Is the U.S. Government Illegitimate?

How can one group of human beings come to enjoy a right to enforce its authoritative commands on other human beings? In other words, how does government come to enjoy a right to rule, and how do citizens come to incur a duty to obey? I consider the answer over at e3ne.org. The reasoning depends … Continue reading Is the U.S. Government Illegitimate?

Sen, Nozick, and “Breaking Bad”

A moral dilemma from the popular TV show "Breaking Bad" illustrates a critique Amartya Sen made of Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia and the reason why the refutation fails. In On Ethics and Economics, Sen makes the following critique of Nozick's libertarian philosophy (heavily paraphrased because the book has yet to be unpacked, and … Continue reading Sen, Nozick, and “Breaking Bad”

Matt Zwolinski on Property Rights

Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians has written an excellent series of posts on the libertarian justification of property rights. Here's the latest. The first and most important thing to note about both Locke and Nozick‚Äôs arguments is that, unlike utilitarian arguments, they are individualistic rather than collectivistic in nature. For the utilitarian, all that … Continue reading Matt Zwolinski on Property Rights

“Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi have a thought-provoking piece entitled, "A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism," in the latest Cato Unbound. They criticize postwar libertarians (specifically mentioning Mises, Rand, and Rothbard) for seeing property rights as absolute and, in their view, regarding the welfare of the working poor as irrelevant to moral justifications for capitalism: … Continue reading “Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

A student asked me whether I had heard of a loosely organized group of people calling themselves "Sovereign Citizens." I had not. It turns out that 60 Minutes recently did a story on them (available here), in which they come off largely as deranged people looking for an excuse to engage in violence. The 60 … Continue reading Are You a Sovereign Citizen?

Selves, Voices, and Judgments

John Locke argues that resistance to an established and historical government should not be undertaken lightly. Indeed, only when "a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people" should they consider revolt. Jefferson adopts similar sentiments in the Declaration of Independence: "Prudence, indeed, will … Continue reading Selves, Voices, and Judgments

Property and Serfdom

The distinguishing characteristic of classical liberalism from other liberalisms is its view of property rights. On the classical liberal account, a distribution of property is just if it is a consequence of just transfer, where transfer is generally just if and only if voluntary or appropriately compensatory for wrongs. As Nozick noted, this unpatterned, "side … Continue reading Property and Serfdom