Some people may think that libertarianism and meritocracy have much in common; that the libertarian's ideal world looks like the meritocrat's ideal world; and that the public policies guiding us to each are one and the same. This is wrong in all respects. In this essay I explain why. -/- After providing an overview of meritocratic justice, I argue that meritocracy is a more compelling theory of distributive justice than libertarianism. Meritocracy better protects the core value of personal (...) responsibility; incorporates efficiency-enhancing regulation which libertarianism cannot; provides more positive liberty; and solves salient, real-world debates about distributive justice. (shrink)
David Friedman posed a number of libertarian philosophical problems (Friedman 1989). This essay criticizes Walter Block’s Rothbardian responses (Block 2011) and compares them with J C Lester’s critical-rationalist, libertarian-theory responses (Lester  2012). The main issues are as follows. 1. Critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism. 2.1. How libertarianism is not inherently about law and is inherently about morals. 2.2. How liberty relates to property and can be maximized: carbon dioxide and radio waves. 2.3. Applying the (...) theory to flashlights. 2.4. Applying the theory to the probability of imposed risks. 2.5. “Homesteading” or initial acquisition. 2.6 What is “essential” for a “true libertarian.” 2.7. Crime and punishment. 2.8. Extent of punishment. 2.9. The libertarian response to a madman with a gun. 2.10. How contradictions in rights are possible. 2.11. The draft. 3.1. Utilitarian libertarianism and “nose counting”. 3.2. How interpersonal comparisons of utility are possible and utility monsters are not a threat. 3.3. Why it is not utilitarian in practice to kill an innocent prisoner to prevent a riot. 3.4. Why David Friedman should not be forced to give up one of his eyes. 3.5. How utilitarians can be libertarians. Conclusion: a proper theory of liberty combined with critical rationalism offers superior solutions to Friedman’s problems. Appendix: replies to two commentators. (shrink)
Why learn about libertarianism? Because politics causes or exacerbates the very problems that it purports to solve, or it misperceives voluntary behaviour and free markets as problems. Liberty is always preferable: its maximal practical observance entailing self-ownership, private property, and consensual interactions. And libertarianism will be the ideological framework of the future of humankind.
The Zwolinski 2013 "libertarianism and liberty" essays on libertarianism_org are argued to have the following problems: taking libertarianism to be a "commitment" to the view that "liberty is the highest political value" ; examining and rejecting the maximization of liberty without a libertarian theory of liberty; accepting a persuasive sense of "coercion" ; misunderstandingliberty in the work place; conflating, to varying degrees, freedom of action and freedom from aggression and justice/rights/morals; focusing on logically possible clashes instead of practically (...) possible congruence among utility, liberty, and justice – in particular, that "rule (preference-)utilitarianism" fits "rule libertarianism" ; failing to distinguish liberty from license (and power) concerning slavery, and so-called "civil and democratic liberties" (and everything else); the idea that any coherent reference to a quantity of liberty requires precise cardinality; failing to see that the quantity of liberty has an inherently qualitative aspect; misunderstanding property as about limiting freedom; mistaking clashing Hobbesian freedom for non-clashing Lockean liberty; adopting G. A. Cohen's confusion about freedom as the libertarian conception of freedom; assuming the – illogical – epistemology of justification" ; not realizing that both allowing and prohibiting pollution "aggresses" and so "aggressions" need to be minimized; the failure of all six of its reasons for rejecting the non-aggression principle. (shrink)
This essay examines sections relevant to libertarianism in Will Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.), making and explaining the following criticisms. Kymlicka’s “preface” misconstrues political philosophy’s progress, purpose, and its relation to libertarianism. In his “introduction”, his “project” mistakes libertarianism as “right-wing”, justice as compromise among “existing theories”, and equality as the “ultimate value.” His “a note on method” in effect takes as axioms, beyond philosophical examination, various alleged desiderata and the necessary moral role of (...) the state. Moreover, his “ultimate test” being “our considered convictions” amounts to a conservative and illogical justificationism at odds with radical and coherent critical rationalism. Kymlicka’s chapter on “libertarianism” mistakes it as, inherently and unavoidably, free-marketist, anti-consequentialist, deontological, Nozickian, requiring “a foundational moral premiss, without objective content, unmaximisable, indistinguishable from license, equality-based, anti-anarchist, “self-defeating”, indefensibly “unfair”, impractically “philosophical”, and without influence. A different version of libertarianism easily withstands all Kymlicka’s antipathetic criticisms. (shrink)
