Are Liberty and Equality Compatible? (For and Against)

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For example, the disabled and sick poor, together with immobile distant others and non-existing future persons, will find themselves without access to their fair share of resources. But on Sterba's account, no one is under a duty of justice to enforce their rights, since such a conception would be inconsistent with a commitment to negative freedom. Nevertheless, they are, somehow, wronged. Third, even if we can make sense of how the more resourceful obtain the right to act on behalf of those incapable of acting on their own rights and even if the more resourceful choose to do so, the 'rights' of the incapable are then dependent upon the voluntary choices of the resourceful.

Yet, if the possibility of incapable persons' actually enjoying 'rights' is dependent upon existing, resourceful persons' voluntary choices to act on their behalf, then surely the incapable are not secured rights. There is also, I believe, a series of problems attached to Sterba's conception of a non-relational, yet libertarian conception of rights. First, the idea that rights track non-existent persons appears inconsistent with the libertarian, negative conception of freedom.

According to this negative conception, remember, I have a right to set and pursue my ends insofar as my exercise of freedom is consistent with other persons' rights to do the same, which is to say that reciprocal freedom is rightful freedom.

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Yet if I am the only one existing, then there is no one with whom to be in a reciprocal relation and therefore no one to wrong. Another problem related to Sterba's non-relational account is illustrated by Sterba's claim that charity can take the place of justice. Sterba argues that if there is plenty of charity then people do not need or have welfare rights.

In fact, he argues, it would be better if voluntary contributions to the poor took the place of welfare rights 76f. As long as someone else is sufficiently generous, my property is seen as justified in relation to the poor. But this doesn't seem correct on a libertarian account. Presumably, my rightful private property claims in relation to another person must be justified independently of what others choose to do with their property.

What others do with their possessions must be irrelevant to my right to my possessions. If we only have a rightful claim to six tomatoes and I wrongly possess seven, then it is irrelevant that two of my neighbors out of the goodness of their heart give three tomatoes each to a newcomer.

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My seventh tomato is still not rightfully mine even though the newcomer now has six. My final set of objections concerns Sterba's claim that the right to welfare covers a right to access basic goods, namely food, shelter, medical care, protection, companionship and self-development, and possibly also transportation and self-esteem. Note that this list includes a mix of goods, some of which necessarily require other persons' labor, knowledge and effort. Clearly, medical care and protection fall into this camp.

Other goods, such as companionship, self-development and self-esteem have an emotional, interpersonal element. But Sterba provides no explanation of how an enforceable right to these goods can possibly be reconciled with everyone's right to freedom, negatively understood. How can I remain free to set and pursue my own ends with my means if others have a continuous, enforceable claim on my labor, effort, knowledge, and emotional involvement?

Perhaps at this point Sterba will point to the dependence of his position on a reasonable degree of altruism. Naturally, if people are unselfish and devoted to each other's welfare, then they will act altruistically. This debate, however, is concerned with what people can be forced to do. So, there must be an argument justifying the coercion of altruism. But if I am forced to give my labor, knowledge and emotional effort to the poor, then surely I'm not acting altruistically.

Rather, I'm being forced. Hence, altruism cannot do the work of justice here since it is in principle impossible to enforce altruism -- just as it is impossible to enforce emotional involvement of the right kind. Narveson takes issue with Sterba's egalitarianism by arguing that there is no individual right to a equal, fair share of resources and so only voluntary, private charity can rightfully do the work of redistributing resources from the rich to the poor Narveson rejects any position that insists on a right to an original fair share of the material resources in the world, including Robert Nozick's right-wing libertarian position.

Narveson argues that the world is just insofar as everyone originally owns themselves their own bodies and acquires any private property either by being the first possessor of unowned material resources or through voluntary exchanges with others. To illustrate Narveson's position, imagine a group of people sailing the Pacific Ocean at time t 0. Suddenly they are overcome by a storm, which destroys their boat.

Fortunately, they manage to swim ashore on a desolate island -- an island, from which, incidentally, it is impossible to leave. As they arrive on the island, each person, as fast as she can, starts taking control over the various parts of the unowned island.

Article 5: Right to liberty and security | Equality and Human Rights Commission

Even though some are able to acquire more than others because they are stronger, quicker, etc. The fact that different people are able to acquire different quantities and qualities of material resources is irrelevant to the justice of the resulting distribution, since 'nature' and not the involved persons are responsible for these differences. Moreover, assume that at t 1 , say 50 years later, another ship is hit by an equally devastating storm and two survivors swim toward the island.

To add complexity, assume that one of the two survivors is pregnant, and due to the extraordinarily strenuous swim, she gives birth in the water just before reaching the shore. At this point in time the descendants of those originally shipwrecked own everything on the island. He claims that on the contrary, liberty requires equality; that adopting the ideal of libertarianism requires you, out of consistency, to be in favour of extensive programme of welfare and wealth redistribution in order to establish material equality, both among people living today and with those who will be born in the future.

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Phil Badger also argues eloquently for an egalitarian version of liberalism. Whatever your own political views, I guarantee there will be an article here to annoy you.

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Indeed, I myself found the conclusions of one of the articles in this issue to be as crazy as a sack full of chipmunks. But I think it did me a great deal of good to read it and to think about why despite its subtle arguments I found it absurd. How appropriate! Like the previous two, it will involve a whole range of philosophy organisations putting on events over the course of the day. There will be lectures, panels, philosophy games, the infamous Balloon Debate and philosophy workshops for children of all ages.

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