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Are Liberty and Equality Compatible? (For and Against) Hardcover – June 7, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


'I think the book is very well structured ... the discussion of the challenge to (right-)libertarianism that negative liberty is at stake on both sides in conflicts between the poor and rich is elaborated masterfully ... Narveson and Sterba are to be praised for ... developing two comprehensive and important answers to the questions it raises.' Nils Holtug, Mind

Book Description

Are the political ideals of liberty and equality compatible? This question is of central and continuing importance in political philosophy, moral philosophy, and welfare economics. In this book, two distinguished philosophers, Jan Narveson and James P. Sterba, take up the debate.
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Product Details

  • Series: For and Against
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (June 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521883822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521883825
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,043,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a book co-authored by moral philosophers Jan Narveson and James Sterba. Both have interacted with each other on this and other issues for quite some time, so both know each other's positions quite well. This is fortunate because while each spends about 100 pages making their opening arguments (which already respond to to the other author's past arguments on the issue), each author only spends about 20 pages on 'rebuttal,' making the debate a bit less interactive than might have been productive.

Sterba is up first. For all the libertarians in the house, Sterba is a very respectful opponent who (and this is rare) really understands and takes seriously the libertarian position. He starts not by suggesting that negative liberty is wrong and equality preferable, but that negative liberty of the kind libertarians want DEMANDS substantive equality. (I can hear many libertarian voices right now saying a sharp "Wha...?") To Sterba, allowing the rich and poor negative liberty puts an unfair burden on the poor but not the rich: the rich can get their basic needs met and then some, while the poor are disbarred from getting their basic needs met. If they can't find a job or find any "acceptable" way of getting these needs met, their only option is to starve or take from others: and using an "'ought' implies 'can' principle," Sterba says that it would be an infringement on the poor's negative liberty to stop them from taking for their basic needs from the rich.
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