Vol.12 No.3 ---- Summer 1998


Libertarianism Debated


Hermeneutics and Libertarianism:
An Odd Couple

Kevin Quinn and Tina R. Green

G.A. Cohen on Self-Ownership, Property, and Equality
Tom G. Palmer


Government and Unemployment: Reply to De Long
Lowell Gallaway and Richard Vedder

Unemployment in America: Rejoinder to Gallaway and Vedder
J. Bradford De Long

Hayek, Social Justice, and the Market: Reply to Johnston
Edward Feser

Are We All Dialecticians Now: Reply to MacGregor and Friedman
Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Rejoinder to Sciabarra
David MacGregor

The Right Set of Simple Rules: A Short Reply to Schauer and Comment on Cohen
Richard A. Epstein

Locke and Libertarian Property Rights: Reply to Weinberg
Am Feallsanach

Self- and World-Ownership: Rejoinder to Epstein, Palmer, and Feallsanach
Justin Weinberg

What's Not Wrong with Libertarianism: Reply to Friedman
Tom G. Palmer

The Libertarian Straddle: Rejoinder to Palmer and Sciabarra
Jeffrey Friedman

Kevin Quinn and Tina R. Green | Hermeneutics and Libertarianism: An Odd Couple

Recent writers in the libertarian tradition have suggested a natural affinity between hermeneutics and libertarian politics. This case is not persuasive. We look at two different ways the link has been attempted. In one, markets themselves are seen as constituting a hermeneutic conversation of sorts. A second approach uses hermeneutics to underpin the traditional liberal confinement of the state to setting the rules of the game--to matters of the right as opposed to the good. But the conception of the self that emerges from hermeneutic thought leads to a communitarian rather than a liberal politics.

Tom G. Palmer | G.A. Cohen on Self-Ownership, Property, and Equality

G.A. Cohen has produced an influential criticism of libertarianism that posits joint ownership of everything in the world other than labor, with each joint owner having a veto right over any potential use of the world. According to Cohen, in that world rationality would require that wealth be divided equally, with no differential accorded to talent, ability, or effort. A closer examination shows that Cohen's argument rests on two central errors of reasoning and does not support his egalitarian conclusions, even granting his assumption of joint ownership. That assumption was rejected by Locke, Pufendorf and other writers on property for reasons that Cohen does not rebut.

Lowell Gallaway and Richard Vedder | Government and Unemployment: Reply to De Long

De Long's criticisms of our explanation of unemployment patterns in the United States are empirically false. His assertion that we have the direction of causation reversed collapses in light of the lag between artificially high wages and unemployment. Nor are his claims about the nature of cyclical movements in productivity and real wages consistent with the data. Finally, his contention that the model we present does not work in the post-World War II era is, at best, misleading. The evidence shows with remarkable consistency that government attempts to prop up wages have caused twentieth-century increases in U.S. unemployement.

J. Bradford De Long | Unemployment in America: Rejoinder to Vedder and Gallaway

In their Out of Work: Government and Unemployment in Twentieth Century America, Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway contend that government intervention in American labor markets has caused unemployment by raising the real price of labor. In my critique of the book, I allowed that while this might sometimes be the case, it is not as important as Vedder and Gallaway claim. Their Reply does not succeed in vindicating their argument, because their wage averages fail to take into account variations in wages within phases of the business cycle; because they fail to take into account the effects of unemployment on potential productivity, distorting their measures of real wages; and because they ignore the vast literature on the subject.

Edward Feser | Hayek, Social Justice, and the Market: Reply to Johnston

David Johnston's Rejoinder to my defense of Hayek's critique of social justice, though it has the merit of attempting to deal with Hayek's claim that the very idea of social justice is incoherent (in a way other critics of Hayek have not), fails to undermine that defense. Johnston's suggested counterexample to Hayek's claim that talk of an injustice presupposes an agency responsible for the injustice is not even prima facie plausible; he overlooks crucial disanalogies between the pursuit of social justice and the pursuit of other social goals; and he fails to understand the distinction between Hayek's (negative) case against social justice and his (positive) case for the market.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra | Are We All Dialecticians Now? Reply to MacGregor and Friedman

In his critique of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, David MacGregor argues that my book trivializes dialectical method. He fails to notice the many nondialectical assumptions that pervade contemporary social theory and practice. Dialectics, as a context-sensitive methodological orientation, can provide tools for a better grasp of systems and processes in the real world--the goal, as I understand it, of the "post-libertarian" approach Jeffrey Friedman advocates.

