Libertarians often assume that a free society will be one in which all (or nearly all) property is private. I have previously expressed my dissent from this consensus, arguing that libertarian principles instead support a substantial role for public property. (" In Defense of Public Space ," Formulations, Vol. III, No. 3 (Spring 1996).) In this article I develop this heretical position further.
Robert Nozick sharply distinguished his vision of the free society from egalitarian liberals such as John Rawls. Less remarked upon is the distinction he drew between the free society governed by a strictly limited government and the society without any government at all. In this volume, the editors have brought together a selection of specially commissioned essays from key theorists actively involved in this debate.
Responsibility is often thought of as primarily a legal concept. Even when it is moral responsibility that is at issue, it is assumed that it is above all in moralities based on law-centered patterns and models that responsibility takes center stage, so that responsibility is a legal concept at its core, and is applicable to the realm of private morality only by extension and analogy.
In False Wisdom, Gary H. Merrill develops criteria for distinguishing genuine from pseudo-philosophy, and then applies his criteria to several case studies, including Ayn Rand, all of whom he finds to be pseudo-philosophers. While offering a mostly helpful overview of better and worse ways of doing philosophy, Merrill fails to motivate adequately his way of distinguishing pseudo-philosophy from mere philosophical vices, errors, or failings. He is inconsistent in his characterization of the criteria for pseudo-philosophy and his application of those criteria, (...) harbors a narrow conception of what counts as philosophy, and displays a lack of interpretive charity toward several thinkers. (shrink)
This collection seeks to excavate the tradition of radical liberal class analysis, which predated and inspired Marx's reflections on class. Liberal class theory is distinctive because it regards relationship with the state as constitutive rather than just indicative of social class membership. Along with an introduction that frames the discussion historically and conceptually, Social Class and State Power provides readers with easy access to provocative texts from the early modern period to the present.
Libertarianism needs a theory of class. This claim may meet with resistance among some libertarians. A few will say: “The analysis of society in terms of classes and class struggles is a specifically Marxist approach, resting on assumptions that libertarians reject. Why should we care about class?” A greater number will say: “We recognize that class theory is important, but libertarianism doesn't need such a theory, because it already has a perfectly good one.”.
J. S. Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures is often thought to conflict with his commitment to psychological and ethical hedonism: if the superiority of higher pleasures is quantitative, then the higher/lower distinction is superfluous and Mill contradicts himself; if the superiority of higher pleasures is not quantitative, then Mill's hedonism is compromised.
I want to talk about some of the main objections that have been given to libertarian anarchism and my attempts to answer them. But before I start giving objections and trying to answer them, there is no point in trying to answer objections to a view unless you have given some positive reason to hold the view in the first place. So, I just want to say briefly what I think the positive case is for it before going on to (...) defend it against objections. (shrink)
The author reviews Foundations of a Free Society: Reflections on Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy, edited by Gregory Salmieri and Robert Mayhew, and finds it to be a rich and provocative anthology. However, the author is unpersuaded by the arguments, from a number of the contributors, for separating the prohibition on initiatory force as an ethical principle, from individual rights as a political principle—a separation that, on the ethical side, unduly discards the Aristotelean ethical approach with which Randian ethics claims affiliation, (...) and on the political side, is employed to ground an unconvincing case for the legitimacy of the state. (shrink)
Despite her admiration for the economic theories of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand rejects Mises's central concept of "praxeology," the science of human action. Yet the features of Misesian praxeology that Rand finds most objectionable— its aprioristic methodology, its value-subjectivism, and its claims about motivational psychology— can be reinterpreted in ways that make them congenial to Rand's philosophical principles while still preserving the essential points that Mises wishes to make.
