Self-ownership, marxism, and egalitarianism: Part II: Challenges to the self-ownership thesis

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 1 (2):237-276 (2002)
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Part I of this essay supports the anti-egalitarian conclusion that individuals may readily become entitled to substantially unequal extra-personal holdings by criticizing end-state and pattern theories of distributive justice and defending the historical entitlement doctrine of justice in holdings. Part II of this essay focuses on a second route to the anti-egalitarian conclusion. This route combines the self-ownership thesis with a contention that is especially advanced by G.A. Cohen. This is the contention that the anti-egalitarian conclusion can be inferred from the self-ownership thesis without the aid of additional controversial premises. Cohen advances this contention, not because he wants to support the anti-egalitarian conclusion, but rather because he wants to emphasize the need for one to reject the self-ownership thesis if one is to reject the anti-egalitarian conclusion. In Part II of this essay, I support this second route to the anti-egalitarian conclusion by reinforcing Cohen's special contention while rejecting his challenges to the self-ownership thesis. Cohen's special contention is reinforced by way of an explanation of why the redistributive state must trench upon some people's self-ownership rights. One important challenge to the self-ownership thesis is answered through the articulation of a new and improved Lockean proviso. Another challenge offered by Cohen is answered by arguing that the philosophical costs of denying the self-ownership thesis are as great as the self-ownership libertarian maintains. Thus, I defend both of the key elements of self-ownership libertarianism, the self-ownership thesis and the anti-egalitarian conclusion. Key Words: autonomy • distributive justice • egalitarianism • exploitation • Lockean proviso • self-ownership • slavery.



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Eric Mack
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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