- Series: Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay
- Paperback: 351 pages
- Publisher: Liberty Fund Inc.; y First printing edition (August 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865979774
- ISBN-13: 978-0865979772
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,529,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Justice and Its Surroundings (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay) y First printing Edition
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"Social philosophers, of all varieties, will find their preconceptions challenged here. Anthony de Jasay does, indeed, look at justice and its surroundings 'through a different window.' And his totally original arguments prompt urges to respond, even as frustration is anticipated. Can any of the several conventional wisdoms survive the provocative criticism that this book offers?"
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Justice and Its Surroundings is an unusually rich, provocative, and wide-ranging work, to which a short review cannot do, well, justice.
Admirers of the state argue that various goals can be achieved only via the coercive power of government. To meet such arguments, libertarians must show either that the goals in question are not worth pursuing, because they are undesirable or impossible (the "icky-goal response"), or that however worthwhile the goals may be, state power is not necessary for achieving them (the "needless-means response").
In part 1, de Jasay offers a needless-means response to the claim that the state is necessary for the provision of social order. After explaining social order as a model of a prisoner's dilemma, arguing against the idea that the state must provide public goods, and exploring the claim that the state is a precondition of social order, de Jasay concludes that the problem with stateless social orders is not that they are inherently unworkable, but rather that "states stop them from emerging, and intrude upon them when they do emerge" (p. 15). It is difficult to know what moral the anarchists among us should draw from this conclusion. On the one hand, de Jasay brings us the cheery news that social order can be maintained without a state. On the other hand, he observes more gloomily that stateless social orders have not succeeded in holding their own against predatory states. Is protection against the state, then, one good that markets have trouble supplying? One would like to hear more from de Jasay about this apparent instance of market failure.
De Jasay devotes parts 2 through 4 to examining claims that state power is needed to provide redistributive justice. Here the icky-goal response predominates. Against the "to each according to (blank)" approach to justice popular among redistributionists, de Jasay defends the more traditional conception "to each his own." He is at his weakest, however, when advancing this position on moral grounds. Owing perhaps to his quaintly positivistic conviction that moral judgments are "neither true nor false" and so do not admit of "intersubjective validity" (p. 143), he has trouble taking seriously, and indeed has a tin ear for, the kinds of concerns that motivate egalitarian liberals. By contrast, he is at his strongest when showing that redistributionist proposals cannot achieve the goals their proponents claim to desire.
In part 5, de Jasay examines Amartya Sen's argument that the Pareto criterion clashes with libertarian values because it allows the voluntary transfer of liberties that are properly inalienable. De Jasay comes down on the side of Pareto, arguing that the (epistemologically grounded) presumption of liberty extends to the liberty to give up one's liberties. I found this section less persuasive. For inalienability theorists, the question is not whether one should be allowed to surrender certain liberties, but whether one even can.
Of necessity, my summary has passed over much valuable material in Justice and Its Surroundings (including a devastating critique of market socialism). Anyone with an interest in philosophy, economics, political theory, or rational-choice analysis will profit from close reading and long pondering of de Jasay's arguments.