Michael Otsuka sets out to vindicate left-libertarianism, a political philosophy which combines stringent rights of control over one's own mind, body, and life with egalitarian rights of ownership of the world. Otsuka reclaims the ideas of John Locke from the libertarian Right, and shows how his Second Treatise of Government provides the theoretical foundations for a left-libertarianism which is both more libertarian and more egalitarian than the Kantian liberal theories of John Rawls and Thomas Nagel. Otsuka's libertarianism is founded on (...) a right of self-ownership. Here he is at one with 'right-wing' libertarians, such as Robert Nozick, in endorsing the highly anti-paternalistic and anti-moralistic implications of this right. But he parts company with these libertarians in so far as he argues that such a right is compatible with a fully egalitarian principle of equal opportunity for welfare. In embracing this principle, his own version of left-libertarianism is more strongly egalitarian than others which are currently well known. Otsuka argues that an account of legitimate political authority based upon the free consent of each is strengthened by the adoption of such an egalitarian principle. He defends a pluralistic, decentralized ideal of political society as a confederation of voluntary associations. Part I of Libertarianism without Inequality concerns the natural rights of property in oneself and the world. Part II considers the natural rights of punishment and self-defence that form the basis for the government's authority to legislate and punish. Part III explores the nature and limits of the powers of governments which are created by the consensual transfer of the natural rights of the governed. Libertarianism without Inequality is a book which everyone interested in political theory should read. (shrink)
I presented an earlier version of this paper to the Law and Philosophy Discussion Group in Los Angeles, whose members I would like to thank for their comments. In addition, I would also like to thank the following people for reading and providing written or verbal commentary on earlier drafts: Robert Mams, Rogers Albritton, G. A. Cohen, David Copp, Matthew Hanser, Craig Ihara, Brian Lee, Marc Lange, Derk Pereboom, Carol Voeller, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs. I owe (...) special thanks to Timothy Hall and Seana Shiffnn for their insightful and helpful comments. (shrink)
We argue that there is a marked shift in the moral weight of an increment in a person's well-being when one moves from a case involving only intra-personal trade-offs to a case involving only inter-personal trads-offs. This shift, we propose, is required by the separateness of persons. We also argue that the Priority View put forward by Parfit cannot account for such a shift. We also outline two alternative views, an egalitarian view and a claims-based view, that can account for (...) this shift. (shrink)
We discuss two leading theories of distributive justice: egalitarianism and prioritarianism. We argue that while each has particular merits and shortcomings, egalitarian views more fully satisfy a key requirement of distributive justice: respect for both the unity of the individual and the separateness of persons.
In a recent review essay of a two volume anthology on left-libertarianism (edited by two of us), Barbara Fried has insightfully laid out most of the core issues that confront left-libertarianism. We are each left-libertarians, and we would like to take this opportunity to address some of the general issues that she raises. We shall focus, as Fried does much of the time, on the question of whether left-libertarianism is a well-defined and distinct alternative to existing forms of liberal egalitarianism. (...) More specifically, we shall address the following fundamental issues raised by Fried (and others): (1) Does the notion self-ownership have any determinate content? (2) What is the relation between self-ownership and world ownership? (3) How is left-libertarianism different from other forms of liberal egalitarianism (e.g., those of Rawls and Dworkin)? (shrink)
I defend an incompatibilist 'Principle of Avoidable Blame' according to which one is blameworthy for performing an act of a given type only if one could instead have behaved in a manner for which one would have been blameless. First, I demonstrate that this principle is resistant to Harry Frankfurt-type counterexample. Second, I present a positive argument for this principle that appeals to the relation of blame to the 'reactive attitude' of indignation. Finally, I argue against the possibility of blamelessly (...) stumbling into a 'moral blind alley' where one would be blameworthy for whatever one is capable of doing. (shrink)
In "What We Owe to Each Other", T. M. Scanlon argues that one should save the greater number when faced with the choice between saving one life and two or more different lives. It is, Scanlon claims, a virtue of this argument that it does not appeal to the claims of groups of individuals but only to the claims of individuals. I demonstrate that this argument for saving the greater number, indeed, depends, contrary to what Scanlon says, upon an appeal (...) to the claim of a group of individuals to be saved. (shrink)
I argue that prioritarianism cannot be assessed in abstraction from an account of the measure of utility. Rather, the soundness of this view crucially depends on what counts as a greater, lesser, or equal increase in a person’s utility. In particular, prioritarianism cannot accommodate a normatively compelling measure of utility that is captured by the axioms of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern’s expected utility theory. Nor can it accommodate a plausible and elegant generalization of this theory that has been (...) offered in response to challenges to von Neumann and Morgenstern. This is, I think, a theoretically interesting and unexpected source of difficulty for prioritarianism, which I explore in this article. (shrink)
In the Trolley Case, as devised by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Jarvis Thomson, a runaway trolley is headed down a main track and will hit and kill five unless you divert it onto a side track, where it will hit and kill one.