Vallentyne 2010 and Zwolinski 2008 are internet encyclopaedia articles on “libertarianism” which include various serious faults. Vallentyne 2010 has the following ones. It does not properly explain mainstream libertarianism or consider criticisms of it. Instead, it mainly discusses self-ownership and natural-resource egalitarianism. Every aspect of the alleged “strict sense” of “libertarianism” is dubi ous, at best. So- called “left - libertarianism” is not made sense of as any kind of liberty-based libertarianism. Problems arise because self-ownership (...) is assumed to be libertarian without an explicit theory of libertarian liberty. The replies to “five impor tant objections to full self- ownership” are confused and mistaken; both as regards philosophical analysis and as regards empirical assumptions. The long discussion about various ways to “Appropriate Natural Resources” is rendered muddled and barren by the lack of a clear libertarian theory of liberty, the mere presumption of some form of egalitarianism, and the inclusion of various non-libertarian criteria. The remaining sections are largely uninformed by any relevant libertarian literature. It reaches a justificationist conclusion that cites mistaken welfare concerns and ignores the productivity of free markets. Zwolinski 2008 shares some errors with Vallentyne 2010, but also includes the following ones. It is even less clear about what libertarian liberty is. It fails to understand that libertarianism (private-property anarchy and, possibly, minarchy) is a subset of classical liberalism. It asserts that libertarianism is about “the proper role of government.” It assumes (illogical) justificationist/foundationalist epistemology and does not mention critical-rationalist libertarianism. It eventually faults justificationism and unwittingly assumes something approaching critical rationalism. Finally, it embraces John Rawls’s “overlapping consensus” as a “justification” (i.e., defence) of libertarianism oblivious to the similar position in Lester 1996 and 2000. (shrink)
In this book, Christopher Evan Franklin develops and defends a novel version of event-causal libertarianism. This view is a combination of libertarianism--the view that humans sometimes act freely and that those actions are the causal upshots of nondeterministic processes--and agency reductionism--the view that the causal role of the agent in exercises of free will is exhausted by the causal role of mental states and events (e.g., desires and beliefs) involving the agent. Franklin boldly counteracts a dominant theory that (...) has similar aims, put forth by well-known philosopher Robert Kane. -/- Many philosophers contend that event-causal libertarians have no advantage over compatibilists when it comes to securing a distinctively valuable kind of freedom and responsibility. To Franklin, this position is mistaken. Assuming agency reductionism is true, event-causal libertarians need only adopt the most plausible compatibilist theory and add indeterminism at the proper juncture in the genesis of human action. The result is minimal event-causal libertarianism: a model of free will with the metaphysical simplicity of compatibilism and the intuitive power of libertarianism. And yet a worry remains: toward the end of the book, Franklin reconsiders his assumption of agency reductionism, arguing that this picture faces a hitherto unsolved problem. This problem, however, has nothing to do with indeterminism or determinism, or even libertarianism or compatibilism, but with how to understand the nature of the self and its role in the genesis of action. Crucially, if this problem proves unsolvable, then not only is event-causal libertarianism untenable, so also is event-causal compatibilism. (shrink)
The luck argument raises a serious challenge for libertarianism about free will. In broad outline, if an action is undetermined, then it appears to be a matter of luck whether or not one performs it. And if it is a matter of luck whether or not one performs an action, then it seems that the action is not performed with free will. This argument is most effective against event-causal accounts of libertarianism. Recently, Franklin (Philosophical Studies 156:199–230, 2011) has (...) defended event-causal libertarianism against four formulations of the luck argument. I will argue that three of Franklin’s responses are unsuccessful and that there are important versions of the luck challenge that his defense has left unaddressed. (shrink)
Abstract -/- Libertarians typically believe that we are morally responsible for the choices (or decisions) we make only if those choices are free, and our choices are free only if they are neither caused nor nomically necessitated by antecedent events. Recently, there have been a number of attempts by philosophers to refute libertarianism by arguing that because a libertarianly free decision (choice) is both causally and nomically undetermined, which decision an agent makes in a deliberative situation is a matter (...) of luck, which implies (due to the way these philosophers use 'luck') that the agent does not have control over which decision he makes. This argument has been dubbed "the Argument from Luck" or "the Luck Objection" against libertarianism – henceforth 'LO'. In this paper, we examine some versions of LO as reflected in the works of Alfred Mele (2006), Neil Levy (2011), and Peter van Inwagen (2000, 2011). We argue that libertarians have nothing to fear from LO. Deep down the objection reflects a failure, on the part of its proponents, really to come to grips with the libertarian position. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen famously offers a version of the luck objection to libertarianism called the ‘Rollback Argument.’ It involves a thought experiment in which God repeatedly rolls time backward to provide an agent with many opportunities to act in the same circumstance. Because the agent has the kind of freedom that affords her alternative possibilities at the moment of choice, she performs different actions in some of these opportunities. The upshot is that whichever action she performs in the actual-sequence (...) is intuitively a matter of mere chance. I explore a new response to the Rollback Argument. If there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom, then the agent performs the same action each time she is placed in the same circumstance, because that is what she would freely do in that circumstance. This response appears to negate the chancy intuition. Ultimately, however, I argue that this new response is unsuccessful, because there is a variant of the Rollback Argument that presents the same basic challenge to the libertarian on the assumption that there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom. Thus, true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom do not provide the libertarian with a solution to the Rollback Argument. (shrink)
Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and (...) events leave it open which decision he will make, he does not settle which decision occurs, and thus “disappears.” My aim is to explain why this argument fails. In particular, I demonstrate that event-causal libertarians can dismantle the argument by enriching the reductive base in their analysis of free will to include a state that plays the functional role of the self-determining agent and with which the agent is identified. (shrink)
Agent-causal libertarians maintain we are irreducible agents who, by acting, settle matters that aren’t already settled. This implies that the neural matters underlying the exercise of our agency don’t conform to deterministic laws, but it does not appear to exclude the possibility that they conform to statistical laws. However, Pereboom (Noûs 29:21–45, 1995; Living without free will, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001; in: Nadelhoffer (ed) The future of punishment, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013) has argued that, if these neural (...) matters conform to either statistical or deterministic physical laws, the complete conformity of an irreducible agent’s settling of matters with what should be expected given the applicable laws would involve coincidences too wild to be credible. Here, I show that Pereboom’s argument depends on the assumption that, at times, the antecedent probability certain behavior will occur applies in each of a number of occasions, and is incapable of changing as a result of what one does from one occasion to the next. There is, however, no evidence this assumption is true. The upshot is the wild coincidence objection is an empirical objection lacking empirical support. Thus, it isn’t a compelling argument against agent-causal libertarianism. (shrink)
The political distinction between left and right remains ideologically muddled. This was not always so, but an immediate return to the pristine usage is impractical. Putting a theory of social liberty to one side, this essay defends the interpretation of left-wing as personal-choice and right-wing as property-choice. This allows an axis that is north/choice (or state-free) and south/control (or state-ruled). This Political Compass clarifies matters without being tendentious or too complicated. It shows that what is called ‘libertarianism’ is north-wing. (...) A quiz gives the reader’s Political Compass reading. (shrink)
The question I raise is whether Mark Balaguer’s event-causal libertarianism can withstand the disappearing agent objection. The concern is that with the causal role of the events antecedent to a decision already given, nothing settles whether the decision occurs, and so the agent does not settle whether the decision occurs. Thus it would seem that in this view the agent will not have the control in making decisions required for moral responsibility. I examine whether Balaguer’s position has the resources (...) to answer this objection. (shrink)
1) Introduction. 2) The key libertarian insight into property and orthodox libertarianism’s philosophical confusion. 3) Clearer distinctions for applying to what follows: abstract liberty; practical liberty; moral defences; and critical rationalism. 4) The two dominant (‘Lockean’ and ‘Hobbesian’) conceptions of interpersonal liberty. 5) A general account of libertarianism as a subset of classical liberalism and defended from a narrower view. 6) Two abstract (non-propertarian, non-normative) theories of interpersonal liberty developed and defended: ‘the absence of interpersonal proactively-imposed constraints on (...) want-satisfaction’, abbreviated to ‘no proactively imposed costs’; and ‘no imposed costs’. 7) Practical implications for both main abstract conceptions of liberty derived and compared. 8) How this positive analysis relates to morals. 9) Concluding conjectures: the main abstract theory of liberty captures the relevant interpersonal conception; the new paradigm of libertarianism solves the old one’s problems. (shrink)
This is a response to “Libertarianism without Argument”. Various misunderstandings in that text are given replies. Both critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism are elucidated and elaborated.
The key libertarian insight is that private property both protects people and their projects and promotes productivity. But orthodox private-property libertarianism is severely philosophically confused. It conflates theories of rights, property, consequences, and ‘justifications’. And this is all done without an explicit abstract theory of interpersonal liberty: an eleutherology. This is as absurd as if utilitarianism were to have no theory of utility.
