Libertarian personal responsibility

Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (6):621-645 (2017)
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While libertarians affirm personal responsibility as a central moral and political value, libertarian theorists write relatively little about the theory and practice of this value. Focusing on the work of F. A. Hayek and David Schmidtz, this article identifies the core of a libertarian approach to personal responsibility and demonstrates the ways in which this approach entails a radical revision of the ethics and American politics of personal responsibility. Then, I highlight several central implications of this analysis in the American political and economic status quo. First, this analysis makes a mockery of so-called libertarian/conservative ‘fusionism’, such that libertarian personal responsibility cannot partner with meritocratic conservative thought to provide a plural grounding for rejecting progressive or redistributive economic policy. Next, preferred libertarian policies threaten the status, esteem and social bases of self-respect of citizens who are worse-off through little or no fault of their own. Finally, these policies undermine the ethics of personal responsibility that Americans from across the ideological spectrum value and many conservatives and libertarians celebrate. In the American status quo, those who value personal responsibility must reserve a central place for policies that mitigate opportunity and distributive inequalities.



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Joshua Preiss
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Justice as fairness: a restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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