For a prioritarian by contrast to a utilitarian, whether a certain quantity of utility falls within the boundary of one person's life or another's makes the following moral difference: the worse the life of a person who could receive a given benefit, the stronger moral reason we have to confer this benefit on this person. It would seem, therefore, that prioritarianism succeeds, where utilitarianism fails, to ‘take seriously the distinction between persons’. Yet I show that, contrary to these appearances, prioritarianism (...) fails, in ways strikingly parallel to those in which utilitarianism fails, to take this distinction seriously. In so doing, I draw on and develop an earlier critique of prioritarianism by disentangling and pressing two distinct separateness-of-persons objections offered there. One objection is that prioritarianism is insensitive to ‘prudential justifications’. The other is that it is insensitive to the competing claims of different individuals. (shrink)
I thank the members of the Law and Philosophy Discussion Group in Los Angeles and those who attended a talk sponsored by the philosophy department at New York University, where I presented earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank G. A. Cohen, Stephen Munzer, Seana Shiffrin, Peter Vallentyne, Andrew Williams, and the editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs, who read and provided written commentary on earlier drafts.
In this article, I argue that it makes a moral difference whether an individual is worse off than she could have been. Here, I part company with consequentialists such as Parfit and side with contractualists such as Scanlon. But, unlike some contractualists, I reject the view that all that matters is whether a principle can be justified to each particular individual, where such a justification is attentive to her interests, complaints and other claims. The anonymous goodness of a distribution also (...) matters. My attempt to reconcile contractualist and consequentialist approaches proceeds via a serious of reflections on cases. (shrink)
Suppose that each of the following four conditions obtains: 1. You can save either a greater or a lesser number of innocent people from (equally) serious harm. 2. You can do so at trivial cost to yourself. 3. If you act to save, then the harm you prevent is harm that would not have been prevented if you had done nothing. 4. All other things are equal. A skeptic about saving the greater number rejects the common-sensical claim that you have (...) a duty to save the greater number in such circumstances. (shrink)
'Moral luck' refers to the phenomenon whereby one's degree of blameworthiness for what one has done varies on account of factors beyond one's control. Applying concepts of Dworkin's from the domain of distributive justice, I draw a distinction between 'option moral luck,' which is that to which one has exposed oneself as the result of one's voluntary choices, and 'brute moral luck,' which is that which is unchosen and unavoidable. I argue that option moral luck is not ruled out on (...) grounds of unfairness. I also offer a non-fairness-based rejection of brute moral luck and defense of option moral luck. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to refute Ronald Dworkin's claim that the provision of an equal opportunity to insure against risks is sufficient to render differences in people's circumstances that are the result of luck consistent with his theory of equality of resources. Section I addresses bad luck in the circumstances of individuals in the form of mental or physical incapacitation resulting from the vicissitudes of nature. Section II addresses bad luck which is the result of the choices of (...) other individuals to give or bequeath. (shrink)
Some are blameless for posing a threat to the live of another because they are not morally responsible for being a threat. Others are blameless in spite of their responsibility. On what has come to be known as the "moral responsibility account" of liability to defensive killing, it is such responsibility, rather than blameworthiness, for threatening another that renders one liable to defensive killing. Moreover, one's lack of responsibility for being a threat grounds one's nonliability to defensive killing. In "Killing (...) the Innocent in Self-Defense" (1994), I offered an early formulation and defense of such an account. In Section I of this chapter, I renew my defense of the claim that it is impermissible to kill a passive nonresponsible threat in self-defense. In Section II, I renew my defense of the claim that it is permissible to kill a blameless but morally responsible threat in self-defense. (shrink)
