Announcements, Academic Philosophy

Libertarianism at the Eastern APA

Readers who are planning to attend this weekend’s Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association might be interested in checking out this session being put on by the American Association for the Philosophic Study of Society.

The topic is “Libertarianism on the Brink,” and the featured speakers are Jan Narveson and James Sterba. They will be debating the relationship between liberty, equality, and welfare rights – essentially continuing the conversation they began in the Cambridge book, Are Liberty and Equality Compatible? As with any session featuring these two, it should be a good show!

Lots of other good stuff at the meeting too, but of special interest to our readers might be this session of the Ayn Rand Society on “Rand and Nozick: Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy,” featuring Lester Hunt and Onkar Ghate, and a session on Saturday afternoon on “Capitalism and Justice” featuring A.J. Julius, Thad Williamson, and our own Jason Brennan.

The full program is here. I won’t be attending myself, so I’ve only given it a quick skim and I may have missed some good sessions. Please feel free to make your own recommendations in the comments!

UPDATE: Roderick Long points out below that the Molinari Society will be hosting a session on Michael Huemer’s book, The Problem of Political Authority(See here for the BHL symposium on it!)

  • adrianratnapala

    Why “on the brink”? And the brink of what? It smells like click-bait. You can say its on the brink of collapse or breakout success, depending on your tribe. Though neither seems likely.

  • M Lister

    I’ll admit that I wish that the group organizing the session had found some other people to do this. Perhaps it will be fine, but Sterba and Narveson have been doing their two-man show for quite a while, both in print and live, and it’s hard to not imagine it would be more interesting to see some other people give it a go. (The “Capitalism and Justice” session sounds more promising. Julius is very smart and an able philosopher as well as a trained economist.)

  • Jerome Bigge

    Poverty in many cases is a result of lack of freedom to use the knowledge and talents you have for your own benefit. As a result, we are seeing more and more actions by the “State” to “protect” the “haves” from the “have nots” through laws and regulation that in effect forbid people from using the knowledge, skills, and talents to create the means of their own support. Laws that restrict entry into a number of fields of work and service are one means used to keep “competition” from those who might be willing to offer these same works and services at lower cost to the consumer. At one time here in the US there were laws that forbid merchants from selling things below a “recommended price”. The idea was to prevent “Main Street” businesses from “competition” by those willing to sell goods and services at a lower price. These laws were eventually repealed which opened the way for retail businesses such as Walmart to provide consumers with lower priced goods. No doubt the same thing would happen in other fields of work, but in many of these fields we see organizations that function much as guilds and labor unions to uphold higher prices for these services. So at least a certain amount of poverty that we see today is the result of efforts by the “State” and politically powerful groups to “buy” themselves “protection” from competition. Then there are those who benefit themselves from poverty in that they can hire people for less money, and of course usually where we see poverty we will also see agencies that employ civil service workers (well paid as a rule) to administer services to the poor. The losers in all this are the taxpayers along with the poor who have less opportunity to better themselves.

    • Sean II

      “Then there are those who benefit themselves from poverty in that they can hire people for less money…”

      Er, not really. Unless you’re defining the category very broadly, “the poor” does not contain many people you’d want to hire. A lot of zero MRP workers in that cohort, salted with a smaller number of potentially ruinous negative MRP workers.

      There are, of course, plenty who benefit from the persistence of poverty. Roughly in order:

      1) The Political Class – because the continued existence of the poor gives them power, helps to justify and disguise their schemes.

      2) The Quango Class – A lot of rich men’s wives and children, along with an army of over-educated and under-skilled victims of the higher ed industry, derive an income, and a totally undeserved sense of self-esteem, working in the social sector, allegedly on behalf of the poor.

      3) The Admin Class – Those invariably ugly and reliably miserable civil servants you mentioned, who staff the welfare state for an average $50,000 a year plus benefits, plus pension.

      4) The Occupationally Licensed (but only kind of) – Because at the lowest level – i.e. movers, hairdressers, cab drivers – the poor might compete with them. Mind you, I said might.

      5) The Cultural Elite – Because their whole identity is derived from things like having an opinion on gay marriage which is cooler than that of the average Walmart shopper. Anyone who hangs their hat on that paltry accomplishment would be gravely impoverished to do without it.

      Employers don’t even make my list, because in 2013 especially, many have no need for the services of a 17 year-old high school dropout with a 3rd degree assault conviction, or a 21 year-old illiterate mother of four, not at any price.

  • Roderick T. long

    There will also be an author-meets-critics session on Michael Huemer’s book:

  • Sean II

    “The topic is ‘Libertarianism on the Brink’…”

    Considering that “brink” is nearly always paired with “disaster” in the ready-made phrase game, this reminds me just a bit of “Is Rearden Metal a Toxic Product of Greed?”

  • M Lister

    Did anyone going to the “capitalism and justice” session? I’d be interested to know how it went.

    • Jason Brennan

      I kicked ass.

      • M Lister

        Are there any serious reports on the session? I actually would be interested in those.

        • Jason Brennan

          No, seriously, I kicked ass.*

          Also, two of the comments I got reaffirmed my view that it would be good for political philosophers to have at least Econ 101 under their belts.

          AJ’s piece was a pretty technical response to something by Ripstein. Thad’s piece was something written kind of last minute, because he was originally going to critique Tomasi, but Tomasi pulled out of the session. It amounted, I think, to a list of just what empirical issues he and Tomasi disagree on.

          *I gave my “Why Not Capitalism?” talk, and it passed the Dave Estlund test, so I’m very pleased.

          • M Lister

            I suppose that content free self-aggrandizement isn’t always out of place on blogs, but I’ll admit that it goes tedious after a while.

          • M Lister

            Thanks for a response with some content. That’s useful. It sounds like the session was less helpful than it could have been, which is unfortunate. I’m certainly happy to agree that it’s a good idea for philosophers who work in even marginally relevant areas to have studied some economics. I’d say something similar about pretty much every area of philosophy.

  • jdkolassa

    “Libertarianism On The Brink”

    Is this about Brink Lindsey’s contributions to libertarianism? Oh…