The Irrelevance of the Impossibility of Pure Libertarianism

JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 112.4 (2015): 211-222

Abstract: In “The Impossibility of Pure Libertarianism” Braham and van Hees prove that four conditions on rights—completeness, conclusiveness, non-imposition, and symmetry—cannot be satisfied simultaneously. If Braham and van Hees’s proof is to have any relevance, at least some prominent libertarians must endorse their four conditions, and libertarianism as a philosophical position must in some way be committed to all the axioms. In this paper we demonstrate the irrelevance of Braham and van Hees’s proof by showing that some of the most prominent libertarians do not endorse the completeness and conclusive conditions, and that there is nothing about libertarianism as a philosophical position that commits the libertarian to these two axioms. Indeed, we show that, more generally, there are strong reasons for libertarians to reject both conditions. As such, libertarians should not lose any sleep over Braham and van Hees’s proof.