Book/Article Reviews

New in the Journals

I’m trying out a new feature on the blog.  Since many of our readers are not academics, and since even many academics (myself included!) have a hard time keeping up with everything that’s published, I thought it might be helpful to alert readers to new material that might be of interest.  So every three months or so, I’ll ask my fellow BHLers what they’ve seen in the journals that might be of interest to our readers, and post the results here.  Since we’re philosophers, political theorists, and legal theorists, we’ll focus on journals that specialize in those areas.  But if we stumble across something of interest elsewhere, we’ll post that too.  Most of the links to the articles, unfortunately, will be gated.  If I can find a non-gated link, I’ll post that and mention it explicitly.

Let me know if this is something you find useful.  And if you know of any articles I’ve missed, please feel free to mention them in the comments.  This initial list is only meant to cover the last three months or so, but even then, it’s guaranteed to be far from exhaustive.

Ethics, vol. 121, no. 4 (July, 2011)

Philip Pettit, “The Instability of Freedom as Noninterference: The Case of Isaiah Berlin(ungated link)

–         Abstract: In Hobbes, freedom of choice requires nonfrustration: the option you prefer must be accessible. In Berlin, it requires noninterference: every option, preferred or unpreferred, must be accessible—every door must be open. But Berlin’s argument against Hobbes suggests a parallel argument that freedom requires something stronger still: that each option be accessible and that no one have the power to block access; the doors should be open, and there should be no powerful doorkeepers. This is freedom as nondomination. The claim is that freedom as noninterference is an unstable alternative between freedom as nonfrustration and freedom as nondomination.

–         MZ Comments: Pettit’s republicanism constitutes an important challenge to the conception of negative liberty commonly (though not always) championed by libertarians.  This article provides a good statement of that challenge.  And the followup discussion at PEA Soup, featuring a response by David Schmidtz, is well worth reading.

David Schmidtz, “Nonideal Theory: What It Is and What It Needs to Be

–         MZ Comments: A review essay of Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justicewhich I also reviewed briefly but quite favorably here.  Schmidtz’s essay touches on important themes of ideal and nonideal theory that we have discussed on this blog here.

Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 28, no. 2 (Summer 2011)

Samuel Freeman, “Capitalism in the Classical and High Liberal Traditions

–         Abstract: Liberalism generally holds that legitimate political power is limited and is to be impartially exercised, only for the public good. Liberals accordingly assign political priority to maintaining certain basic liberties and equality of opportunities; they advocate an essential role for markets in economic activity, and they recognize government’s crucial role in correcting market breakdowns and providing public goods. Classical liberalism and what I call “the high liberal tradition” are two main branches of liberalism. Classical liberalism evolved from the works of Adam Smith and the classical utilitarian economists; its major 20th century representatives include Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The high liberal tradition developed from John Stuart Mill’s works, and its major philosophical representatives in the 20th century are John Dewey and, later, John Rawls. This paper discusses the main distinguishing features of the classical and the high liberal traditions and their respective positions regarding capitalism as an economic and social system. Classical liberals, unlike high liberals, regard economic liberties and rights of private property in productive resources to be nearly as important as basic liberties. They conceive of equality of opportunity in more formal terms, and regard capitalist markets and the price system as essential not only to the allocation of production resources, but also as the fundamental criterion for the just distribution of income, wealth, and economic powers. High liberals, by contrast, regard the economic liberties as subordinate to the exercise of personal and civic liberties. They are prepared to regulate and restrict economic liberties to achieve greater equality of opportunities, reduce inequalities of economic powers, and promote a broader conception of the public good. And while high liberals endorse markets and the price system as essential to allocation of productive resources, they do not regard markets as the fundamental criterion for assessing just distributions of income, wealth, and economic powers and positions of responsibility. The paper concludes with some reflections upon the essential role that dissimilar conceptions of persons and society play in grounding the different positions on economic justice that classical and high liberals advocate.

