Friedman on Libertarianism

quotes political philosophy libertarianism consequentialism deontology natural rights

02 Jul 2016

David Friedman on libertarianism:

I find versions of libertarianism that claim to deduce it by straightforward arguments from fundamental principles unsatisfactory. One reason is that libertarians, like other people, have no convincing arguments to show that their principles are true. Another is that concepts such as rights, property, and coercion are very much more complicated, and less susceptible to simple rules and sharp definitions, then such versions of libertarianism generally suppose.

While we cannot logically derive our values, we have them. So do other people. Fortunately, human values vary a good deal less than one might suppose from reading political philosophers. Few egalitarians would prefer a society where everyone had a real income of $1,000 to one where incomes ranged from $90,000 to $100,000. Few Rawlsians would choose to improve the lot of the world’s worst-off person by one dollar at the cost of massively reducing the welfare of everyone else in the world. And few libertarians, however hard-core in theory, would choose a perfectly free society of desperate poverty over one slightly less free and very much wealthier. Almost everyone, in my experience, values most of the same things, although not with identical weights. It is easy for both libertarians and socialists to claim to support their principles whatever the consequences – when each group believes the consequences would be, on very nearly all dimensions, the most attractive society the world has ever seen.

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