Part One of Marx's “On the Jewish Question” is a communitarian manifesto, one of the finest and subtlest ever penned. But has it anything valuable to offer defenders of liberalism?I think it does; for in “On the Jewish Question” Marx points to a potential danger into which communitarians are liable to fall, and I shall argue that his discussion sheds light on an analogous peril for liberals. Specifically, Marx distinguishes between a genuine and a spurious form of communitarianism, and warns (...) that a failure to recognize this distinction may lead communitarians to embrace liberal values in communitarian guise. Using Marx's analysis as a model, I hope to show that the same distinction may be found within the liberal tradition, posing a corresponding danger (communitarian values in liberal guise) into which contemporary liberalism has in large part already fallen. (shrink)
In his essay “Rand, Paterson, and the Problem of Anarchism,” which appeared in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (July 2013), Stephen Cox argues that the principles of consent and non-initiation of force on which anarchists rely are too strong, and would require undue violation of the principle of non-sacrifice unless modified. But properly interpreted, these principles do not generate the conflicts that Cox describes, and such modifications as are defensible still do not rule out anarchism; hence Cox's case against (...) anarchism fails. (shrink)
JEL Classification: B41, B53, B31, B2, P48, A12 Abstract: Wittgenstein’s rule-following paradox has important implications for two aspects of Austrian theory. First, it makes it possible to reconcile the Misesian, Rothbardian, and hermeneutical approaches to methodology; second, it provides a way of defending a stateless legal order against the charge that such an order lacks, yet needs, a final arbiter.
A legal system is any institution or set of institutions in a given society that provides dispute resolution in a systematic and reasonably predictable way. it does so through the exercise of three functions: the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. The judicial function, the adjudication of disputes, is the core of any legal system; the other two are ancillary to this. The legislative function is to determine the rules that will govern the process of adjudication (this function may be (...) merged with the judicial function, as when case law arises through precedents, or it may be exercised separately), while the executive function is to secure submission (through a variety of means, which may or may not include violence) to the adjudicative process and compliance with its verdicts. A government or state (for present purposes i shall use these terms interchangeably) is any organisation that claims, and in large part achieves, a forcibly maintained monopoly, within a given geographical territory, of these legal functions, and in particular of the use of force in the executive function. now the market anarchist objection to government is simply a logical extension of the standard libertarian objection to coercive monopolies in general.1 First, from a moral point of view, among people regarded as equals2 it cannot be legitimate for some to claim a certain line of work as their own privileged preserve from which others are to be forcibly excluded; we no longer believe in the divine right of kings, and on no other basis could such inequality of rights be justified. Second, from an economic point of view, because monopolies are insulated from market competition and hold their customers by force, they lack both the information and the incentive to provide consumers with fair, efficient, and inexpensive service. The anarchist accepts these arguments, and merely asks why they should apply with any less force to the provision of legal services. (shrink)
An earlier, abbreviated version was presented as remarks for the inaugural symposium of the Molinari Society, at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting, on 27 December 2004. Replies and comments on matters of style, content, and argument in this essay are welcome.
The widespread assumption among academic philosophers that no truth can be simultaneously necessary and factual, founded on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, was challenged from outside the profession by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in the 1960s, and from within the profession by Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam in the 1970s. Gregory M. Browne's book Necessary Factual Truth represents a long-overdue attempt to synthesize the Rand-Peikoff and Kripke-Putnam approaches into an integrated theory. While Browne's project is partially successful, it gives up one (...) of the chief attractions of these approaches: the ability to preserve continuity of reference across radical theoretical change. (shrink)
Some writers have so confounded government with society, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government (...) even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one ... (shrink)
This question presupposes a prior question: would a free nation need to defend itself from foreign aggression? Some would answer no: the rewards of cooperation outweigh the rewards of aggression, and so a nation will probably not be attacked unless it first acts aggressively itself.
