Following up on Rajiv’s well-reasoned and insightful discussion of “The Problem of Property,” I wanted to mention this excellent post by Kevin Vallier: “Social Justice vs. Self-Ownership: The Case of Libertarians Great and Small”. In it he employs a neat thought experiment to demonstrate why Social Justice Libertarianism is more plausible and legitimate than Self-Ownership Libertarianism.
At one point, he notes:
The social justice libertarian can go further and argue that the property claims of the Great are illegitimate. Their claims are illegitimate because the coercion required to maintain them cannot be justified to the Small given that their well-being is substantially set back by a lack of basic food and healthcare.
Vallier is invoking the Rawlsian approach to political justification, which holds that “if a set of political and economic institutions is to be just and legitimate, those must be justifiable to the citizens who are to live within them.” (Tomasi, xiv) As Tomasi notes, and as Vallier’s argument reveals, “this deliberative… approach is closely connected to a further idea: the idea of social, or distributive, justice.”
I just began Tomasi’s book, Free Market Fairness, where part of his project consists in combining the deliberative approach to political justification with the two central ideas of classical liberalism: “(1) capitalistic economic freedoms are vital aspects of liberty, (2) society as a spontaneous order.” I look forward to figuring out and commenting on precisely how he achieves such a synthesis, but I’m also interested in investigating how libertarians and classical liberals approach the problem of political justification with the goal of seeing how far they actually are from Rawls and other theorists of the “high liberal” tradition.