Repository: University of Cape Town: OpenUCT
Bibliography: p.191-197. ; This dissertation adopts as its starting point the beliefs that moral truths can be known and that political philosophy is a branch of ethics. The author identifies three variants of libertarianism on the basis of their different treatments of the right to private property, which all three consider to be the cornerstone of political libertarianism. The author evaluates the arguments of Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, John Hospers and Ayn Rand for the moral foundations of libertarianism and finds them to be methodologically inadequate. None is able to furnish libertarianism with the moral foundations it requires. Following the example of Jan Narveson in his recent defence of the libertarian idea, the author adopts as the correct metaphysic of morality the method of hypothetical contract. The contractarian method is capable of determining both the nature and the extent of moral obligation. From application of the method of hypothetical contract, the author concurs with the above-mentioned authors that morality is a system of rights and duties, i.e. deontological in character, and that persons are indeed bearers of moral, non-conventional rights. One of these rights is the negative right to equal social liberty. The author differs, however, in finding that contractarianism favours also a positive right to basic, standard welfare. Recognition of this latter right commits the author to a form of moderate or Lockean libertarianism that endorses the in-principle justice of coercive redistribution to meet persons' basic welfare. Consequently, the orthodox libertarianism advocated by Nozick, Rothbard, Hospers, Rand and Narveson which recognises only negative moral rights is rejected by the author. All of the libertarians cited accept in one form or another John Locke's labour theory of appropriation. However, the author eschews the standard reading of Locke they are wedded to. The standard reading premises the labour theory on a person's ownership of himself. This reading is rejected on the grounds that the idea of self-ownership is insufficiently determinate to act as a sure basis for establishing property rights in things one has mixed one's labour with. A reconstructed defence of the moral right to private property through labouring which avoids this difficulty is given. That defence is premised not on self-ownership but on the right to equal social liberty. Save for the requirement to meet basic welfare there are no limits to the extent of acquisition. The author argues that, despite his avowals to the contrary, Nozick in fact endorses a positive right to welfare, and that this positive right is one that is co-extensive with the right to basic welfare established by the method of hypothetical contract. Two arguments are given. The first argument draws on Nozick's Lockean proviso that an act of appropriation not worsen the position of others. The second is based upon the application to an envisaged society of libertarian-rights bearers of Nozick's clause that permits the violation of rights in order to avoid catastrophic moral horror. This latter argument the author believes to be successful against any libertarianism that is wedded to absolute property rights. Redistribution to meet the demands of basic welfare necessitates taxation. Taxation is to be levied proportionately and not progressively, and is to be coupled with a system of private social insurance. None of the three variants of libertarianism identified, and which the author maintains sustain redistribution as a matter of justice, is ostensibly committed to redistribution more extensive than required to meet persons' basic welfare~ Ernest Loevinsohn's argument to the effect that libertarians are - by the very principle they defend as libertarians - committed to more far-reaching welfare and redistribution is examined and rejected. Because Loevinsohn's argument is directed against a consequentialist defence of libertarianism and not a deontological version it is misplaced. Furthermore, it fails to establish the conclusion Loevinsohn supposes it.