My review of Chartier’s most recent book is here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/38159-anarchy-and-legal-order-law-and-politics-for-a-stateless-society/ Perhaps I have the minority point of view here. Tesón calls it “required reading”. Zwolinski says that book is “one of the most important books of libertarian political theory to be published in the last forty years.”
I didn’t intend originally to discuss this on Bleeding Hearts, but instead to keep my criticisms confined to academic obscurity on NDPR. But here we are.
To start, it’s worth noting that of all the billions of people in the world, I’ve got to be among the very very closest to Chartier in terms of ideological disposition. I think his project is important, and that his broad political conclusions are right, or at least pretty close to right. Still, I found the book deeply unsatisfactory. Chartier had a book workshop at Arizona in which one of my colleagues expressed similar concerns to mine. I wish that workshop had occurred earlier, so that Chartier might have had a chance to revise the manuscript in light of the comments. If Chartier had written the book with a much more hostile audience in mind, it could have been a fantastic work.
One of my complaints about Anarchy and Legal Order is that Chartier bases it on a controversial moral theory. Chartier responds:
He is doubtless correct that NCNL theory is both controversial and not the majority view among Thomists. Whether this is, on its own, a reason to criticize it is presumably another matter. Compare: libertarianism is a minority position in political theory; and bleeding-heart libertarianism of the sort Brennan endorses is a minority position among libertarians. That hardly means it’s not interesting or important.
I’m hardly one to avoid controversy, true. I think for-profit business can be a way to exercise civic virtue, that most people shouldn’t vote, and that democracy is unjust. But there’s a huge difference between A) starting with uncontroversial premises to generate controversial conclusions and B) starting with controversial premises and then ending with controversial conclusions. My work generally tends to be instances of A. Chartier’s most recent book is an instance of B. Now, if Chartier just meant the book to be a big conditional–if you accept my controversial moral theory, then anarchism follows–then his book would be less problematic, but also of less value.
In my critique, I point out that Chartier’s theory has some extremely counterintuitive implications. So, for instance, almost everybody accepts the following claims:
- A day spent winning the Olympics you trained your entire life for is better than a day spent watching a movie you barely enjoy.
- From a moral point of view, it would be better if everyone were virtuous and happy rather than if everyone were suffering and miserable.
1 and 2 just seem like really obvious, pre-theoretic claims to me. Accepting 1 or 2 doesn’t commit us to consequentialism. Pretty much every moral theory–except Chartier’s–is compatible with 1 and 2. Now, perhaps 1 and 2 are mistaken, but we’d a really compelling justification to show why. You’d have to show me that believing in 1 and 2 leads to certain absurd or troubling conclusions, conclusions so troubling that I’d have to give up 1 and 2. Chartier has some arguments against this (and he does a much better job explaining then in his blog post than in the book), but the problem is that 1 and 2 seem much more plausible than any of his objections to them. So, if 1 and 2 are incompatible with Chartier’s premises, my take is so much the worse for his premises.
As for Chartier’s concerns about incommensurability and public policy, see David Schmidtz’s excellent paper on cost-benefit analysis here: http://www.econtopia.org/faculty/prod/sites/default/files/articles/cba.pdf
And of course Huemer’s Problem of Political Authority, which he cites approvingly, devotes very little time to addressing the problem of poverty in a stateless society. So it’s not clear just what he would regard as a satisfactory treatment of the issue of economic vulnerability.
That’s right, and I’m curious to see how Huemer will respond to Hassoun’s criticism of him on this point. In fact, if I remember correctly, I recommended to Huemer that he explicitly address this problem in his book. Huemer has no treatment of this issue, while Chartier has an unconvincing treatment of it (and I say that as someone who basically agrees with Chartier on his conclusions). So, yes, both their books are flawed in this respect.