Most deontologists find bedrock in the Pauline doctrine that it is morally objectionable to do evil in order that good will come of it. Uncontroversially, this doctrine condemns the killing of an innocent person simply in order to maximize the sum total of happiness. It rules out the conscription of a worker to his or her certain death in order to repair a fault that is interfering with the live broadcast of a World Cup match that a billion spectators have (...) been enjoying. It rules out such sacrifice even if it would maximize the sum total of everyone's happiness. An act utilitarian, by contrast, would require the sacrifice of the one whenever this latter condition obtains, since such a utilitarian is committed to the view that one ought always to act so as to bring about the greatest sum total of happiness. An act utilitarian might, however, consistently hold that a large number of rather insignificant pleasures, such as that which a spectator derives from witnessing men in shorts running around and kicking a ball, is never sufficient to justify the infliction of a great harm on a single individual. 4 He might take such a position without abandoning utilitarianism by denying that the sum total of such minor pleasures could ever be sufficiently great to outweigh the harm of death to the one. Under the inspiration of John Stuart Mill, a utilitarian might draw a more general distinction between serious and trivial harms and pleasures and maintain that no amount of a trivial pleasure could ever amount to a sum of happiness that is greater than the disutility of a serious harm. (shrink)
In the Trolley Case, as devised by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Jarvis Thomson, a runaway trolley is headed down a main track and will hit and kill five unless you divert it onto a side track, where it will hit and kill one.
Inequality is intrinsically bad when and because it is unfair. It follows that the ideal of equality is not necessarily realised by a distribution of resources which is envy-free prior to the resolution of risks against which people have an equal opportunity to insure. Even if the upshot of such an ex ante envyfree distribution is just, it is not necessarily fair.
An argument against Parfit's view (in his chapter of Reasons and Persons on five mistakes in moral mathmatics) that, rather than maximizing the difference one makes as an individual, one should join that group whose members together make the most positive difference.
G. A. Cohen was one of the most gifted, influential, and progressive voices in contemporary political philosophy. At the time of his death in 2009, he had plans to bring together a number of his most significant papers. This is the first of three volumes to realize those plans. Drawing on three decades of work, it contains previously uncollected articles that have shaped many of the central debates in political philosophy, as well as papers published here for the first time. (...) In these pieces, Cohen asks what egalitarians have most reason to equalize, he considers the relationship between freedom and property, and he reflects upon ideal theory and political practice.Included here are classic essays such as "Equality of What?" and "Capitalism, Freedom, and the Proletariat," along with more recent contributions such as "Fairness and Legitimacy in Justice," "Freedom and Money," and the previously unpublished "How to Do Political Philosophy." On ample display throughout are the clarity, rigor, conviction, and wit for which Cohen was renowned. Together, these essays demonstrate how his work provides a powerful account of liberty and equality to the left of Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, Amartya Sen, and Isaiah Berlin. (shrink)
Cohen endorses the coercive taxation of the talented at a progressive rate for the sake of realizing equality. By contrast, he denies that it is legitimate for the state to engage in the 'Stalinist forcing' of people into one or another line of work in order to bring about a more egalitarian society. He rejects such occupational conscription on grounds of the invasiveness of the gathering and acting upon information regarding people's preferences for different types of work that would be (...) required to implement such a policy. More precisely, Cohen maintains that the presence versus the absence of such intrusion explains why such Stalinist forcing of the talented is unacceptable whereas the progressive taxation of their income is legitimate. I argue that Cohen's appeal to invasiveness does not adequately capture the moral repugnance of the state's conscripting people into work at a given occupation. I propose that a right to self-ownership, and that which explains such a right, provides a better explanation than Cohen's of why Stalinist forcing is objectionable, whereas progressive taxation is not. 1. (shrink)
In 'Why It Matters that Some Are Worse off than Others,' we offer a new critique of the Priority View. In a recent article, Roger Crisp has argued that our critique is flawed. In this reply, we show that Crisp fails to grapple with, much less defeat, the central claim of our critique. We also show that an example that Crisp offers in support of the Priority View in fact lends support to our critique of that view.
