Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Question for Moral Libertarians

As I understand it some libertarians - including a Christian libertarian who used to comment here - make the case for libertarianism on moral grounds. They argue that the only moral act is an un-coerced one and so, for example, the government shouldn't tax people and give the money to the poor as that robs everyone else of their chance to do the moral thing and give the money of their own accord.

So I've got two questions for these libertarians (the second only relevant to the Christian strain).

1. Are you also opposed to laws against property theft, murder, and assault too? I'm not inclined to do these things myself so I'm rather frustrated that I get no moral credit for this thanks to those pesky laws.

2. If the only moral act is an un-coerced one, isn't God robbing us all of any chance of morality by coercing us with the threat of hell?

Just wondering.


sagenz said...

ah come one - make it more complex than that. murder and theft affect other people. drugs like tobacco and alcohol provide taxes that can be invested to pay for the damage done.

the moral libertarian case is based around the choice of damaging nobody but yourself

you have a case if you are arguing pricing for externalities

Terence said...

Fair enough - I was definitely aiming the ball between the widest goal posts. But, as I noted, some libertarians do make this argument (including in my comment boxes once upon a time). Obviously this critique doesn't address all strands of libertarians. Some, like Milton Friedman for example (IIRC), don't appeal to libertarianism on grounds of morality but as utilitarians who just think that libertarianism is the best way to improve wellbeing. Others, like Robert Nosik (spelt wrong) appeal to libertarianism as procedural fairness. And others, like yourself, apparently borrow from Mill. None of these approaches were addressed in my post above. They are, however, addressed in my post What's the Matter with Libertarianism.