How Abstract Liberty Relates to Private Property: a One-Page Outline


Libertarianism—and classical liberalism generally—entails (or presupposes) a specific, but implicit, conception of liberty. Imagine two lists of property-rights: one list is all those that currently appear to be libertarian (self-ownership, property acquired by use of natural resources, property acquired by consensual exchange, etc.); the other list is all those that currently appear not to be libertarian (aggressively imposed slavery, property acquired by theft or fraud, property acquired by coerced transfers due to welfare claims, etc.). What determines into which list a property-right is to be assigned? If libertarianism is really about liberty, then the determining factor must be whether the property-right somehow fits what liberty is in a more abstract sense than property. It greatly clarifies matters to have an explicit theory of this entailed conception of abstract liberty and how it relates to its practical application and to morality.

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J. C. Lester
London School of Economics


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