A critical examination of Parfit's attempt to reconcile Kantian contractualism with consequentialism, which disputes his contention that the contracting parties would lack decisive reasons to choose principles that ground prohibitions against harming of the sort to which non-consequentialists have been attracted. 1.
I assess G. A. Cohen's claim, which is central to his luck egalitarian account of distributive justice, that forcing others to pay for people's expensive indulgence is inegalitarian because it amounts to their exploitation. I argue that the forced subsidy of such indulgence may well be unfair, but any such unfairness fails to ground an egalitarian complaint. I conclude that Cohen's account of distributive justice has a non-egalitarian as well as an egalitarian aspect. Each impulse arises from an underlying commitment (...) to fairness. Cohen's account of distributive justice is therefore one of justice as fairness. (shrink)
Dworkin's reconciliation of liberty and equality in chapter 3 of 'Sovereign Virtue' presupposes the compossibility of the satisfaction of the envy test and the realization of the principle of abstraction. It is, however, impossible to realize a distribution that is both envy-free and maximally sensitive to plans and preferences. When this conflict between the envy test and the principle of abstraction is brought to light, it will become apparent that Dworkin falls short of a complete reconciliation of liberty and equality.
According to philosophers who ground your anticipation of future experiences in psychological continuity and connectedness, it is rational to anticipate the experiences of someone other than yourself, such as a self that is the product of fission or of replication. In this article, I concur that it is rational to anticipate the experiences of the product of fission while denying the rationality of anticipating the experiences of a replica. In defending my position, I offer the following explanation of why you (...) have good reason to anticipate the experiences of your post-fission successor but not your replica: in the former case, you become somebody else, whereas, in the latter case, you are merely replaced by somebody else. (shrink)
Should egalitarian justice be qualified by an agent-relative prerogative to act on a preference for—and thereby in a manner that gives rise to or preserves a greater than equal share of the goods of life for—oneself, one's family, loved ones, or friends as compared with strangers? Although many would reply that the answer to this question must be ‘yes’, I shall argue here that the case for such a prerogative to depart from equality is much less far-reaching than one might (...) think. I have in mind a prerogative to depart from a specific form of equality: namely, equality of opportunity for such advantages as resources or welfare. I mean to refer to the strong form of equal opportunity elaborated and defended by Richard Arneson and G. A. Cohen whereby, roughly speaking, two people have equal opportunity for advantage if they face the same choices and will end up at the same level of advantage if they make the same choices. (shrink)
In this article, I press a line of objection to Jonathan Quong's moral status account of liability to defensive harm. The claim on which I rest my critique is captured by the article's title: if one can’t lose such a right in these circumstances, one never had it in the first place.
I shall formulate and motivate a left-libertarian theory of justice. Like the more familiar rightlibertarianism, it holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Unlike right-libertarianism, it holds that natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. Left-libertarianism is, I claim, a plausible version of liberal egalitarianism because it is suitably sensitive to considerations of liberty, security, and equality.
