Libertarians are in near-unanimous agreement in their endorsement of ownership rights, both over one’s person and over private property. To say that a person owns a certain entity implies that the person has certain moral rights over the entity, including rights to control the use of the entity, rights to transfer these rights to others, immunities to the non-consensual loss of these rights, etc. In other words, ownership is simply a “bundle of particular rights” (see Vallentyne, Steiner, and Otsuka (2005, p. 204)). However, while it may be intuitive that persons have certain ownership rights (e.g. everyone owns their bodies), there is still an open question regarding how ownership rights should be delineated. In other words, there is still an open question as to which “bundle of rights” come with ownership. So we need principles for delineating the moral rights that stem from ownership. In other words, we need principles that govern how to delineate ownership rights. I will argue in this post that one such principle is what Eric Mack calls the “anti-paralysis” postulate.
Why I’m not a utilitarian
Utilitarianism, like most consequentialist moral theories, can be broken down into two broad components: (1) a theory of goodness, and (2) a theory of how the goodness of the outcome of an act relates to that act’s rightness. Utilitarianism says that (1) goodness is constituted by the total summation of the pleasure over pain of all sentient creatures where each creature is given equal consideration, and (2) an act is right if and only if the actual consequences of that act have more goodness than any other alternative. Further, I believe that a theory of goodness can be broken down into two subcomponents: (1a) a theory of individual goodness, and (1b) a theory of how the goodness of individuals relates to the collective goodness (e.g. using some sort of aggregation function). Utilitarianism says that (1a) individual goodness is constituted by the total amount of pleasure and pain for that individual, and (1b) the collective goodness is simply the total summation of every sentient creature’s individual goodness. In this post, I will criticize each of these three components of utilitarianism. These criticisms, I believe, provide sufficient reason to reject utilitarianism.
Why consequentialism should be rejected
Following the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), consequentialism is a moral theory that states that the moral rightness of an act depends only on the goodness of certain consequences associated with the act. In other words, once we know about the goodness of certain consequences associated with an act, we have all the information necessary to determine the moral rightness of the act. I believe that consequentialists are incorrect to state that facts about the “right” depend only on facts about the “good”. While the goodness of consequences is certainly relevant to determining the rightness of an action, I will argue in this post that there are additional features that can be relevant other than the goodness of any consequences associated with the action.
A libertarian justification of mandatory taxation by the state
Libertarianism is notorious in its rejection of regulations by the state that many see as morally permissible. For example, libertarians often reject forms of wealth redistribution, welfare states, and social safety nets. Libertarians believe that, even if these programs produce good outcomes, to coerce people into supporting these programs via mandatory taxation (which is backed by the threat of physical force by the state if one doesn’t pay their taxes) is to violate their ownership rights over their property and their body.The point is that we have ownership rights over our bodies and our legitimately acquired property (i.e. property which was acquired without the violation of any else’s rights); therefore, to control (or threaten control of) someone else’s bodies or property without their consent is to violate those rights. Many libertarian philosophers (anarchists) have taken this point to claim that all mandatory taxation is unjust. If this claim is correct, then it seems that libertarianism is committed to the rejection of the state, as most conceptions of the state involve (among other things) mandatory taxation of its citizens. This post will argue that this conclusion is incorrect. I will argue that an adequate justification of the state can be provided on broadly libertarian grounds.