agent-responsible for an outcome just in case it flows from her autonomous agency in the right kind of way. The topic of agent-responsibility is important because most people believe that agents should be held morally accountable (e.g., liable to punishment or having an obligation to compensate victims) for outcomes for which they are agent-responsible and because many other people (e.g., brute luck egalitarians) hold that agents should not be held accountable for outcomes for which they are not (...) responsible. In this paper, I examine how false beliefs affect agent-responsibility. Unlike most of the papers in this collection, my paper is on the notion of agent-responsibility that many believe is relevant to justice and morality generally. I do not here address the question of how, if at all, justice and morality are sensitive to agent-responsibility. (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)
Although Robert Nozick has argued that libertarianism is compatible with the justice of a minimal state—even if does not arise from mutual consent—few have been persuaded. I will outline a different way of establishing that a non-consensual libertarian state can be just. I will show that a state can—with a few important qualifications—justly enforce the rights of citizens, extract payments to cover the costs of such enforcement, redistribute resources to the poor, and invest in infrastructure to overcome market failures. Footnotesa (...) For very helpful comments, I am indebted to Dani Attas, Ellen Frankel Paul, Robert Johnson, Brian Kierland, Mike Otsuka, Eric Roark, and the other contributors to this volume. (shrink)
Can material Egalitarianism (requiring, for example, the significant promotion of fortune) include animals in the domain of the equality requirement? The problem can be illustrated as follows: If equality of wellbeing is what matters, and normal mice are included in this egalitarian requirement, then normal mice have a much stronger claim to resources than almost any human. This is because normal mice have a much stronger claim to resources than almost any human. This is because their wellbeing is much lower (...) than that of normal humans. Thus, equality of wellbeing requires a massive shift of resources away from most humans to mice. This view, however, seems crazy. I explore this problem and propose a solution. (shrink)
Earl Conee is a well known contemporary defender of the impossibility of moral dilemmas. In his 1982 paper "Against Moral Dilemmas" he argued that moral dilemmas are impossible because the existence of such a dilemma would entail that some obligatory action is forbidden, which is absurd. More recently, in "Why Moral Dilemmas are Impossible" he has defended the impossibility of moral dilemmas by claiming that the moral status of an action depends in part on the moral status of its alternatives. (...) I will here argue that this claim -- as he understands it -- is sufficiently controversial to undermine the force of his argument. (shrink)
We shall focus on moral theories that are solely concerned with promoting the benefits (e.g., wellbeing) of individuals and explore the possibility of such theories ascribing some priority to benefits to those who are worse off—without this priority being absolute. Utilitarianism (which evaluates alternatives on the basis of total or average benefits) ascribes no priority to the worse off, and leximin (which evaluates alternatives by giving lexical priority to the worst off, and then the second worst off, and so on) (...) ascribes absolute priority to the worse off (i.e., favors even a very small benefit to a worse off person over very large benefits to large numbers of better off people). Neither extreme view, we assume, is plausible. (shrink)
What rights and duties do adults have with respect to raising children? Who, for example, has the right to decide how and where a particular child will live, be educated, receive health care, and spend recreational time? I argue that neither biological (gene-provider) nor..
In Are Equal Liberty and Equality Compatible?, Jan Narveson and James Sterba insightfully debate whether a right to maximum equal negative liberty requires, or at least is compatible with, a right to welfare. Narveson argues that the two rights are incompatible, whereas Sterba argues that the rights are compatible and indeed that the right to maximum equal negative liberty requires a right to welfare. I argue that Sterba is correct that the two rights are conceptually compatible and that Narveson is (...) right that right to negative liberty does not conceptually require a right to welfare. (shrink)
This is the first volume of Equality and Justice, a six-volume collection of the most important articles of the twentieth century on the topic of justice and equality. This volume addresses the following three (only loosely related) issues: (1) What is the concept of justice? (2) Is justice primarily a demand on individuals or on societies? (3) What are the relative merits of conceptions of justice based on equality, based on priority for those who have less, and based on ensuring (...) that everyone has a basic minimum, of the relevant goods? (shrink)
Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.[i] It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. Actions with (...) maximally valuable consequences are not always permissible. The second main objection to maximizing act consequentialism is that it mistakenly holds that morality requires us to maximize value. Morality, I shall argue, only requires that we satisfice (promote sufficiently) value, and thus leaves us a greater range of options than maximizing act consequentialism recognizes. (shrink)
I formulate and defend a theory of special procreative duties in the context of a liberal egalitarian theory of justice. I argue that (1) the only special duty that procreators owe their offspring is that of ensuring that their life prospects are non-negative (worth living), and (2) the only special duty that procreators owe others is that of ensuring that they are not disadvantaged by the procreators’ offspring (a) violating their rights or (b) adversely affecting their equality rights and duties.
