Despite the exciting title, I suppose this is really just an overblown links post. First, a couple of (relative) quickies:
First, Terrance Tomkow has an interesting post on “The Origins of Property.” It draws on some of his earlier posts on “The Retributive Theory of Property” and, more generally, his “Retributive Ethics.”
Second, Gene Callahan has a new paper in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics on “Liberty and Libertarianism” (gated, alas. I’ll update if I can find an ungated link). Here’s the abstract:
This article aims to persuade its reader that libertarianism, at least in several of its varieties, is a species of the genus that Michael Oakeshott referred to as ‘rationalism in politics’. I hope to demonstrate, employing the work of Oakeshott as well as Aristotle and Onora O’Neill, how many libertarian theorists, who generally have a sincere and admirable commitment to personal liberty, have been led astray by the rationalist promise that we might be able to approach deductive certainty concerning the ‘correctness’ of some political programme. The article will argue that a concept such as Pettit’s freedom as non-domination is more robust and inclusive of all that we value about freedom than is the libertarian concept of freedom as non-interference.
Finally, last week Bryan Caplan put up his opening statement of his debate with Karl Smith on the topic of “How Deserving Are the Poor?”. Bryan and I went back and forth a bit on this issue a while back, first me here, then him, and him again, then me, then finally him. I think Bryan’s to be commended for raising this issues, which are certainly ones that Jonathan Haidt would see as “taboo” in polite academic circles. And I think that in his most recent contribution to the debate, Bryan makes an important point about the relative deservingness of Third-World workers compared to US workers. If anyone deserves our help, certainly the former group does. At the very least, we owe it to them to stop hurting them.
But I still have my doubts about Bryan’s claim that many/most of our domestic poor are undeserving. Even if it’s true that poor people have certain features that are causally connected with poverty – such as low conscientiousness – it still doesn’t follow that those features are a sufficient explanation of their poverty, or the extent of their poverty. Low conscientiousness might be an important part of the story, but that doesn’t prevent bad luck and/or injustice from being important parts too – perhaps the dominant parts.
Moreover, Bryan still seems unimpressed by the basic Rawlsian worry – that a person’s character (including low conscientiousness) “depends in large part upon fortunate family and social circumstances for which he can claim no credit.” Bryan’s on record as being in believer in free will. But you don’t have to be a hard determinist to take Rawls’ point seriously. Our character is heavily shaped by our early environment and our genes, and both of those are a matter of luck as far as we’re concerned. So even if bad character is a major explanatory factor for poverty, that doesn’t mean that bad luck isn’t.