About Your Host

Education

Oberlin College, B.A. 1975
Georgetown University Law School, J.D. cum laude 1980
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, MSFS, 1980 (Joint Degree Program)
Columbia University School of Business, MBA, 1986

Professional and Otherwise

I am a retired attorney whose twenty years of practice encompassed a variety of legal specialties and practice areas. These included commercial litigation; negotiating and papering transactions for corporate clients at a major law firm; acting as regional counsel to Mitsui (U.S.A.), the subsidiary of a gigantic Japanese trading company; and serving as the general counsel of Core-Vent Bioengineering, one of the nation’s leading dental implant manufacturers. I now live in the Seattle area with my wonderful wife and our two young children.

Freed from the legal profession at the start of this century, and prompted by an evolution in my own thinking regarding the legitimate role of the state, I delved into the literature of political theory. In the course of this research I re-read and carefully analyzed Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which I had first encountered in law school. While I was attracted at this point by the moral clarity of his views, especially his insistence on the paramount value of individual autonomy and its implications, it became apparent that  he had few defenders in the academy.  I resolved to investigate whether this was due to irredeemable flaws in his core principles, or other causes.

In my judgment, his lack of academic disciples is attributable not to the existence of decisive arguments against natural rights or the other key elements of his libertarianism, but simply that these ideas are unfashionable among our intelligentsia. I concluded that in most instances, there are convincing responses to the objections voiced against his views. However, in certain places, particularly his defense of the minimal state, his reasoning has rightly been rejected.   Accordingly, I thought it worthwhile to write Nozick’s Libertarian Project (Bloomsbury, 2011), which attempts to reinvigorate Nozick’s natural rights strategy by answering his critics, and where appropriate offering new arguments for his basic principles.

I also felt it necessary to discuss certain issues that Nozick identified but elected not to address in detail, such as the circumstances under which side constraints should be relaxed in the face of momentous consequentialist considerations. It would, of course, have been far preferable for Nozick to have undertaken this task himself, but he died prematurely in 2002 having never returned to political philosophy in any substantive way. In the master’s absence, I have drawn on the insights of a number of other political theorists, of both the libertarian and non-libertarian persuasion. It is my hope that, properly understood, the individualist perspective will have wide appeal.

Recently, I completed a follow-on project, Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World, that sets forth the natural rights theory defended in Nozick’s Libertarian Project in a less formal way, and critiques the laws and institutions of our interventionist state from this perspective. This analysis shows that the vast bulk of our state’s activities are morally indefensible.