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LIBERTARIANISM AT TWIN HARVARD

  • Loren E. Lomasky (a1)
Abstract

In this essay Loren Lomasky wryly proposes that the views of Rawls and Nozick might not be as radically divergent as is conventionally supposed. To demonstrate this proposition, Lomasky invents “Twin Harvard” counterparts of Rawls and Nozick. The twist is that Twin Rawls turns out to be a leading libertarian theorist while Twin Nozick endorses a regime of sweeping redistribution. In each case the position follows from familiar elements in the theories of their respective, real-world counterparts. Lomasky concludes that Twin Rawls actually makes better use of familiar Rawlsian themes-such as the veil of ignorance, strains of commitment, and the priority of liberty-than does Rawls himself. Moreover, Rawls's own attempts at combating libertarianism are seen to be weak, sometimes embarrassingly so. Libertarianism is a specter that he devoutly wishes to exorcize, but cannot. Conversely, the rejection of libertarianism by Twin Nozick (and Nozick?) is striking but shallow.

In this essay Loren Lomasky wryly proposes that the views of Rawls and Nozick might not be as radically divergent as is conventionally supposed. To demonstrate this proposition, Lomasky invents “Twin Harvard” counterparts of Rawls and Nozick. The twist is that Twin Rawls turns out to be a leading libertarian theorist while Twin Nozick endorses a regime of sweeping redistribution. In each case the position follows from familiar elements in the theories of their respective, real-world counterparts. Lomasky concludes that Twin Rawls actually makes better use of familiar Rawlsian themes-such as the veil of ignorance, strains of commitment, and the priority of liberty-than does Rawls himself. Moreover, Rawls's own attempts at combating libertarianism are seen to be weak, sometimes embarrassingly so. Libertarianism is a specter that he devoutly wishes to exorcize, but cannot. Conversely, the rejection of libertarianism by Twin Nozick (and Nozick?) is striking but shallow.

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A draft of this essay was prepared while I was enjoying a residential fellowship from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, in Canberra, Australia. I have benefited from discussions following talks at the Social and Political Theory program seminar at the Australian National University and the Harvard College Department of Government.
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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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