Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality

Liberalism, Justice, and Markets: A Critique of Liberal Equality
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Equality through Time 4. The Place of Liberty 7. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Academic Skip to main content. Choose your country or region Close. Because he accepts this, we can understand Hobbes as part of the liberal tradition.

The Communitarian Critique of Western Liberalism with Special Reference to Sandel and Walzer

In the culture at large, this view of the relation between citizen and king had been taking shape for centuries. The Magna Carta was a series of agreements, beginning in , arising out of disputes between the barons and King John. The Magna Carta eventually settled that the king is bound by the rule of law.

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In , the Magna Carta was part of the beginning rather than the end of the argument, but by the mids, concepts of individual rights to trial by jury, due process, and equality before the law were more firmly established. Hobbes generally is treated as one of the first and greatest social contract thinkers. Typically, Hobbes also is seen as an advocate of unlimited monarchy. This special end justifies almost any means, including drastic limitations on liberty. Yet, note the limitations implicit in the end itself.

Hobbes, the famed absolutist, in fact developed a model of government sharply limited in this most important way. Paradigmatic liberals such as Locke not only advocate the Fundamental Liberal Principle, but also maintain that justified limitations on liberty are fairly modest. Only a limited government can be justified; indeed, the basic task of government is to protect the equal liberty of citizens.

Liberals disagree, however, about the concept of liberty, and as a result the liberal ideal of protecting individual liberty can lead to different conceptions of the task of government. Isaiah Berlin famously advocated a negative conception of liberty:. So understood, negative liberty is an opportunity-concept. Being free is a matter of what options are left open to us, regardless of whether we exercise such options Taylor, Nevertheless, Green went on to claim that a person can be unfree if he is subject to an impulse or craving that cannot be controlled.

Just as a slave is not doing what he really wants to do, one who is, say, an alcoholic, is being led by a craving to look for satisfaction where it cannot, ultimately, be found. For Green, a person is free only if she is self-directed or autonomous. Running throughout liberal political theory is an ideal of a free person as one whose actions are in some sense her own.

In this sense, positive liberty is an exercise-concept. Such a person is not subject to compulsions, critically reflects on her ideals and so does not unreflectively follow custom, and does not ignore her long-term interests for short-term pleasures. And today it is a dominant strain in liberalism, as witnessed by the work of S. In the words of the British socialist R. On this positive conception, a person not prohibited from being a member of a Country Club but too poor to afford membership is not free to be a member: Positive freedom qua effective power to act closely ties freedom to material resources.

Education, for example, should be easily available so that all can develop their capacities. An older notion of liberty that has recently resurfaced is the republican, or neo-Roman, conception of liberty, which has roots in the writings of Cicero and Niccolo Machiavelli []. According to Philip Pettit,. On this view, the opposite of freedom is domination. The ideal liberty-protecting government, then, ensures that no agent, including itself, has arbitrary power over any citizen.

This is accomplished through an equal disbursement of power. Each person has power that offsets the power of another to arbitrarily interfere with her activities Pettit, The republican conception of liberty is certainly distinct from both Greenian positive and negative conceptions. When all dominating power has been dispersed, republican theorists are generally silent about these goals Larmore Thus, in contrast to the ordinary negative conception, on the republican conception the mere possibility of arbitrary interference is a limitation of liberty.

Republican liberty thus seems to involve a modal claim about the possibility of interference, and this is often cashed out in terms of complex counterfactual claims. It is not clear whether these claims can be adequately explicated Gaus, ; cf. Some republican theorists, such as Quentin Skinner When republican liberty is seen as a basis for criticizing market liberty and market society, this is plausible Gaus, b.

However, when liberalism is understood more expansively, and not so closely tied to either negative liberty or market society, republicanism becomes indistinguishable from liberalism Ghosh, ; Rogers, ; Larmore, ; Dagger, Liberal political theory, then, fractures over the conception of liberty. In practice, another crucial fault line concerns the moral status of private property and the market order.

From the eighteenth century right up to today, classical liberals have insisted that an economic system based on private property is uniquely consistent with individual liberty, allowing each to live her life —including employing her labor and her capital — as she sees fit. Indeed, classical liberals and libertarians have often asserted that in some way liberty and property are really the same thing; it has been argued, for example, that all rights, including liberty rights, are forms of property; others have maintained that property is itself a form of freedom Gaus, ; Steiner, A market order based on private property is thus seen as an embodiment of freedom Robbins, Unless people are free to make contracts and sell their labour, save and invest their incomes as they see fit, and free to launch enterprises as they raise the capital, they are not really free.

Classical liberals employ a second argument connecting liberty and private property. Here the idea is that the dispersion of power that results from a free market economy based on private property protects the liberty of subjects against encroachments by the state. Although classical liberals agree on the fundamental importance of private property to a free society, the classical liberal tradition itself is a spectrum of views, from near-anarchist to those that attribute a significant role to the state in economic and social policy on this spectrum, see Mack and Gaus, Most nineteenth century classical liberal economists endorsed a variety of state policies, encompassing not only the criminal law and enforcement of contracts, but the licensing of professionals, health, safety and fire regulations, banking regulations, commercial infrastructure roads, harbors and canals and often encouraged unionization Gaus, b.

Liberalism

Although classical liberalism today often is associated with libertarianism, the broader classical liberal tradition was centrally concerned with bettering the lot of the working class, women, blacks, immigrants, and so on. The aim, as Bentham put it, was to make the poor richer, not the rich poorer Bentham, []: Consequently, classical liberals treat the leveling of wealth and income as outside the purview of legitimate aims of government coercion. Three factors help explain the rise of this revisionist theory. First, the new liberalism arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period in which the ability of a free market to sustain what Lord Beveridge Believing that a private property based market tended to be unstable, or could, as Keynes argued [] , get stuck in an equilibrium with high unemployment, new liberals came to doubt, initially in empirical grounds, that classical liberalism was an adequate foundation for a stable, free society.