We address the question of how finitely additive moral value theories (such as utilitarianism) should rank worlds when there are an infinite number of locations of value (people, times, etc.). In the finite case, finitely additive theories satisfy both Weak Pareto and a strong anonymity condition. In the infinite case, however, these two conditions are incompatible, and thus a question arises as to which of these two conditions should be rejected. In a recent contribution, Hamkins and Montero (2000) have argued (...) in favor of an anonymity-like isomorphism principle and against Weak Pareto. After casting doubt on their criticism of Weak Pareto, we show how it, in combination with certain other plausible principles, generates a plausible and fairly strong principle for the infinite case. We further show that where locations are the same in all worlds, but have no natural order, this principle turns out to be equivalent to a strengthening of a principle defended by Vallentyne and Kagan (1997), and also to a weakened version of the catching-up criterion developed by Atsumi (1965) and by von Weizsäcker (1965). Footnotes1 For valuable comments, we would like to thank Marc Fleurbaey, Bart Capéau, Joel Hamkins, Barbara Montero, Tim Mulgan, and two anonymous referees for this journal. (shrink)
Natural properties are those that carve reality at the joints. The notion of carving reality at the joints, however, is somewhat obscure, and is often understood in terms of making for similarity, conferring causal powers, or figuring in the laws of nature. I develop and assess an account of the third sort according to which carving reality at the joints is understood as having the right level of determinacy relative to nomic roles. The account has the attraction of involving very (...) weak metaphysical presuppositions, but fails to capture several features that natural properties are presumed to have. (shrink)
Libertarianism holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Lockean libertarianism further holds that agents have the moral power to acquire private property in external things as long as a Lockean Proviso—requiring that “enough and as good” be left for others—is satisfied. Radical right-libertarianism, on the other hand, holds that satisfaction of a Lockean Proviso is not necessary for the appropriation of unowned things. This is sometimes defended on the ground that the initial status of external resources as unowned precludes any (...) role for a Lockean Proviso. I shall show that this is a bad argument. Although I would argue that satisfaction of a Lockean Proviso is indeed a necessary condition for the appropriation of unowned things, I shall not attempt to establish that here. My goal here is more modest: to rebut one argument against the Lockean Proviso. (shrink)
David Gauthier's Morals by Agreement is the most complete and suggestive contractarian theory of morality since the work of Rawls. In this anthology a number of prominent moral and political philosophers offer a critical assessment of Gauthier's theory and its three main projects: developing a contractarian foundation for morality, defending a theory of rational choice, and supporting the claim that rationality requires one to keep one's agreements. An introduction sets out Gauthier's project, while Gauthier himself has the last word, responding (...) to the critiques. This collection will interest moral and political philosophers, social theorists, and specialists in the philosophy and theory of law as well as management sciences. (shrink)
Libertarianism holds that agents initially fully own themselves and have moral powers to acquire property rights in external things under certain conditions. It is normally advocated as a theory of justice in the sense of the duties that we owe each other. So understood, it is silent about any impersonal duties (i.e., duties owed to no one) that we may have.
Libertarian theories of justice hold that agents, at least initially, own themselves fully, and thus owe no service to others, except through voluntary action. The most familiar libertarian theories are right-libertarian in that they hold that natural resources are initially unowned and, under a broad range of realistic circumstances, can be privately appropriated without the consent of, or any significant payment to, the other members of society. Leftlibertarian theories, by contrast, hold that natural resources are owned by the members of (...) society in some egalitarian manner, and may be appropriated only with their permission, or with a significant payment to them. Left-libertarian theories have been propounded for over two centuries[i], but in recent years there has been a revival of interest in them. Theories roughly of this sort have been explored by Kolm [1985, 1986] and Gibbard , advocated by Steiner , Grunebaum , and Van Parijs , and criticized by Cohen . (shrink)
We here address the question of how, for a theory of justice, a concern for the promotion of equality can be combined with a concern for making people as well off as possible. Leximin, which requires making the worst off position as well off as possible, is one way of combining a concern for making people’s lives go well with a special concern for those who are especially poorly off. Many egalitarians, however, reject its near-monomaniacal focus on the worst off (...) position (to the exclusion of other poorly off persons). In this paper, we explore the possibility of combining a weak kind of egalitarianism with a weak kind of efficiency requirement in a way that avoids leximin’s obsession with the worst off position. For example, one may consider solving all cases where efficiency is not at issue by choosing the alternative that is most equal according to the Gini-coefficient or some other well-established inequality measure. All standard inequality measures sometimes judge an alternative as more equal than another alternative even though the latter maximizes the benefits of the worst off. Thus it may seem like a promising way of avoiding the leximin approach within an egalitarian framework. Surprisingly, given certain generally accepted assumptions, this turns out to be impossible. The only possible way of combining weak egalitarianism with weak efficiency requires, we shall show, the rejection of a widely accepted—but perhaps dubious—contraction consistency condition on justice or the acceptance of some version of the leximin principle. (shrink)
