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"... libertarianism ... rejected state activity to increase the material well-being of the poor." Odd perspective. Libertarianism rejects state coercion for the benefit of *anybody*. Coercion is coercion. Liberty is freedom (as far as possible) from coercion. "... state action to improve the material lot of the poor is not a very large portion of state action." Beyond attempting to defend individuals from criminal acts and foreign assaults, almost all state action is plunder, for the benefit of some at the expense of others (whether rich or poor). However, in a society devoted to religious altruism, almost all state interventions are justified as benefiting the poor (whether they do or don't). The overwhelming portion of the federal budget is devoted to those programs: Social Security, MediCare, MedicAid, and thousands of programs "protecting" the poor from their own choices. In any case, your article doesn't satisfy the headline, since politics IS the philosophy of social interaction. That is, on the rare occasions when politics rises above pure averice and petty jealousies.
It strikes me as very odd, even hallucinatory, to define a positive liberty condition that almost never exists in reality. Assuming one's ends are pleasing objectives, they are nearly infinite. The pursuit of any objective requires some form of power - the means to achieve it. No person has the power to achieve all of their desires, so the definition necessarily precludes the possibility of an absolute condition to be called "positive liberty". We could modify the definition with some evident qualifiers, e.g. the power to achieve possible or reasonable ends. I can't fly by flapping my arms, no matter how pleasing that might be as an objective. There is no power that would make it possible for me to fly by merely flapping my arms. Likewise, the definition fails to specify the nature, source, or character of that power that might allow me to achieve any of my ends. If it is solely the power with which I am endowed naturally as a human being, then I already have that power, limited only by my own mental or phsycial capacities. Therefore, the concept is devoid of meaning ... unless it means *obtaining power* from someone else (necessarily, at their expense) in order to satisfy some desire of mine that is considered (by some other person than myself) to be both possible and reasaonble. Therefore, "positive liberty" is no liberty at all, but rather the power to compel others to surrender their means for my ends, if determined to be reasonable by others. This condition is not one of liberty, but rather a form of slavery. A simple and coherent definition of liberty, as freedom from coercion, makes it clear that it is a condition of the *absence* of malicious conduct by others against my exercise of my own powers to achieve my own ends. That is the only rational form of liberty.
Matt: "A distribution is just if it arose from another just situation by just steps, period." Good thing you didn't intend to offer a general definition of "social justice", because this fails utterly. It is just if it started just and ended just? Really. The problem with "social justice" is that it requires some imposed equality of outcome that doesn't naturally exist in a civil society. Not because reality is uncivil, but because reality is never "fair" or just, it just is what it is. On that ground, I can't imagine how you can conceive of (much less achieve) any non-coercive method or means establishing equality - equality of outcome or of opportunity - in a civil society. And that's all libertarianism is: the premises for a civil (non-coercive) social existence. So, if you believe in some mystical "social justice", you can't be a libertarian.
WWestmiller is now following The Typepad Team
Mar 5, 2011