Liberty Review

A Project of Liberty Fund

Legal Punishment of Immorality: Once More into the Breach


Abstract: Gerald Dworkin’s overlooked defense of legal moralism attempts to undermine the traditional liberal case for a principled distinction between behavior that is immoral and criminal and behavior that is immoral but not criminal. According to Dworkin, his argument for legal moralism “depends upon a plausible idea of what making moral judgments involves.” The idea Dworkin has in mind here is a metaethical principle that many have connected to morality/reasons internalism. I agree with Dworkin that this is a plausible principle, but I argue that some of the best reasons for accepting it actually work against his enforcement thesis. I propose a principled distinction between the immoral-and-criminal and the immoral-but-not-criminal, and argue that a principle at least very much like it must be correct if the metaethical principle Dworkin avows is correct.

Filed under: Law, Philosophy

Motivational Limitations on the Demands of Justice


Abstract: Do motivational limitations due to human nature constrain the demands of justice? Among those who say no, David Estlund offers perhaps the most compelling argument. Taking Estlund’s analysis of ‘ability’ as a starting point, I show that motivational deficiencies can constrain the demands of justice under at least one common circumstance – that the motivationally deficient agent makes a good faith effort to overcome her deficiency. In fact, my argument implies something stronger; namely, that the demands of justice are constrained by what people are sufficiently likely to be motivated to do. Thus, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, it is the business of ideal theory – not just nonideal theory – to work with the motivational capacities people are likely enough to have.

Filed under: Philosophy

Investing in Stability: Economic Interdependence, Coups D’état, and the Capitalist Peace

JOURNAL OF PEACE RESEARCH 53.4 (2016): 525-538

Abstract: The capitalist peace thesis argues transnational economic ties have a pacifying effect on interstate relations. An extension of this literature reports that economic ties can prompt belligerents in civil conflicts to peacefully resolve their disputes and can attract third-party intervention from states with strong economic ties. This pacifying effect of economic ties, we argue, is applicable in the context of coups d’état: as a state becomes more economically interdependent with the rest of the world, the opportunity costs of domestic political disturbances are raised for both the targeted state and its financial partners. These costs – potential economic losses and a damaged economic reputation – influence belligerents in the state to use constitutional means to resolve their disputes while providing stronger incentives to foreign economic partners to influence the calculus of these belligerents as they consider the coup attempt. We test this argument quantitatively by investigating the influence of a dozen indicators of economic openness on coups in a global sample of states from 1952 to 2007.

Filed under: Economics, Politics

Two Concepts of Religious Liberty: The Natural Rights and Moral Autonomy Approaches to the Free Exercise of Religion


Abstract: Due in part to the influence of Michael McConnell, free exercise exemptionism is generally thought to be compatible with, if not dictated by, the founders’ church-state political philosophy. This article rejects that position, arguing instead that America’s constitutional tradition offers two distinct conceptions of religious liberty: the founders’ natural rights free exercise and modern moral autonomy exemptionism. The article aims to distinguish these two approaches by clarifying how they are grounded upon divergent philosophical understandings of human freedom and by explaining how they advance different views of what religious liberty is, how it is threatened, and, accordingly, how it is best protected. The article also attempts to demonstrate how our modern approach expands the protection for religious liberty in some ways but limits it in others.

Filed under: History, Law, Political Theory

Adam Smith on What Is Wrong with Economic Inequality


Abstract: This article explores Adam Smith’s attitude toward economic inequality, as distinct from the problem of poverty, and argues that he regarded it as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, as has often been recognized, Smith saw a high degree of economic inequality as an inevitable result of a flourishing commercial society, and he considered a certain amount of such inequality to be positively useful as a means of encouraging productivity and bolstering political stability. On the other hand, it has seldom been noticed that Smith also expressed deep worries about some of the other effects of extreme economic inequality—worries that are, moreover, interestingly different from those that dominate contemporary discourse. In Smith’s view, extreme economic inequality leads people to sympathize more fully and readily with the rich than the poor, and this distortion in our sympathies in turn undermines both morality and happiness.

Filed under: Economics, Philosophy, Political Theory, Politics

Recent Posts

Summaries Archive

About Liberty Review

Liberty Review summaries are selected by Liberty Fund Fellows on the basis both of their own research interests and of their relevance for Liberty Fund's mission: to contribute to the preservation and development of individual liberty through research and educational activities.

Liberty Matters

Our Books

Liberty Fund, Inc.

Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals. The Foundation develops, supervises, and finances its own educational activities.

Facebook Page