In this paper I discuss two kinds of attempts to qualify incompatibilist and compatibilist conceptions of freedom to avoid what have been thought to be incredible commitments of these rival accounts. One attempt -- which I call soft libertarianism -- is represented by Robert Kane''s work. It hopes to defend an incompatibilist conception of freedom without the apparently difficult metaphysical costs traditionally incurred by these views. On the other hand, in response to what I call the robot objection (that (...) if compatibilism is true, human beings could be the products of design), some compatibilists are tempted to soften their position by placing restrictions on the origins of agency. I argue that both of these attempts are misguided. Hard libertarianism and hard compatibilism are the only theoretical options. (shrink)
Reductionism about testimony holds that testimonial warrant or entitlement is just a species of inductive warrant. Anti-Reductionism holds that it is different from inductive but analogous to perceptual or memorial warrant. Perception receives much of its positive epistemic status from being reliably truthconducive in normal conditions. One reason to reject the epistemic analogy is that testimony involves agency – it goes through the will of the speaker – but perception does not. A speaker might always choose to lie or otherwise (...) deliberately mislead. It is argued that the force of this derives (in part) from Libertarianism about agency, and that Libertarianism, if it undermines the Anti-Reductionist explanation of why we are entitled to rely upon testimony, undermines the Reductionist explanation as.. (shrink)
This paper explores the implications of libertarianism for welfare policy. There are two central arguments. First, the paper argues that if one adopts a libertarian framework, it makes most sense to be a Lockean right-libertarian. Second, the paper argues that this form of libertarianism leads to the endorsement of a fairly extensive set of redistributive welfare programs. Specifically, the paper argues that Lockean right-libertarians are committed to endorsing welfare programs under which the receipt of benefits is conditional on (...) meeting a work requirement, and also endorsing some form of publicly funded jobs of last resort for potential welfare recipients. (shrink)
In this paper I criticize libertarianism and skepticism about free will. The criticism of libertarianism takes some steps towards filling in an argument that is often mentioned but seldom developed in any detail, the argument that libertarianism is a scientifically implausible view. I say "take some steps" because I think the considerations I muster (at most) favor a less ambitious relative of that argument. The less ambitious claim I hope to motivate is that there is little reason (...) to believe that extant libertarian accounts satisfy a standard of naturalistic plausibility, even if they do satisfy a standard of naturalistic compatibility. The argument against skepticism about free will tries to show (1) perhaps the most prominent form of skeptical argument against the existence of free will does not work, and (2) there is a good general argument against skepticism about free will. (shrink)
Many libertarians make a moral argument that liberty requires the freedom to exercise strong property rights. From this, they argue that no more than a minimal state with sharply limited powers of taxation can be justified. A larger state would supposedly interfere with private property rights and thereby reduce liberty. In response, this article shows how natural rights to property do not entail any particular vision of the state. It demonstrates that the principles of natural property rights support monarchy just (...) as well as they support a capitalist aristocracy. Nothing in the theory of natural property rights rules out government ownership of property or government ownership of the right to tax. Therefore, the natural rights argument does not necessarily imply libertarian limits on the state, but rather the acceptance of whatever state powers and property rights have been in place for a sufficient amount of time. For example, historical property rights in Britain do not imply that private titleholders possess rights that have been subject to interference from the state, as libertarians claim. Instead, they imply that the Queen and her ministers in parliament have a strong claim to at least partial ownership of the whole island of Britain and the property within it. If this argument holds, it poses a serious dilemma for libertarians, forcing them to choose between their account of liberty as the exercise of property rights and their belief that only a minimal state is justifiable. Key Words: libertarianism • ownership • property rights • taxation • distribution • redistribution. (shrink)
Sufficientarian libertarianism is a theory of justice that combines libertarianism’s focus on property rights and non-interference with sufficientarianism’s concern for the poor and needy. Persons are conceived as having stringent rights to direct their lives as they see fit, provided that everyone has enough to live a self-guided life. Yet there are different ways to combine libertarianism and sufficientarianism and hence different types of sufficientarian libertarianism. In the article I present and discuss three types, and I (...) argue that the last one overcomes the problems of the other two. The first type combines libertarianism with a sufficiency principle in what is sometimes called the ‘ethics of distribution’. The second incorporates modest welfare rights into a libertarian theory of justice. The third endorses a sufficientarian Lockean proviso for practices of private property within a libertarian theory of justice. I argue that it is superior to the others. (shrink)
The so-called Mind argument aims at the conclusion that agents act freely only if determinism is true. The soundness of this argument entails the falsity of libertarianism, the two-part thesis that agents act freely, and free action and determinism are incompatible. In this paper, I offer a new formulation of the Mind argument. I argue that it is true by definition that if an agent acts freely, either (i) nothing nomologically grounds an agent’s acting freely, or (ii) the consequence (...) argument for incompatibilism is unsound. I define the notion of nomological grounding, and argue that unless an agent’s acting freely is nomologically grounded, unacceptable consequences follow. I then argue that if agents act freely and the consequence argument is sound, a vicious regress ensues. I conclude by considering the libertarian’s dialectical options. (shrink)
In this essay I argue that the ethical and political position known as libertarianism is logically incoherent and, as such, cannot serve as a sound basis for either political theory or public policy. Given that the libertarian position is frequently used to provide the rationale for many of the economic (if not the social) policies of the right, a recognition of this incoherence is especially relevant to us today.
