Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Robert Nozick

Intellectual Hipsters: Libertarians

There’s another upstart group of intellectual hipsters in addition to the sceptics and the lovers of Nietzsche–the libertarians. You’ve definitely met these hipsters before. They wax romantically about Ron Paul, some of them voted for Gary Johnson, they tend to like theorists like Nozick and Locke, and some of them are Ayn Rand-embracing objectivists. You know the type. Like all hipsters, their ideas are much less sophisticated and clever than they imagine, and their position is neither novel nor socially helpful. Of course, I cannot merely assert these things, I have to prove them. Let’s go.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unreasonable People

Many of the popular theories of justice claim that all “reasonable people” in a given circumstance would rationally agree to them, and therefore they are just. Rawls, for instance, claims that all reasonable people can readily agree to Rawls’ principles of justice (in order of priority: everyone has as much liberty as possible without infringing on the liberty of others, all people have equal access to opportunities, and inequality is only justifiable provided that it benefits the worst off–“maximin”) because he thinks all reasonable people readily acknowledge that all people are free and equal. This leaves a question open–who are the unreasonable people? Racists, sexists, ethnocentric people, all of those are obviously unreasonable under this theory, but what about conservative theorists? Are they unreasonable, and, if so, what does that mean for theories of justice?

Read the rest of this entry »

Personal Responsibility and Moral Hazard

Today I attended a lecture on the political philosopher Ronald Dworkin, and it made me think some new thoughts with regard to the concept of personal responsibility. Traditionally, I have found myself thinking the concept has relatively little merit, but in this post I would like to reconsider this position and precisely where my view on the just society stands with regard to it, to and Dworkin more broadly, specifically considering moral hazard–the notion that, without some level of personal responsibility, there is long-term damage to people’s sense of duty to society and consequently to societal outcomes.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Critique of Property Rights

Property rights can be immensely helpful to society, increasing our collective productivity, motivating and inspiring people to work harder, and consequently augmenting our standard of living. There is however, another side to that coin–property rights can create a distribution of wealth that undercuts economic demand and leads to the replacement of wage-financed consumer demand with credit-financed consumer demand, leading to, as we recently collectively experienced, economic crises fuelled by unsustainable levels of private household debt. Clearly there is a balance with property–we need to maximise the benefits of this institution while minimising the societal costs. The trouble is that the political theory that lies at the foundation of right wing thinking in the Western world does not allow for this balancing, and these ideas continue to hold sway. Today I’d like to address where the difficulties in the right’s theory of property lie and what sort of negative consequences these difficulties have for the rest of us.

Read the rest of this entry »