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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

good article for understanding basic libertarianism versus basic liberalism

Amia Srinivasan, an Oxford fellow in philosophy, has made it all the way to The New York Times Opinionator blog. Here Srinivasan not only erects a voodoo-doll version of philosopher Robert Nozick (and proceeds to stick needles in it so libertarians will cry out), but she fails to apply the logic of Rawls to what she considers impersonal “free markets.” Srinivasan then offers Nozickians (read: libertarians) four questions she thinks are gotcha questions.
I decided to take up her four-question challenge. Or, in the immortal words of Tombstone’s Doc Holiday, “I’m your huckleberry.”
1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?
In the absence of fraud and assuming full agency for both parties, yes. But such is a legal-political doctrine, not a moral one. While some political doctrine of voluntary exchange might track with some Nozickians' moral intuitions (in "reflective equilibrium"), political arrangements that allow people to be as free as possible don't imply there is never a moral obligation to help people, they simply imply that such obligations aren't enforceable if they exist. In other words, Srinivasan simply conflates morality with politics. Indeed, state-enforced “morality” means people aren't really being moral agents at all, but responding to threats of violence. To conflate morality with politics is to conflate compassion with compulsion. It is to conclude, “Sometimes the right thing to do is to treat people as means merely to ends I consider moral,” which provides a nice basis for different flavors of totalitarianism. 

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