Below is the text of the book and chapter abstracts which appear in Oxford University Press’s online version of my book.
Otsuka, Michael, Reader in Philosophy at University College London
Libertarianism without Inequality
Print ISBN 0-19-924395-6, 2003
Book abstract: The aim of this book is 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. The book shows how John Locke’s 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. The author’s libertarianism is founded on a right of self-ownership. Unlike ‘right-wing’ libertarians such a Robert Nozick who also endorse such a right, the author argues that self-ownership is compatible with a fully egalitarian principle of equal opportunity for welfare. In embracing this principle, his version of left-libertarianism is more strongly egalitarian than others which are well known. The author 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.
Keywords: left-libertarianism, self-ownership, equality of opportunity for welfare, egalitarianism, legitimate political authority, consent, voluntary association, John Locke, Robert Nozick, John Rawls
Table of Contents
Part I. Self-Ownership and World-Ownership
Chapter One – Self-Ownership and Equality
Abstract: Delineates the nature of a libertarian right of self-ownership. Assesses Robert Nozick’s claim that taxation is on a par with forced labour. Contends that the most defensible version of the Lockean ‘enough and as good’ proviso calls for acquisition of unowned natural resources which is consistent with equality of opportunity for welfare. Argues, contrary to both Nozick and G. A. Cohen, that a robust right of self-ownership is compatible with this welfare-egalitarian proviso across a wide range of circumstances.
Keywords: libertarianism, self-ownership, taxation, forced labour, Lockean proviso, egalitarianism, equality of opportunity for welfare, John Locke, Robert Nozick, G. A. Cohen
Chapter Two – Making the Unjust Provide for the Disabled
Abstract: Considers those circumstances in which self-ownership and equality cannot be reconciled in the manner proposed in Chapter One. Argues that, in such circumstances, liberal egalitarians and libertarians can find common ground in support of provision for the disabled by means of the coercive taxation of only those able-bodied individuals who have committed crimes.
Keywords: taxation, unjust, disabled, coercion, crime, liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism
Part II. Punishment and Self-Defence
Chapter Three – The Right to Punish
Abstract: Offers a Lockean account of a natural right to punish which is grounded in a natural right of self-protection. Endorses Warren Quinn’s derivation of the right to punish from a right of self-protection, but argues, against Quinn, that his account will succeed only if one is allowed, when justifying punishment, to appeal to the fact that the punishment of the guilty will deter others. Also argues that Quinn’s account will succeed only if the right to engage in lethal measures to protect the lives of individuals against innocent aggressors is highly circumscribed.
Keywords: punishment, natural rights, self-protection, self-defence, deterrence, innocent aggressor, John Locke, Warren Quinn
Chapter Four – Killing the Innocent in Self-Defence
Abstract: Argues against the right to engage in lethal measures to defend oneself or others against innocent aggressors or innocent threats. Criticizes arguments to the contrary by Judith Jarvis Thomson and Frances Kamm. Offers a positive account of why the killing of an innocent threat or aggressor is morally on a par with the impermissible killing of an innocent bystander in self-defence.
Keywords: self-defence, innocent aggressor, innocent threat, innocent bystander, killing, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Frances Kamm
Part III. Political Society
Chapter Five – Political Society as a Voluntary Association
Abstract: Offers a reconstruction of John Locke’s voluntaristic theory of legitimate political authority with the aim of overcoming the following two problems with tacit consent via residence: that it fails to bind either because it is unfreely given or because it is offered in circumstances of inequality. Builds on the author’s defence in Chapter One of an egalitarian version of the Lockean proviso to remedy these problems and endorses a highly voluntaristic, pluralistic, and decentralized account of legitimate political authority.
Keywords: political society, legitimate political authority, tacit consent, freedom, equality, Lockean proviso, voluntary association, voluntarism, pluralism
Chapter Six – Left-Libertarianism Versus Liberal Egalitarianism
Abstract: Explains why Lockean voluntarism, even when remedied of the problems discussed in Chapter 5, might be criticized by liberal egalitarians on the following grounds: it allows for the legitimacy of highly illiberal or inegalitarian political societies. Argues that such illiberal or inegalitarian societies would in fact be legitimized by the actual consent of their members when freely given in circumstances of equality. Therefore defends a voluntaristic, left-libertarian account of political legitimacy that differs in crucial respects from the hypothetical contract approaches of liberal-egalitarian Kantians such as John Rawls and Thomas Nagel.
Keywords: left-libertarianism, liberal egalitarianism, legitimate political authority, illiberalism, consent, voluntarism, hypothetical contract, John Rawls, Thomas Nagel
Chapter Seven – The Problem of Intergenerational Sovereignty
Abstract: Considers the merits of the Locke-inspired Jeffersonian idea that laws enacted by those who once lived in one’s country but are now dead have no authority over the living and hence should lapse unless they are reaffirmed by a democratic majority vote of the living. Considers and rejects consequentialist, communitarian, and Madisonian attempts to justify the authority of the dead over the living. Draws on Chapter Five to propose and endorse an account based on unanimous Lockean consent of how the laws of the dead can legitimately bind the living.
Keywords: intergenerational sovereignty, authority of dead over living, democracy, majority rule, communitarianism, unanimous consent, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison