Introduction

This chapter will focus on objections within and around political libertarianism. By objections “within” libertarianism, I mean disputes among libertarians or among libertarians and their near neighbors along the ideological spectrum. There are, indeed, many such disputes. However, for the purposes of this book, the most important of these disputes concerns the extent of the legitimate or justifiable state — or, more generally, the range of acceptable coercive institutions. By objections “around” libertarianism, I mean philosophical critiques of libertarian doctrine by theorists who are quite distant from libertarianism along the ideological spectrum. There are, indeed, many such attacks — originating from numerous different locations along that spectrum. I will concentrate on attacks that proceed from the dominant intellectual left — from the large and diverse camp of theorists who would describe themselves as “liberal egalitarians” or “egalitarian socialists.” I will be able to examine only a small representative sample of such attacks. I will consider briefly Rawls’ own critique of libertarianism and then a bit less briefly critiques offered by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel and by G. A. Cohen.