Kant and Classical Liberalism: Friends or Foes?

CHRIS W. SURPRENANT

JOURNAL OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, Volume 31, No. 3

Abstract: This paper explicates and defends Immanuel Kant’s claims that respect for individual freedom justifies taxation to support the poor only to the extent that individuals receiving assistance are brought up to the level of subsistence and nothing more. I show that the promotion of individual autonomy lies at the center of Kant’s moral theory and that his political philosophy aims to establish and secure the external conditions that make individual freedom possible. Although Kant argues that one way of securing these external conditions legitimately is through coercion, he also claims that coercion is justified only in the limited cases where it is used to hinder hindrances to freedom.