London School of Economics
Department of Philosophy and Department of Government
PhD, 1991
London, London, City of, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  •  3774
    The political compass (and why libertarianism is not right-wing)
    Journal of Social Philosophy 27 (2): 176-186. 1996.
    The political distinction between left and right remains ideologically muddled. This was not always so, but an immediate return to the pristine usage is impractical. Putting a theory of social liberty to one side, this essay defends the interpretation of left-wing as personal-choice and right-wing as property-choice. This allows an axis that is north/choice (or state-free) and south/control (or state-ruled). This Political Compass clarifies matters without being tendentious or too complicated. I…Read more
  •  589
    Peter Singer’s famous and influential article is criticised in three main ways that can be considered libertarian, although many non-libertarians could also accept them: 1) the relevant moral principle is more plausibly about upholding an implicit contract rather than globalising a moral intuition that had local evolutionary origins; 2) its principle of the immorality of not stopping bad things is paradoxical, as it overlooks the converse aspect that would be the positive morality of not startin…Read more
  •  468
    1. First there is an outline of the libertarian approach taken here. 2. On the assumption of personhood, it is explained how there need be no overall inflicted harm and no proactive killing with abortion and infanticide. This starts with an attached-adult analogy and transitions to dealing directly with the issues. Various well-known criticisms are answered throughout. 3. There is then a more-abstract explanation of how it is paradoxical to assume a duty to do more than avoid inflicting overall …Read more
  •  449
    To explain the correct libertarian approach to immigration, a thought-experiment posits a minimal-state libertarian UK and then the introduction of several relevant anti-libertarian policies with their increasingly disastrous effects. It is argued that the reverse of these imagined policies, as far as is politically possible, must be the correct way forward. This framing is intended to counter the tendency for many articles to misapply libertarian principles to the current messy situation on the…Read more
  •  386
    The general philosophical problem with most versions of social libertarianism and how this essay will proceed. The specific problem with liberty explained by a thought-experiment. The abstract (non-propertarian and non-normative) theory of interpersonal liberty-in-itself as ‘the absence of interpersonal proactively-imposed constraints on want-satisfaction’, for short ‘no (proactive) impositions’. The individualistic liberty-maximisation theory solves the problems of clashes, defences, and rectif…Read more
  •  351
    Under no circumstances should the absurd "right to roam‟ be incorporated into the legislation of this country. In reality, it is clearly a mere licence to trespass. Armed with the appropriate economic and philosophical arguments, we should eventually be able to offer an effective counter-attack with a movement for the "right to own‟ privately every last one of the state-controlled commons, heaths, hills, mountains, downs, woodlands, rivers, beaches, and footpaths. As a result, there will be no i…Read more
  •  239
    David Friedman posed a number of libertarian philosophical problems (Friedman 1989). This essay criticizes Walter Block’s Rothbardian responses (Block 2011) and compares them with J C Lester’s critical-rationalist, libertarian-theory responses (Lester [2000] 2012). The main issues are as follows. 1. Critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism. 2.1. How libertarianism is not inherently about law and is inherently about morals. 2.2. How liberty relates to property and can be maximiz…Read more
  •  222
    Apriorist self-interest: How it embraces altruism and is not vacuous
    Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 20 (3): 221-232. 1997.
    This essay is part of an attempt to reconcile two extreme views in economics: the (neglected) subjective, apriorist approach and the (standard) objective, scientific (i.e., falsifiable) approach. The Austrian subjective view of value, building on Carl Menger’s theory of value, was developed into a theory of economics as being entirely an a priori theory of action. This probably finds its most extreme statement in Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (1949). In contrast, the standard economic view has …Read more
  •  216
    The Disability Studies Industry
    In Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany, The University of Buckingham Press. pp. 83-94. 2016.