David MacGregor | Rejoinder to Sciabarra

Chris Sciabarra's discussion of the dialectic and its uses in modern social science is most welcome. However, his account of Hegel, and his, and Ayn Rand's, vision of an ideal society, are groundlessly antistatist.

Richard A. Epstein | The Right Set of Simple Rules: A Short Reply to Frederick Schauer and Comment on G.A. Cohen

In Simple Rules for a Complex World, I outlined a set of legal rules that facilitate just and efficient social interactions among individuals. Frederick Schauer's critique of my book ignores the specific implications of my system in favor of a general critique of simplicity that overlooks the dangers to liberty when complex rules confer vast discretion on public figures. He also does not refer to the nonlibertarian features of my system that allow for overcoming holdout positions. These "take and pay" rules explain how a system broadly protective of private property responds to well-known two-person (Able-Infirm) hypotheticals of the sort advanced by G.A. Cohen, which are designed to show how claims of self-ownership lend strong support to egalitarian outcomes.

Am Feallsanach | Locke and Libertarian Property Rights

In his "Freedom, Self-Ownership, and Libertarian Philosophical Diaspora," Justin Weinberg attempts to show, by using arguments from G.A. Cohen, that philosophical defenses of libertarian natural rights are doomed to failure, because they are either circular (by basing libertarianism on the value of "freedom") or invalid (by basing libertarianism on a self-ownership premise that actually leads to some form of egalitarianism.) In fact, however, a natural- rights libertarianism based on the self-ownership premise is not inconsistent if it holds that the earth is initially unowned, rather than collectively owned by all humanity. Under this thesis, the self-ownership assumption may lead to libertarianism, though other hurdles (such as social-contract theory) stand in the way. Finally, ordinary usage of the term "freedom" permits its application as a moralized concept to a political philosophy that has been demonstrated true.

Justin Weinberg | Self- and World-Ownership: Rejoinder to Epstein, Palmer, and Feallsanach

G.A. Cohen's argument against the claim that respect for self- ownership entails libertarianism features the imaginary example of "Able and Infirm." Richard Epstein, Tom Palmer, and Am Feallsanach criticize the example, but fail to rescue libertarianism from Cohen's attack. This is due to acmisunderstanding of the role the example plays in Cohen's argument, and to a false belief that the initial ownership status of the world is important for resolving disputes in political philosophy.

Tom G. Palmer | What's Not Wrong with Libertarianism: Reply to Friedman

In his critique of modern libertarian thinking, Jeffrey Friedman (1997) argues that libertarian moral theory makes social science irrelevant. However, if its moral claims are hypothetical rather than categorical imperatives, then economics, history, sociology, and other disciplines play a central role in libertarian thought. Limitations on human knowledge necessitate abstractly formulated rules, among which are claims of rights. Further, Friedman's remarks on freedom rest on an erroneous understanding of the role of definitions in philosophy, and his characterization of the "right to do wrong" as a "logical contradiction" reveals a misunderstanding of logic.

Jeffrey Friedman | The Libertarian Straddle: Rejoinder to Palmer and Sciabarra

Palmer's defense of libertarianism as consequentialist runs afoul of his own failure to provide any consequentialist reasons for libertarian conclusions, and of his own defense of nonconsequentialist arguments for the intrinsic value of capitalism-cum-negative freedom. As such, Palmer's article exemplifies the parasitic codependency of consequentialist and nonconsequentialist reasoning in libertarian thought. Sciabarra's defense of Ayn Rand's libertarianism is even more problematic, because in addition to the usual defects of libertarianism, Rand adds a commitment to ethical egoism that contradicts both her concern for the consequences of capitalism and her commitment to the rights of everyone, not just herself.

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