Libertarianism, Book/Article Reviews

New Articles on Libertarian Thought

Several articles have appeared in academic journals in the last month discussing various aspects of libertarian thought. I thought they might be of interest to BHL readers. Unfortunately, all of the articles are gated. I’ll post links to ungated versions if and when I find any.

The newest issue of Ethics has a couple all by itself. The most significant is David Sobel’s “Backing Away from Libertarian Self-Ownership.” We discussed an earlier version of that paper, and a companion paper also by Sobel, in this blog post (where you can also find links to draft versions of the papers). Here’s the abstract:

Libertarian self-ownership views have traditionally maintained that we enjoy very powerful deontological protections against any infringement upon our property. This stringency yields very counterintuitive results when we consider trivial infringements such as very mildly toxic pollution or trivial risks such as having planes fly overhead. Maintaining that other people’s rights against all infringements are very powerful threatens to undermine our liberty, as Nozick saw. In this essay I consider the most sophisticated attempts to rectify this problem within a libertarian self-ownership framework. I argue that all of these responses are significantly flawed.

Also in that issue of Ethics is a review of John Tomasi’s Free Market Fairness by libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson (The Libertarian Idea). Narveson has plenty of nice things to say about the book, but worries that it shares with most “high liberal” philosophy a failure to provide any serious rationale for the welfare state: “the tendency is to provide earnest affirmation as the basis for that highly invasive institution rather than clear analysis.”

Finally, the journal Politics, Philosophy and Economics has an online early version of an article by Marian Eabrasu entitled, “Rothbard and Hoppe’s justifications of libertarianism: A critique.” Here’s the abstract:

Murray N. Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe build their libertarian theory of justice on two axioms concerning self-ownership and homesteading, which are bolstered by two key arguments: reductio ad absurdum and performative contradiction. Each of these arguments is designed to demonstrate that libertarianism is the only theory of justice that can be justified. If either of these arguments were valid, it would prove the libertarian claim that the state is an unjust political arrangement. Giving due weight to the importance of the libertarian anarchist claim, this article exposes and criticizes the arguments that substantiate it.

I’ve taken my own shots at Rothbard’s reductio here and here. And Roderick Long (among others) has taken apart Hoppe’s performative contradiction argument here.

  • David Sobel

    Thanks for the shout out.

  • Matt

    It’s not about libertarianism, but since someone on the site is listed as reading the book, I’ll note that the same issue of Ethics that you note has a review of Evan Fox-Decent’s book, _Sovereignty’s Promise_, by me. Both the book and, I hope, the review, might be of interest to some on this site.