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Here the second factor comes into play: This was partly due to the experiences of the First World War, in which government attempts at economic planning seemed to succeed Dewey, The third factor underlying the currency of the new liberalism was probably the most fundamental: They entrench a merely formal equality that in actual practice systematically fails to secure the kind of equal positive liberty that matters on the ground for the working class.

And in his Principles of Political Economy Mill consistently emphasized that it is an open question whether personal liberty can flourish without private property , vol. For Rawls, the default is an equal distribution of basically income and wealth; only inequalities that best enhance the long-term prospects of the least advantaged are just.

As Rawls sees it, the difference principle constitutes a public recognition of the principle of reciprocity: Many followers of Rawls have focused less on the ideal of reciprocity than on the commitment to equality Dworkin, And in one way that is especially appropriate: Thus, Robert Nozick Then someone offers Wilt Chamberlain a dollar for the privilege of watching Wilt play basketball.

Before we know it, thousands of people are paying Wilt a dollar each, every time Wilt puts on a show. The distribution is no longer equal, and no one complains. If justice is a pattern, achievable at a given moment, what happens if you achieve perfection? Must you then prohibit everything—no further consuming, creating, trading, or even giving —so as not to upset the perfect pattern?

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Nozick neither argues nor presumes people can do whatever they want with their property. Nozick, recalling the focus on connecting property rights to liberty that animated liberalism in its classical form, notes that if there is anything at all people can do, even if the only thing they are free to do is give a coin to an entertainer, then even that tiniest of liberties will, over time, disturb the favored pattern. Nozick is right that if we focus on time slices, we focus on isolated moments, and take moments too seriously, when what matters is not the pattern of holdings at a moment but the pattern of how people treat each other over time.

Even tiny liberties must upset the pattern of a static moment. By the same token, however, there is no reason why liberty must upset an ongoing pattern of fair treatment. A moral principle forbidding racial discrimination, for example, prescribes no particular end-state. Such a principle is what Nozick calls weakly patterned, sensitive to history as well as to pattern, and prescribing an ideal of how people should be treated without prescribing an end-state distribution. It affects the pattern without prescribing a pattern. And if a principle forbidding racial discrimination works its way into a society via cultural progress rather than legal intervention, it need not involve any interference whatsoever.

Some may promote liberty, depending on how they are introduced and maintained. See Schmidtz and Brennan Accordingly, even granting to Nozick that time-slice principles license immense, constant, intolerable interference with everyday life, there is some reason to doubt that Rawls intended to embrace any such view. It is the arrangement of the basic structure which is to be judged, and judged from a general point of view.

Rawls was more realistic than that. Instead, it is the trend of a whole society over time that is supposed to benefit the working class as a class. To be sure, Rawls was a kind of egalitarian, but the pattern Rawls meant to endorse was a pattern of equal status, applying not so much to a distribution as to an ongoing relationship. Nozick showed what an alternative theory might look like, portraying Wilt Chamberlain as a separate person in a more robust sense unencumbered by nebulous debts to society than Rawls could countenance.

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Choose your country or region Close. Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory , Princeton: To learn more about Copies Direct watch this short online video. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use for details see www. If justice is a pattern, achievable at a given moment, what happens if you achieve perfection? Jonathan Jacobs - - Criminal Justice Ethics 30 2:

And respecting what Wilt brings to the table is the exact essence of respecting him as a separate person. Schmidtz and Brennan, As his work evolved, Rawls If it is to serve as the basis for public reasoning in our diverse western societies, liberalism must be restricted to a core set of political principles that are, or can be, the subject of consensus among all reasonable citizens. Liberal theories form a broad continuum, from those that constitute full-blown philosophical systems, to those that rely on a full theory of value and the good, to those that rely on a theory of the right but not the good , all the way to those that seek to be purely political doctrines.

Nevertheless, it is important to appreciate that, though liberalism is primarily a political theory, it has been associated with broader theories of ethics, value and society. Indeed, many believe that liberalism cannot rid itself of all controversial metaphysical Hampton, or epistemological Raz, commitments. Following Wilhelm von Humboldt [] , in On Liberty Mill argues that one basis for endorsing freedom Mill believes there are many , is the goodness of developing individuality and cultivating capacities:.

This is not just a theory about politics: On this view, the right thing to do is to promote development or perfection, but only a regime securing extensive liberty for each person can accomplish this Wall, This moral ideal of human perfection and development dominated liberal thinking in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and much of the twentieth: Hobhouse, Bernard Bosanquet, John Dewey and even Rawls show allegiance to variants of this perfectionist ethic and the claim that it provides a foundation for endorsing a regime of liberal rights Gaus, a.

That the good life is necessarily a freely chosen one in which a person develops his unique capacities as part of a plan of life is probably the dominant liberal ethic of the past century. On this view, respect for the personhood of others demands that we refrain from imposing our view of the good life on them. Only principles that can be justified to all respect the personhood of each.

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We thus witness the tendency of recent liberal theory Reiman, ; Scanlon, to transform the social contract from an account of the state to an overall justification of morality, or at least a social morality. A moral code that could be the object of agreement among such individuals is thus a publicly justified morality. Morality, then, is a common framework that advances the self-interest of each. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. From the Publisher via CrossRef no proxy philreview.

Criminal Justice and the Liberal Polity. Jonathan Jacobs - - Criminal Justice Ethics 30 2: Liberal Nationalism and Cosmopolitan Justice. The Conflicting Loyalties of Statism and Globalism: Deen Chatterjee - - Metaphilosophy 40 1: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Routledge, in Association with the Open University. What's Wrong with Liberalism?: