Welcome

This site is devoted to advancing the rights-based political philosophy first articulated by John Locke and championed prominently in our day by the late Robert Nozick in his classic Anarchy, State, and Utopia [1974].  It will do so by explaining minimal state libertarianism in a way that is accessible to the intelligent general reader and by hosting a forum that will subject its key ideas to scrutiny and debate.

I make my own modest contribution to this cause in my book, Nozick’s Libertarian Project: An Elaboration and Defense (London: Continuum International, 2011). My second book on this subject, Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World: The Politics of Natural Rights, was just published by Bloomsbury Academic. For additional information about libertarianism, this site, my books, and your host, please follow the links to the left.

New on the Blog

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Libertarian Ideal

In a previous post on zoning, I wrote that:

one reason why libertarianism is such a hard sell is that we have no political experience with any set of institutional arrangements other than the nanny/regulatory/welfare state. Accordingly, it is difficult for voters to imagine how a polity built on laissez faire principles would address the various social problems that may arise in a modern society.

I go on to argue there that for a variety of reasons, including the continuing viability of the tort of nuisance, “there is no reason to believe that the repeal of zoning would have disastrous consequences. In fact, there are at least as good grounds for supposing that there would be net benefits.” However, since zoning has been the norm from the 1950s onward, most of us are unfamiliar with any other approach. Houston is now the lone major holdout.[1]

In my view this unfortunate ignorance regarding potential voluntary/free market solutions to social problems obstructs our political vision in many important areas of public policy. As described in Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World, these include protection against unsafe and dangerous products (chapter 5), “free banking” (chapter 6), poverty relief (chapter 7), public education (chapter 8), and health care (chapter 9). Accordingly, it may be useful to highlight one remaining and important private sector initiative that has not yet been regulated to death or displaced by the state. I am referring here to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs modeled after it. Continue Reading »

Coercion in Academic Publishing

One of the hallmarks of libertarianism is its antipathy to the coercion of innocent persons. Because the state enjoys a monopoly on force, libertarians uniformly hold that compulsion by its officials is by far the most dangerous threat because there is no realistic possibility of escape, other than exit. So, for example, if the state passes a law that prohibits you, a competent adult, from consuming certain substances or condemns your property in order to build a new sports stadium, there is nothing to be done.[i]

In contrast, coercion by private parties is generally less threatening, because there are almost always alternatives open to the victim. For example, in a capitalist economy an employer that requires his workers to join and attend his church would lose most of them to competitors who impose no such insulting and burdensome condition. While libertarians would generally oppose state intervention to regulate such a mandate, it would still be reprehensible.[ii]

Thus, even though libertarians typically reject the use of legislation to redress (non-violent, non-fraudulent) wrongdoing in the private sector, it is still worth calling it out. The purpose of this post is to explore whether academic publishing uses practices that are morally objectionable in this way. To set the stage, I will briefly describe the peer review process typically followed in academic publishing.  Continue Reading »