For insightful comments, we thank G. A. Cohen, Barbara Fried, Leif Wenar, Andrew Williams, Jonathan Wolff, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs. 1. Barbara Fried, “Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 32 (2004): 66–92. This is a review of The Origins of Left-Libertarianism: An Anthology of His- torical Writings and Left-Libertarianism and Its Critics: The Contemporary Debate, both edited by Peter Vallentyne and Hillel Steiner (New York: Palgrave Publishers Ltd., 2000).
Michael Otsuka sets out to vindicate left-libertarianism, a political Michael Otsuka is Lecturer in Philosophy philosophy which combines stringent rights of control over one’s own at University College London. mind, body, and life with egalitarian rights of ownership of the world. Otsuka reclaims the ideas of John Locke from the libertarian right and shows how his Second Treatise of Government provides the theoretical foundations for a left-libertarianism which is both more libertarian and more egalitarian than the Kantian liberal theories of (...) John Rawls.. (shrink)
In Otsuka ( 1998 ), I endorse an incompatibilist Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this rejoinder to Fischer and Tognazzini ( 2009 ), I defend this principle against their charge that it is vulnerable to Frankfurt-type counterexample.
This chapter provides a defense of a type of occupational pension, known as “collective defined contribution”, which is based on the idea that it is possible to limit the employer’s liability to nothing more than a set contribution while retaining many of the benefits of the collectivization of risks of a traditional defined benefit pension. CDC can be defended against a freedom-based objection from the right via an appeal to the following Hobbesian voluntarist justification: CDC constitutes a “Leviathan of Leviathans” (...) into which it is rational for workers to choose to associate in order to tame longevity and investment risks. CDC pensions that arise from and mirror existing income inequalities can also be defended against an egalitarian objection from the left, by demonstration that they can be grounded in Rawlsian principles of reciprocity and property-owning democracy. (shrink)
In The Right to Threaten and the Right to Punish, Warren Quinn justifies punishment on the ground that it can be derived from the rights of persons to protect themselves against crime. Quinn, however, denies that a right of self-protection justifies the punishment of an aggressor solely on the ground that such punishment deters others from harming the victim of that aggression or others. He believes that punishment so justified would constitute a morally objectionable instance of using the punished individual (...) as a means. Contrary to Quinn, I argue that (1) an individual can, on the very ground of a right to self-protection that Quinn ultimately relies upon to justify punishment, justify the punishment of an individual as a means of deterring others from committing crimes; and that (2) an individual or individuals (including state officials) can, on the ground of vindicating the right of protection that others possess, justify the punishment of an individual as a means of deterring others from committing crimes. (shrink)
Section II of this article originated as a commentary on Véronique Munoz-Dardé’s “The Distribution of Numbers and the Comprehensiveness of Reasons.” I have delivered subsequent versions of this article at the University of Reading, UCLA, the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds, and the University of Oxford, and thank all who commented on those occasions. I am also grateful to G. A. Cohen, Iwao Hirose, Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Alex Voorhoeve, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs for their written (...) comments. (shrink)
Book review of McMahan J. "Killing in War." Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2009. --- Jeff McMahan’s "Killing in War" is, among many other things, a brief against the traditional just war doctrine of the moral equality of combatants – i.e. the doctrine that all combatants ‘have the same moral status, hence the same moral rights, immunities, and liabilities’, including ‘an equal right to kill’, irrespective of whether the war they fight is just or unjust.1 This book is a powerfully argued, (...) nuanced, comprehensive, relentless and impassioned brief against this doctrine. It wages total war against it, eclipsing all past skirmishes. Yet, at the same time that he rejects the moral equality of combatants, McMahan affirms the ‘legal equality of combatants’, according to which ‘legal rights, liabilities, and immunities of combatants are unaffected by’ the justice or injustice of the war they fight. Not only does McMahan affirm that the legal equality of combatants holds as a matter of fact. He also affirms that such legal equality is morally justified at present. In this article, I shall expose and explore tensions that arise as the result of this uneasy combination of McMahan’s affirmation of the legal equality of combatants and his thoroughgoing rejection of their moral equality. (shrink)