    This brief monograph was written in an attempt to discover the general situation of Disability Studies, given that this appears to have become a growth area in academia with various typically illiberal aspects. The findings bear out the initial impression. There is a style of argument, even propaganda (for there is usually little genuine engagement with opposing liberal views), that can be seen in many other areas of academia. It amounts to a relatively new ‘progressive’ industry with various fa…Read more
  •  208
    This is a response to “Libertarianism without Argument”. Various misunderstandings in that text are given replies. Both critical rationalism and how it applies to libertarianism are elucidated and elaborated.
  •  205
    Popper's epistemology versus Popper's politics: A libertarian viewpoint
    Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 18 (1): 87-93. 1995.
    What is my thesis? It is not that radical experimentation by the state, rather than liberal democracy, is more in accord with the spirit and logic of Popper’s ‘revolutionary’ epistemology. It is the opposite criticism, that full anarchic libertarianism (individual liberty and the free market without any state interference) better fits Popper’s epistemology and scientific method.
  •  196
    Andy Curzon replied (often quoting from the opening sections of Lester 2014, chapter 10) in an ongoing debate with Lee Waaks, which Mr Waaks forwarded (with approval) to the Libertarian Alliance Forum (27 February 2015). This response replies to the criticisms after directly quoting them (the indented text; except where Lester is occasionally quoted, as indicated). A few cuts have been made to avoid some repetition and irrelevance. However, just as Mr Curzon sometimes repeats his main points in …Read more
  •  184
    This is a response to Macleod 2012's argument that the history of unjust property acquisitions requires rich libertarians to give away everything in excess of equality. At first, problematic questions are raised. How much property is usually inherited or illegitimate? Why should legitimate inheritance be affected? What of the burden of proof and court cases? A counterfactual problem is addressed. Three important cases are considered: great earned wealth; American slavery; land usurpation. All ar…Read more
  •  182
    1) Introduction. 2) The key libertarian insight into property and orthodox libertarianism’s philosophical confusion. 3) Clearer distinctions for applying to what follows: abstract liberty; practical liberty; moral defences; and critical rationalism. 4) The two dominant (‘Lockean’ and ‘Hobbesian’) conceptions of interpersonal liberty. 5) A general account of libertarianism as a subset of classical liberalism and defended from a narrower view. 6) Two abstract (non-propertarian, non-normative) theo…Read more
  •  173
    Lester‘s reply to the review by Gordon and Modugno of Escape from Leviathan was due to appear in a later edition of the same periodical, but it was eventually dropped without notice or a reason being given. Subsequently, their review has occasionally been cited in isolation as a refutation of that book‘s theory of liberty, the compatibility of such liberty with welfare maximisation, and the use of "Popperian views" as though a complete reply did not exist and were not freely available and easi…Read more
  •  169
    This essay goes through Frederick 2015 (F15) in some detail, responding to the various paraphrases and criticisms therein. It is argued that in each case F15 is mistaken about what Lester 2012 (L12) says, or about what F15 presents as a sound criticism, or both. It is concluded that the philosophical theory of new-paradigm libertarianism that L12 (etc.) comprises has yet to be given adequate critical consideration, and that almost all libertarian texts still fall foul of the three fundamental er…Read more
  •  167
    Kymlicka on Libertarianism: A Critical Response
    Libertarian Papers 4 (2): 31-52. 2012.
    This essay examines sections relevant to libertarianism in Will Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.), making and explaining the following criticisms. Kymlicka’s “preface” misconstrues political philosophy’s progress, purpose, and its relation to libertarianism. In his “introduction”, his “project” mistakes libertarianism as “right-wing”, justice as compromise among “existing theories”, and equality as the “ultimate value.” His “a note on method” in effect takes…Read more
  •  165
    It is an irony to attack a more sceptical epistemology than one's own in the name of scepticism and defend, instead, an epistemology that is positively illogical. And yet that is what Martin Gardner has done in his “A Skeptical Look at Karl Popper.”