Fascinating and thought-provoking, this book shows how the methodology of Austrian economics can be justified and strengthened by grounding it in the philosophy of Wittgenstein. Frege and Wittgenstein argued that whatever counts as thought must embody logical principles. Their arguments also support the conclusion that whatever constitutes action must embody economic principles. In this incisive text, the author shows that this confirms the claims of Austrian economists such as Mises and Hayek that the laws of economics are a priori rather (...) than empirical  . (shrink)
We began with three propositions: that people have a right not to be treated as mere means to the ends of others, that a woman who voluntarily becomes pregnant nevertheless has the right to an abortion, and that a woman who voluntarily gives birth does not have a right to abandon her child until she finds a substitute caretaker. These propositions initially seemed inconsistent, for the prohibition on treating others as mere means appeared to rule out the possibility of positive (...) rights, thus making it impossible to countenance the right to abort or the right not to be abandoned . But we have seen that the prohibition on treating people as mere means to the ends of others is best understood as ruling out basic positive rights while permitting derivative ones. Since a willing mother is responsible for bringing her child into the world in the first place, she cannot abandon it without violating its negative right not to be killed, and so such a child has a derivative positive right not to be abandoned. A pregnant woman, on the other hand, has a negative right not to have her body invaded, and from this negative right derives a positive right to abort her fetus, so long as doing so is not disproportionate to the seriousness of the threat . Therefore, far from being in conflict, propositions , , and have been shown to be in harmony with one another, the latter two being plausibly grounded in the first. Insofar as we have reason to accept , then, we have reason to accept and . Moreover, we have seen that a proper understanding of allows us to embed and in a larger moral perspective in which the limits of compulsory altruism are firmly drawn: enforceable rights to the use or assistance of others may be allowed into the moral domain only if they are “sponsored” by some negative right. Every putative positive right must find such a sponsor, or perish. (shrink)
Roderick T. Long reviews Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, the long-awaited final volume of Chris Sciabarra's "Dialectics and Liberty" trilogy. Long finds Total Freedom to be an impressive scholarly achievement that makes a compelling case for the existence of, and the need to further promote, affinities between the seemingly disparate intellectual traditions of libertarianism and dialectics. However, Long argues that Sciabarra's neglect of certain crucial distinctions vitiates to some extent his case for dialectics, his critique of Murray Rothbard's anarchism, (...) and his application of the Objectivist theory of abstraction to the problem of internal relations. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Neil Cocks’s collection Questioning Ayn Rand: Subjectivity, Political Economy, and the Arts engages Rand’s ideas from a standpoint that is philosophically postmodernist and politically adversarial; while the contributors occasionally make illuminating connections, their obscurantist style, their superfi cial engagement with Rand, and an impatience borne of hostility render the result disappointing. Claudia Brühwiler’s Out of a Gray Fog: Ayn Rand’s Europe, by contrast, provides a fascinating look at Rand’s European connections, her complex attitudes toward European culture, and the European (...) reception of her ideas, which serves as a useful corrective to the conventional narrative of Rand’s hostility to Europe and Europe’s hostility to Rand. (shrink)
What would the constitution of a free nation look like? In trying to answer that question we immediately think in terms of a Bill of Rights, restrictions on governmental power, and so forth. And any constitution worth having would certainly include those things. But if a constitution is to be more than a wish list, it must also specify the political structure necessary to ensure that these freedoms are not eroded or ignored. Consider the old Soviet Constitution, which guaranteed all (...) sorts of fine sounding freedoms for its citizens -- but which in practice proved only an empty promise, since its interpretation and enforcement lay in the hands of an unfettered monolithic centralized state. (shrink)
Like feuding relatives at a family barbecue, economists and moral philosophers often like to pretend they have nothing to do with each other. Economists pose as value-neutral scientists who have no need for airy-fairy moral theory; yet they regularly dispense the sorts of prescription and advice that cry out for ethical analysis. Philosophers likewise view themselves as having loftier concerns than vulgar economics; but by conducting their ethical and political theorizing in ignorance of economic principles, they are unable to avoid (...) recommending policies that would be unworkable or disastrous in practice. This, at any rate, is how Leland Yeager sees the situation, and it is hard to disagree with him; ethics and economics need to learn from one another. (shrink)