In this chapter, drawing partly on some attractions to soft libertarianism and on a libertarian approach articulated in Mele (1996) to accommodating successful Frankfurt-style cases, I motivate the thesis that at least some human beings sometimes act freely than that no human being ever acts freely.
This essay explains Jeffrey Friedman's two fundamental and persistent philosophical errors concerning the libertarian conception of liberty and the lack of a "justification‟ of libertarianism. It is ironic that Friedman himself is thereby revealed to be guilty of both an “a priori” anti-libertarianism and an anti-libertarian “straddle.” Critical-rationalist, proactive-imposition-minimising libertarianism remains completely unchallenged by him.
Some people endorse a view called incompatibilism, which states that free will is incompatible with determinism. No free action could possibly be determined, they think. More informatively, incompatibilists think it is impossible that someone’s freely acting be causally guaranteed to happen by things that occur before she freely acts. Some people hold a view called libertarianism, which states both that incompatibilism is true and that someone actually performs a free action. Other people reject incompatibilism. They hold to compatibilism, which (...) is the view that it is possible that previous happenings in the world could absolutely causally guarantee—that is, could cause in a deterministic way—that someone freely acts. In this chapter, I argue that libertarianism is, for the time being at least, the most sensible view. (shrink)
Contemporary versions of natural rights libertarianism trace their locus classicus to Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But although there have been many criticisms of the version of political libertarianism put forward by Nozick, many of these fail objections to meet basic methodological desiderata. Thus, Nozick’s libertarianism deserves to be re-examined. In this paper I develop a new argument which meets these desiderata. Specifically, I argue that the libertarian conception of self-ownership, the view’s foundation, implies what I (...) call the Asymmetrical Value Claim: a dubious claim about the importance of choice relative to other valuable capacities. I argue that this misunderstands what is really valuable in life, and show how it causes libertarianism to generate counterintuitive public policy recommendations. (shrink)
The Assimilation Argument purports to show that libertarians cannot plausibly distinguish supposed exercises of free will from random outcomes that nobody would count as exercises of free will. If this argument is sound, libertarians should either abandon their position or else concede that free will is a mystery. Drawing on a parallel with the Manipulation Argument against compatibilism, Christopher Franklin has recently contended that the Assimilation Argument is unsound. Here I defend the Assimilation Argument and the Rollback Argument, a second (...) challenge to libertarianism that Franklin rejects. My aim in doing so is to underscore the force of these challenges, and thereby to resist what appears to be an emerging trend in the literature. By not coming to grips with the kind of power that libertarians must secure, many writers have recently downplayed or dismissed the pressing worry for libertarianism. (shrink)
In his book, Building Better Beings, Manuel Vargas argues that we should reject libertarianism, on the grounds that it is naturalistically implausible, and embrace revisionism rather than eliminativism, on the grounds that the former is a shorter departure from ordinary thinking about moral responsibility. I argue that Vargas fails to adequately appreciate the extent to which ordinary judgments about moral responsibility involve ascriptions of basic desert as well as the centrality of basic desert in the ordinary conception of moral (...) responsibility. Insofar as this is correct, we have good reason to think, first, that libertarianism is much more naturalistically plausible than Vargas maintains and, second, that we ought to opt for eliminativism over revisionism in the event that libertarianism turns out to be implausible. (shrink)
Non-Causal Libertarianism (NCL) is a libertarian position which aims to provide a non-causal account of action and freedom to do otherwise. NCL has been recently criticized from a number of quarters, notably from proponents of free will skepticism and agent-causation. The main complaint that has been voiced against NCL is that it does not provide a plausible account of an agent’s control over her action, and therefore, the account of free action it offers is inadequate. Some critics (mainly agent-causationists) (...) have even gone so far as to claim that NCL does not offer a plausible account of action. My goal in this paper is to defend NCL against these charges. More specifically, I deal with Derk Pereboom's Disappearing-Agent-Objection, Peter van Inwagen's Mind Argument, and with two objections to NCL by Randolph Clarke. (shrink)
The scope of libertarian law is normally limited to the application of the non-aggression principle (NAP), nothing more and nothing less. However, judging when the NAP has been violated requires not only a conception of praxeological notions such as aggression, but also interpretive understanding of what synthetic events count as the relevant praxeological types. Interpretive understanding—or verstehen—can be extremely heterogeneous between agents. The particular verständnis taken by a judge has considerable moral and political implications. Since selecting a verständnis is pre-requisite (...) to applying the NAP, the NAP itself cannot tell us which one we ought morally to choose. Therefore the application of the NAP calls on moral and political considerations outside of the NAP itself. Since some of these are more consistent with an endorsement of the NAP than others, libertarianism is not a “thin” commitment to the NAP alone, but a “thick” commitment to the NAP and other supporting moral and political considerations. (shrink)