• 15% of your grade: a short (1,500 word limit) paper due at 4 pm on September 26, on an assigned topic distributed two weeks in advance of the due date • 15% of your grade: an in-class mid-term exam on either October 23 or 30 (exact date TBC) • 30% of your grade: a longer (2,500 word limit) paper due by 4 pm on November 25, on an assigned topic distributed two weeks in advance of the due date • (...) 30% of your grade: a final exam on December 8 (1:00-2:50 p.m.) • 10% of your grade: participation in recitations.. (shrink)
Property, or property rights, remains one of the most central elements in moral, legal, and political thought. It figures centrally in the work of figures as various as Grotius, Locke, Hume, Smith, Hegel and Kant. This collection of essays brings fresh perspective on property theory, from both legal and political theoretical perspectives, and is essential reading for anyone interested in the nature of property. Edited by two of the world's leading theorists of property, James Penner and Michael Otsuka, this volume (...) brings together essays which consider, amongst other topics, property and public law, the importance of legal forms in property theory, whether use or exclusion are most essential to our understanding of property, distributive justice, Lockean and Grotian theories, the common ownership of the Earth, and Confucian ideas of property. (shrink)
This article raises some incompatibilist challenges for, and queries some of the implications of, Ronald Dworkin’s arguments in his "Justice for Hedgehogs" (2011), that responsibility is compatible with both determinism and epiphenomenalism.
Mike Otsukaʼs book aspires to do more than its title discloses. Libertarianism without Inequality (Oxford University Press, 2003) does not merely aim to reconcile liberty and equality (that is handled without remainder in the first chapter) but to draw the outlines of a complete, and distinctly Lockean, political theory. Rather than starting from first principles, Otsuka explores several specific issues only loosely connected to each other, hoping that these might add up to a complete political vision. Though the discussion is (...) clearly tinted in Lockean colours, his conclusions are always provocative and difficult to swallow, even for modern disciples of Locke. Thus he argues for the following theses. (shrink)
I propose that liberal egalitarians and libertarians can find common ground in support of an unfamiliar means of forcing well off individuals to come to the assistance of the least well off. Such means would not, as is typically the case, involve the taxation of the income of all well off individuals. Rather, assistance would be provided by the taxation of only those well off individuals who have been properly convicted of performing justifiably criminalized acts that they had no right (...) to commit. In Section I, I argue that many liberal egalitarians will discover that a strong case can be made for the taxation of only the unjust, since such a scheme would mitigate the objectionable nature of the coercion that must be applied in order to provide for the least well off. In Section II, I argue that libertarians who reject standard schemes of redistributive taxation will not also be able to resist the case for taxation of the unjust. In Section III, I defend taxation of the unjust against the objection that it would call for punishment in excess of what justice permits. (shrink)
Discussion held in April at a Political Studies Association Roundtable in Manchester, England, on G. A. Cohen’s book If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich?. --- Michael Otsuka's contribution sub-titled: "Il personale e politico? Il confine tra pubblico e private nella sfera della giustizia distributiva" = "Is the personal political? The boundary between the public and the private in the realm of distributive justice.".
Although I am neither a Nazi nor an anti-Semite (quite the contrary, in fact), I like the music of Richard Wagner. Why do I like his music? Mainly because I find it intoxicating. Intoxicate: To cause stupefaction, stimulation, or excitement by or as if by use of a chemical substance.) I admit that this is not a very deep reason. But I’m not very deep. (My years as an analytic philosopher would have drained any depths I may once have had.) (...) Although Mark Twain once described Wagner’s music as ‘better than it sounds’, it actually sounds better than it is, since intoxicating substances deceive our senses. (Think of the love potion in Tristan.) There are, I grant, other more serious reasons to like and to value Wagner’s music. Rather than rehearse any of them, I’m going to turn to an annotated list of some of my favorite recordings. (shrink)