Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier

Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):447-477 (2015)
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Abstract
Recent methodological debates regarding the place of feasibility considerations in normative political theory are hindered for want of a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier. To address this shortfall, I present an analysis of feasibility that generalizes the economic concept of a production possibility frontier and then develop a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier using the familiar possible worlds technology. I then show that this model has significant methodological implications for political philosophy. On the Target View, a political ideal presents a long-term goal for morally progressive reform efforts and, thus, serves as an important reference point for our specification of normative political principles. I use the model to show that we can- not reasonably expect that adopting political ideals as long-term reform objectives will guide us toward the realization of morally optimal feasible states of affairs. I conclude by proposing that political philosophers turn their attention to the analysis of actual social failures rather than political ideals.
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2015
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
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