People evolved as part of an ecosystem, making use of the Earth’s bounty without reflection. Only when our ancestors developed the capacity for moral agency could we begin to reflect on whether we had taken in excess of our due. This outlines a ‘green libertarianism’ in which our property rights are grounded in fundamental ecological facts. It further argues that it is immune from two objections levelled at right- and left- libertarian theories of acquisition: that Robert Nozick, without justification, (...) divided people into those who were able to acquire unowned resources, and those would could not; and, that left-libertarian attempts, such as Hillel Steiner’s, to separate choice from circumstance cannot account for the fact that not only people’s decisions to have children, but even their decisions to continue living, affect people’s entitlements to use the natural world. (shrink)
This paper aims to persuade its reader that libertarianism, at least in several of its varieties, is a species of the genus Michael Oakeshott referred to as ‘rationalism in politics’. I hope to demonstrate, employing the work of Oakeshott, as well as Aristotle and Onora O’Neill, how many libertarian theorists, who generally have a sincere and admirable commitment to personal liberty, have been led astray by the rationalist promise that we might be able to approach deductive certainty concerning the (...) 'correctness' of some political programme. Of course libertarians, in common with the adherents of almost any other political ‘stance’, are not a monolithic body, but exhibit a variety of more or less rationalist arguments for their views. For example, a thinker like Hayek, who is often placed in the libertarian camp, came to adopt much of Oakeshott’s critique of rationalism in his later work. And, of course, Oakeshott himself expressed an affinity for libertarian ideas in his essay, ‘The Political Economy of Freedom’ (1991 ). But a general predilection to enhance individual freedom as far as is deemed practicable is quite a different matter from taking a stance in which liberty, and liberty conceived in a rather narrow fashion, is the only value deemed admissible into ‘reasonable’ political discourse. (We will see in a subsequent section that Oakeshott recognized this urge to sanctify one value above all others as a logical requirement of striving for deductive political truths.) I believe that a critique of such libertarian rationalism is particularly relevant given the present situation in the United States vis-à-vis civil rights and the ongoing ‘war on terror’, in that many non- libertarian supporters of peace and strong civil rights find themselves allied with libertarians on these issues—if libertarians have gotten these issues ‘correct’, then how might they have gone wrong elsewhere? Furthermore, the critique may aid libertarians themselves, because, if the title of this paper is accurate, such a single-minded exaltation of one value above all others is an enemy of true liberty, so that libertarians might want to rethink adopting such a position. As Philip Pettit demonstrates (1997), freedom as non-domination is more robust and inclusive of all that we value about freedom than is the libertarian concept of freedom as non-interference; by allowing, say, immense economic power to be concentrated in a single corporation, as intervention to break the company up would violate the principle of non-interference, libertarian ideas may greatly diminish the liberty of the people subject to that corporate power. (shrink)
The conclusions on libertarianism Robert Nozick reaches are appropriate for a bygone era. In a modern market economy, libertarianism requires that employable people have the option of taking up a publicly provided income instead of employment. This is the only way to compensate the involuntarily unemployed that a market economy requires and to ensure that all employment is voluntary. Taxation on voluntary exchanges is unobjectionable because it alters prices, not property, and no one has a right to a (...) particular price. The best way to provide state incomes for the capable unemployed is through a negative income tax.Les conclusions de libertarisme que tire Nozick valent pour une époque révolue. Dans une économie de marché moderne, le libertarisme exige que les gens aptes au travail puissent opter pour un revenu de source publique plutôt que pour un travail. Voilà le seul moyen de compenser les sans-emploi involontaires que requiert l’economie de marché et de s’assurer que chacun travaille volontairement. Imposer les échanges volontaires est acceptable parce que cela affecte les prix, non la propriété, et que nul n’a droit à un prix prticulier. Le meilleur moyen pour l’État de fournir un revenu aux sans-emploi aptes au travail passe par un impôt sur le revenu négatif. (shrink)
The editors of the Journal of Applied Philosophy allowed Alan Haworth to reply to my short review of his Anti-Libertarianism. The editors would not allow me to respond to Haworth. Thanks to the openness of internet publication and the Libertarian Alliance website, this can now be rectified and Haworth's reply can no longer escape a public critical response.