  •  163
    Libertarianism—and classical liberalism generally—presupposes (or entails) a specific, but implicit, conception of liberty. Imagine two lists of property-rights: one list is all those that are libertarian; the other list is all those that are not. What determines into which list a property-right is assigned? If libertarianism is really about liberty, then the determining factor must be whether the property-right fits what liberty is in a more abstract sense. It greatly clarifies matters to have …Read more
  •  153
    Libertarian Rectification: Restitution, Retribution, and the Risk-Multiplier
    Journal of Value Inquiry 34 (2/3): 287-297. 2000.
    Libertarians typically object to having the state deal with law and order for several general reasons: it is inefficient; it is carried out at the expense of taxpayers; and it punishes so-called victimless crimes. Exactly what the observance of liberty implies with respect to the treatment of tortfeasors and criminals is more controversial among libertarians. A pure theory of libertarian restitution and retribution is mainly what is attempted here, without becoming involved in general moral anti…Read more
  •  152
    This essay is intended to be a refutation of the main thesis in Against Intellectual Property, Kinsella 2008 (hereafter, K8). Points of agreement, relatively trivial disagreement, and irrelevant issues will largely be ignored, as will much repetition of errors in K8. Otherwise, the procedure is to go through K8 quoting various significantly erroneous parts as they arise and explaining the errors involved. It will not be necessary to respond at the same length as K8 itself.
  •  132
    This essay explains Jeffrey Friedman's two fundamental and persistent philosophical errors concerning the libertarian conception of liberty and the lack of a "justification‟ of libertarianism. It is ironic that Friedman himself is thereby revealed to be guilty of both an “a priori” anti-libertarianism and an anti-libertarian “straddle.” Critical-rationalist, proactive-imposition-minimising libertarianism remains completely unchallenged by him.
  •  129
    Frederick 2013 (F13) offers criticisms of the Lester 2012 (L12) theory of libertarian liberty and of its compatibility with preference-utilitarian welfare and private-property anarchy. This reply to F13 first explains the underlying philosophical problem with libertarian liberty and L12’s solution. It then goes through F13 in detail showing that it does not grasp the problem or the solution and offers only misrepresentations and unsound criticisms.
  •  119
    As someone who wishes Escape from Leviathan (EfL) to succeed, I am grateful for a review with such high praise from a well-known classical liberal. As a critical rationalist who also wishes to learn from his mistakes, I am also grateful for Norman Barry’s criticisms. The only way that I can hope to try to repay these and appreciate their full force is by doing my best to reply to them.
  •  119
    Despite receiving high praise from Professors Barry, Narveson, Flew, and Gray (see the first page of the paperback), the review puts the level of Escape from Leviathan (EFL) as “undergraduate” and rates it one star.1 While undergraduates may profit from reading EFL, it is not mainly at their level. The review either applies unusually high standards of philosophical argumentation or is simply philosophically perplexed. .
  •  114
    Most self-identified libertarians unwittingly have a moral muddle without a central factual theory of liberty. They cannot yet see that they first need to sort out what liberty is, and therefore entails if instantiated, and only after that can moral questions about it be coherently raised and tackled.
  •  114
    I thank Professor Otteson for his review of Escape from Leviathan (EFL). His exposition of what I wrote is relatively accurate. I shall here do my best to correct any misunderstandings and reply to his welcome criticisms, ignoring our various points of agreement and his generous praise.
  •  105
    Applying critical rationalism, all criticism is to be welcomed. A serious response can help to elucidate matters even when the criticisms are poor, misconceived, and hostile. Thus, we turn to the review.
  •  104
    (Revised 31-10-17) This is only one view on the topic; other views may be rather different. It starts at the more philosophical end and then becomes more empirical, and possibly easier to understand, as it proceeds.
  •  102
    This replies to Block 2019 (B19), which responds to Lester 2014 (L14). The main issues in the, varyingly sized, sections are as follows. 1 Further explanations of critical rationalism, the theory of liberty, and problems with the non-aggression principle. 2.1 The relationships among law, morality, and libertarianism. 2.2 The objective invasiveness of low-level radiation and that it is therefore a proactive imposition (albeit trivial) if someone inflicts it on non-consenting people. 2.3 The objec…Read more