Philosophical criticism of libertarianism in recent decades has been directed almost entirely against Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU), with occasional shots aimed at Hayek. This contributes to the mistaken impression that no important philosophical work on behalf of libertarian conclusions has appeared since the 1970s. A major purpose of this chapter is to dispel this impression by providing brief accounts of the work of other philosophical defenders of libertarianism. A related purpose is to further convey the character of the themes and contentions that comprise libertarian theorizing by seeing them at work in different forms or configurations than we have seen in Nozick or in Hayek. I will discuss the work of Hillel Steiner, centering on his An Essay on Rights (hereafter ER) (Steiner 1994), Loren Lomasky, centering on his Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community (hereafter PRMC) (Lomasky 1987), Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, centering on their Norms of Liberty (hereafter NL) (Rasmussen and Den Uyl 2005), and David Schmidtz, centering on his Elements of Justice (hereafter EJ) (Schmidtz 2006).1 I concentrate on foundational arguments and implications for property rights and economic justice. Since all these theorists are highly sophisticated thinkers, I can here convey only the barest essentials of their doctrines.
In the chapter on Philosophical Antecedents and the two chapters on Nozick and Hayek, we repeatedly encounter the idea that individuals have their own lives to lead – their own happiness or purposes to pursue2 – and that reasonable social norms do not demand that persons “rise above” this partiality to their own ends. The search for reasonable social or political principles is not the search for some common substantive end (or hierarchy of ends) that all must make their own and serve. Rather, it is a search for norms that duly take account of our equal status as agents with (often intertwining) ends of our own. A search of the latter sort characteristically leads libertarian-inclined theorists to norms that explicitly require respect for the liberty of individuals to pursue their own happiness or projects or to norms – like the Humean–Hayekian principles of justice – respect for which is constitutive of our liberty. Moreover, according to liberty- leaning theorists, a regime of rightful or just liberty requires the identification of moral boundaries that mark off spheres of discretionary choice – morally sovereign domains within which individuals may do as they respectively see fit singly or in voluntary cooperation with others. Despite the very significant differences among the philosophical schemes examined in this chapter, this deep pattern persists.