A standard natural rights argument for libertarianism is based on the labor theory of property: the idea that I own my self and my labor, and so if I "mix" my own labor with something previously unowned or to which I have a have a right, I come to own the thing with which I have mixed by labor. This initially intuitively attractive idea is at the basis of the theories of property and the role of government of John (...) Locke and Robert Nozick. Locke saw and Nozick agreed that fairness to others requires a proviso: that I leave "enough and as good" for others. The same considerations apply to legitimate acquisition by voluntary exchange, gift, or bequeathal. -/- This sort of argument has been critiqued for the purely hypothetical and counterfactual nature of its premises, for the coherence of the idea of self-ownership, for the notion that mixing what I own with what I do not gives me a right in what I do not rather than wasting what I own, and for the unacceptably cruel and heartless consequences of adopting it, among other reasons. -/- However, I accept the premises and waive (though note) these objections, and formulate a new objection, showing that to give me a right in what I do not own, the labor theory of property requires a commitment to a right to what I need. I distinguish several senses of need and show that the sense of need the argument requires is "use need," the need I have to to use something to exercise my labor on it. This turns out to have a startling counter-intuitive result: the libertarian principle, so understood, turns out to be "to each according to his needs," which Marx identified as the principle of the highest phase of communism as he understood it. If communism is understood as in some sense egalitarian, this argument for libertarianism turns itself inside out into an argument for egalitarian communism. Libertarians therefore cannot use the Labor Theory of Property to defend the positions they typically wish to hold. (shrink)
This essay is the introduction to a special debate issue of the journal "Basic Income Studies" on the topic of whether libertarians should endorse a universal basic income. The essay attempts to clarify some common uses of the term 'libertarianism" as it is used by moral and political philosophers. It identifies some important common features of libertarian normative theories.
Many political theorists take the phenomenon of market failure to show that arguments for libertarianism fail in a straightforward way. This chapter explains why the most common form of this objection depends on invalid reasoning, and why a more sophisticated examination of the relevant economics has led most contemporary economists and policy experts to a view that might be called Default Libertarianism, according to which the strong default for public policy—even in response to market failures—should be toward decentralized, (...) pro-individual freedom policies that involve minimal government intervention in markets. Some experts (but by no means all) similarly believe that even in the face of substantial market failures, libertarian policies are generally best all things considered. This shift toward more libertarian policy represents an important change from the middle of the twentieth century. This chapter explains the structure of the arguments that have led to this shift. (shrink)
Kukathas’s proposed libertarian dilemma is introduced and two key criticisms of it stated. The following critical commentary then makes several main points. Kukathas’s account of libertarianism offers no theory of liberty at all, nor a coherent account of aggression. Consequently, he cannot see that his “Federation of Liberty” is not libertarian by a basic understanding of morals and non-invasive liberty, still less by a more precise theory of liberty. In trying to explain his “Union of Liberty,” Kukathas evinces considerable (...) confusion about the nature of libertarianism. His argument that a monopoly legal system is inevitable is also neither plausible nor libertarian. He has apparently overlooked the cogent arguments against Nozickian minarchy, and in favor of anarchy. It is concluded that the neglect of libertarian theories of liberty and anarchy is the underlying problem. (shrink)
The hyper libertarian is compatibilist about control, but incompatibilist about free will. This paper argues that such a position has more to recommend it than either compatibilism or traditional libertarianism. It combines what is strongest about both positions, without encountering their principle weaknesses. Furthermore it has the resources to help render intelligible the reality of moral luck.