Gerald Gaus, “The Property Equilibrium in a Liberal Order (Or How to Correct Our Moral Vision)” (ungated draft here)

–         Abstract: The “welcome return” to “substantive political philosophy” that Rawls’s A Theory of Justice was said to herald has resulted in forty years of proposals seeking to show that philosophical reflection leads to the demonstrable truth of almost every and any conceivable view of the justice of property rights. Select any view—from the justice of unregulated capitalist markets to the most extreme forms of egalitarianism—and one will find that some philosophers have proclaimed that rational reflection uniquely leads to its justice. This is, I believe, a sort of ideological thinking masquerading as philosophizing. In this paper, using some tools from game theory as well as experimental findings, I seek to sketch a non-ideological approach to the question of the justification of property rights. On this approach the aim of political philosophy is, first and foremost, to reflect on whether our social rules of property are within the “optimal eligible set” of rules acceptable to all.

–         MZ Comments: For more on Gaus’ recent work, see Kevin Vallier’s conclusion to the reading group on The Order of Public Reason here.

Michael Munger, “Euvoluntary or Not, Exchange is Just

–         Abstract: The arguments for redistribution of wealth, and for prohibiting certain transactions such as price-gouging, both are based in mistaken conceptions of exchange. This paper proposes a neologism, “euvoluntary” exchange, meaning both that the exchange is truly voluntary and that it benefits both parties to the transaction. The argument has two parts: First, all euvoluntary exchanges should be permitted, and there is no justification for redistribution of wealth if disparities result only from euvoluntary exchanges. Second, even exchanges that are not euvoluntary should generally be permitted, because access to market exchange may be the only means by which people in desperate circumstances can improve their position.

–         MZ Comments: Interested readers should also check out Munger’s discussion of euvoluntary exchange onthis Econtalk podcast.

Richard Arneson, “Liberalism, Capitalism, and ‘Socialist’ Principles

–         Abstract: One way to think about capitalism-versus-socialism is to examine the extent to which capitalist economic institutions are compatible with the fulfillment of socialist ideals. The late G. A. Cohen has urged that the two are strongly incompatible. He imagines how it would make sense for friends to organize a camping trip, distills the socialist moral principles that he sees fulfilled in the camping trip model, and observes that these principles conflict with a capitalist organization of the economy. He adds that these principles are ethically attractive, so if it is feasible to organize the economy on the camping trip model, we ought to do so. This essay argues to the contrary that for all that has been said, capitalist economic arrangements might be in the set of institutional arrangements that overall would best fulfill the camping trip principles, and anyway, the principles themselves ought to be rejected, so the question whether or not a capitalist set-up might satisfy these principles should not interest us. The grounds for rejecting the camping trip principles support a form of welfarist consequentialism that denies that equality of distribution of any sort is per se ethically desirable and also denies that liberal freedoms to live as one chooses are per se morally desirable. Equality and freedom should rather be regarded as in the light of possible means (or hindrances) to advancing good for people, fairly distributed.

Politics, Philosophy, & Economics, vol. 10, no. 3 (August, 2011)

Richard Child, “Global Migratory Potential and the Scope of Justice

–         Abstract: We live in an era of global migratory potential — a time when a vast number of people have the physical capacity to move relatively quickly and easily between states. In this article, I use this fact to motivate a powerful objection to ‘statism’, the view that the egalitarian principles of justice which apply to citizens have no application outside the boundaries of the state. I argue that, in a world characterized by global migratory potential, the supposed contrast between the normative standing of citizens and non-citizens on which the doctrine of statism depends is much harder to establish than proponents of the doctrine seem to realize. Focusing initially on the well-known justification for statism based on the notion of reciprocity between cooperators in a joint venture for mutual advantage, I argue that non-citizens play just as important a role as citizens in upholding schemes of cooperation, and that non-citizens should therefore be included in the scope of egalitarian justice along with citizens. I then go on to explain why the problem raised by the fact of migratory potential threatens to undermine not only the reciprocity-based conception, but all other conceptions of statism. The challenge for the proponent of statism is to show that the relationship in which each individual citizen stands with the state is not only a justice-grounding relationship, but also one in which no non-citizen stands with the state. The challenge has not been met so far, and I argue that it is unlikely to be met in the future.

Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 4 (October, 2011)

Juan Elegido, “The Ethics of Price Discrimination

–         Abstract: Price discrimination is the practice of charging different customers different prices for the same product. Many people consider price discrimination unfair, but economists argue that in many cases price discrimination is more likely to lead to greater welfare than is the uniform pricing alternative—sometimes for every party in the transaction. This article shows i) that there are many situations in which it is necessary to engage in differential pricing in order to make the provision of a product possible; and ii) that in many such situations, the seller does not obtain an above-average rate of return. It concludes that price discrimination is not inherently unfair. The article also contends that even when conditions i) and/or ii) do not obtain, price discrimination is not necessarily unethical. In itself, the fact that some people get an even better deal than do others does not entail that the latter are wronged.

Robert Kolb, “Must CEOs Be Saints? Contra Moriarty on CEO Abstemiousness

–         Abstract: In this journal, Jeffrey Moriarty argued that CEOs must refuse to accept compensation above the minimum compensation that will induce them to accept and per­form their jobs. Acting otherwise, he maintains, violates the CEO’s fiduciary duty, even for a CEO new to the firm. I argue that Moriarty’s conclusion rests on a failure to adequately distinguish when a person acts as a fiduciary from when she acts on her own account as a person. Further, Moriarty’s argument assumes that the CEO knows this minimum level of compensation. However, we learn the suitability of compensation only through the market process of wage negotiation, not through some process of introspection. I conclude that a CEO who abstains from interfering with the board of directors and its compensation com­mittee is morally free to negotiate for the highest wage available.

–         MZ Comments: This is a followup to a paper by Jeff Moriarty – ungated link to draft version here.  The present issue of BEQ also contains a response to Kolb by Moriarty.

  • William Schudlich

    I thought this was the best thing I read this summer.  Tyler Cowen posted it.

    Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity

    Scott Aaronson
    (Submitted on 8 Aug 2011 (v1), last revised 14 Aug 2011 (this version, v3))

    Abstract: One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently
    it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical
    importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In
    particular, I argue that computational complexity theory—the field that
    studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve
    computational problems—leads to new perspectives on the nature of
    mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of
    logical omniscience, Hume’s problem of induction, Goodman’s grue riddle, the
    foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves,
    and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects
    of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis.

  • Tobias Franke

      The price discrimination article seems to be behind a paywall. 

    So to the Abstract;
    I have not seen true price discrimination, that is charging different
    prices for a product sold by the same person to different groups of
    people, on a product which was not monopolized.
    One common example of price discrimination is when a product is produced
    in china, distributed in America. Then a customer in Australia can
    often safe money by buying the product in england and have it shipped to
    him, then to by it directly in Australia.
    While giving a rebate to a single customer on the fly is morally OK, all other forms of price discrimination require monopolies to exist.

    On very interesting article was mittani’s column last week:

    He compares the real emergent structure ( corporations becoming de facto
    governments ) with the predictions superficially made by

    I would love to see some commentary about the situation, by someone who understands libertarianism better then I do.

  • Anonymous


    This is a terrific idea.  I really hope you keep it up.  As an aside, I think it would also be beneficial to produce a list of contemporary libertarian-ish academics, with a focus on moral, political, and legal philosophers (as opposed to a long list of free market economists).

  • CFV

    In the same Social Philosophy &  Policy issue, Lomasky’s piece (“Liberty after Lehman Brothers”) is far more important and interesting, IMHO.

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  • Thanks, Matt. This is really useful. Lots of material for the new blog.

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