D. M. Armstrong, Michael Tooley, and Fred Dretske have recently proposed a new realist account of laws of nature, according to which laws of nature are objective relations between universals. After criticizing this account, I develop an alternative realist account, according to which (1) the nomic structure of a world is a relation between initial world-histories and world-histories, and (2) a law of nature is a fact that holds solely in virtue of nomic structure (and not, for example, in virtue (...) of past history). (shrink)
Traditional act utilitarianism judges an action permissible just in case it produces as much aggregate utility as any alternative. It is often supposed that utilitarianism faces a serious problem if the future is infinitely long. For in that case, actions may produce an infinite amount of utility. And if that is so for most actions, then utilitarianism, it appears, loses most of its power to discriminate among actions. For, if most actions produce an infinite amount of utility, then few actions (...) produce non-maximal utility, and so most actions are permissible.1 I will argue that potentially infinite futures create no major problems for utilitarianism. Utilitarianism has, I argue, the resources to distinguish among actions all of which produce infinite amounts of utility -- judging some permissible and some impermissible. For brevity of expression I will focus on act utilitarianism, but all the points apply equally well to many other traditional forms of utilitarianism. (shrink)
I articulate and defend a principle governing enforcement rights in response to a non-culpable non-just rights-intrusion (e.g., wrongful bodily attack by someone who falsely, but with full epistemic justification, believes that he is acting permissibly). The account requires that the use of force reduce the harm from such intrusions and is sensitive to the extent to which the intruder is agent-responsible for imposing intrusion-harm.
The difference principle, introduced by Rawls (1971, 1993), is generally interpreted as leximin, but this is not how he intended it. Rawls explicitly states that the difference principle requires that aggregate benefits (e.g., average or total) to those in the least advantaged group be given lexical priority over benefits to others, where the least advantaged group includes more than the strictly worst off individuals. We study the implications of adopting different approaches to the definition of the least advantaged group and (...) show that, if acyclicity is required, several seemingly plausible approaches lead to something close to leximin. We then show that significant aggregation is possible, if the least advantaged group is defined as those with those with less benefits than some strictly positive transform of the lowest level of benefits. Finally, we discuss the implications of requiring that, in comparing two alternatives, the cutoff for the least advantaged group of one alternative be the same as that for the other alternative. (shrink)
Egalitarian theories of justice hold that equality should be promoted. Typically, perfect equality will not be achievable, and it will be necessary to determine which of various unequal distributions is the most equal. All plausible conceptions of equality hold that, where perfect equality does not obtain, (1) any benefit (no matter how small) to a worst-off person that leaves him/her still a worst-off person has priority (with respect to equality promotion) over any benefit (no matter how large) to a best-off (...) person, and (2) any benefit to a worse-off person (even if not a worst-off person) has priority over a benefit of the same size to a better off person (even if not a best-off person). Beyond that there is much disagreement. (shrink)
The teleological/deontological distinction is generally considered to be the fundamental classificatory distinction for ethics. I have argued elsewhere (Vallentyne forthcoming (a), and Ch.2 of Vallentyne 1984) that the distinction is ill understood and not as important as is generally supposed. Some authors have advocated a moral radical thesis. Oldenquist (1966) and Piper (1982) have both argued that the purported distinction is a pseudo distinction in that any theory can be represented both as teleological and as deontological. Smart (1973, p.13, and (...) 1982) has also expressed views along these lines. Elsewhere (Vallentyne 1984, Ch.3) I have shown that these arguments fail because the authors draw inadequate characterizations of the teleological/deontological distinction. Here I want to consider a challenge to the logical status of the distinction that raises deep and important questions about the structure of moral theories in general. (shrink)
Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have argued that justice is concerned, at least in part, with the distribution of capabilities (opportunities to function). Richard Arneson, G.A. Cohen, and John Roemer have argued that justice is concerned with something like the distribution of opportunities for well-being. I argue that, although some versions of the capability view are incompatible with some versions of the opportunity for well-being view, the most plausible version of the capability view is identical to a slight generalization of (...) the opportunity for well-being view. (shrink)