Libertarianism and the shareholder model of corporate responsibility have long been thought of as natural bedfellows. In a recent contribution to the Journal of Business Ethics, Brian Schaefer goes so far as to suggest that a proponent of shareholder theory cannot coherendy and consistently embrace any moral position other than philosophical libertarianism. The view that managers have a fiduciary obligation to advance the interests of shareholders exclusively is depicted as fundamentally incompatible with the acknowledgement of natural positive duties (...) – duties to aid others that have not been acquired by some prior commitment or transaction. I argue that Schaefer is mistaken. Positive duties are incompatible with the shareholder model only if we must contribute to their fulfilment in the corporate context; only if we have some reason to think that it is not possible or not permissible to discharge these obligations entirely in our private lives or through our various other roles and capacities. But we have no good reason to accept this. I argue that individuals are presumptively free to decide how and when to discharge their positive duties, and that buying shares does not cause this presumption to lapse. Hence a non-libertarian moral theory can be held without incoherence by a proponent of the shareholder model. (shrink)
David Sobel has recently argued that libertarian theories that accept full and strict self-ownership as foundational confront what he calls the conflation problem: if transgressing self-ownership is strictly and stringently forbidden, it is implied that the normative protection against one infringement is precisely as strong as against any other infringement. But this seems to be an absurd consequence. In defense of libertarianism, I argue that the conflation problem can be handled in a way that allows us to honor basic (...) libertarian commitments. It is suggested libertarianism should be characterized as presumptive libertarianism, treating self-ownership as an assumption the content of which remains to be worked out when applied, rather than as a dogma ready for application: a proposal that relies on a standard market model. Since such a proposal is likely to appear to many philosophers—libertarians in particular—as inherently flawed, a considerable part of this article defends it against possible criticisms. It is argued that presumptive libertarianism is not only a coherent and theoretically elegant notion, but a version of libertarianism that honors pre-theoretical commitments to self-ownership and liberty better than some mainstream versions of libertarianism. (shrink)
The most relevant and plausible conceptions of economic rationality, interpersonal liberty, human welfare, and private-property anarchy do not conflict in theory or practice. Using philosophy and social science, Escape from Leviathan defends this bold, non-normative, thesis from contrary positions in the scholarly literature. Writers considered include David Friedman, John Gray, R. M. Hare, Robert Nozick, Karl Popper, John Rawls, Murray Rothbard, Alan Ryan, Amartya Sen, and Bernard Williams. *** The rationality assumptions of neoclassical and Austrian School economics are reconciled and (...) related to liberty and welfare. A new pre-propertarian theory of interpersonal liberty as the absence of (initiated or proactively) imposed cost is argued to be libertarian. Human welfare is defended as the satisfaction of unimposed wants. Practical anarchy is simply unconstrained private property. Related topics include free will, weakness of will, the nature of moralizing, intellectual property, and restitution and retribution. Critical-rationalist epistemology (theories can only be criticized and tested, not justified or supported) is applied throughout. This is a ground-breaking work that is also an excellent introduction to libertarianism and social thought. (shrink)
Why learn about philosophy? Because it is the master subject; more fundamental than all of the others: it critically examines their fundamental assumptions and presuppositions. And without some grasp of philosophy one cannot be fully educated or even intellectually autonomous: one is the meme-marionette of unexamined traditions, fashions, and commonsense assumptions. *** -/- Why learn about libertarianism? Because politics causes or exacerbates the very problems that it purports to solve, or it misperceives voluntary behaviour and free markets as problems. (...) Liberty is always preferable: its maximal practical observance entailing self-ownership, private property, and consensual interactions. And libertarianism will be the ideological framework of the future of humankind. *** -/- These bold claims are expounded and defended in the two dialogues in this book, which are intended to be amusing and stimulating brief introductions to philosophy and to libertarianism. They can be read without any background in either subject. However, they contain many arguments and ideas that may be of interest to people who already have a good grasp of both. They are full of examples of the author’s—often highly unorthodox—critically preferred theories, rather than attempting to be comprehensive and neutral (as most introductory books ostensibly try, but inevitably fail, to be). *** "Lester’s Two Dialogues are about philosophy, first, and politics, second. The first is intensely Popperian, and the second intensely libertarian-anarchic. Both are extremely enlightening, very convincing, and highly entertaining—while being short enough to read in one go. Do read them!" Professor Jan Narveson (philosopher and libertarian). (shrink)
Martin Luther affirms his theological position by saying “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Supposing that Luther’s claim is true, he lacks alternative possibilities at the moment of choice. Even so, many libertarians have the intuition that he is morally responsible for his action. One way to make sense of this intuition is to assert that Luther’s action is indirectly free, because his action inherits its freedom and moral responsibility from earlier actions when he had alternative possibilities and (...) those earlier directly free actions formed him into the kind of person who must refrain from recanting. Surprisingly, libertarians have not developed a full account of indirectly free actions. I provide a more developed account. First, I explain the metaphysical nature of indirectly free actions such as Luther’s. Second, I examine the kind of metaphysical and epistemic connections that must occur between past directly free actions and the indirectly free action. Third, I argue that an attractive way to understand the kind of derivative moral responsibility at issue involves affirming the existence of resultant moral luck. (shrink)