Quantum Matrix Scribe

Couple of totally random political philosophy thoughts

March 20, 2013 | 3 Minute Read

So I wrote a post awhile back where I said that libertarians, conservatives, and the free market movement in general should be supportive of a universal basic income, probably via some sort of negative income tax. One of the reasons I was supportive of it was because that we can’t really take advantage of our negative rights–basic freedoms to do what we want, which libertarianism champions–if we’re homeless and starving.

Anyways, I was looking for a book a friend of mine recommended to me to add to one of Amazon’s wish lists–the one that will never be fulfilled because I will probably never order (and thus read) the books on there, but oh well–and I stumbled across Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl (the Doug & Doug show). What I found interesting was the book’s description. It’s a bit wordy, but you can safely focus on the bit in bold:

How can we establish a political/legal order that in principle does not require the human flourishing of any person or group to be given structured preference over that of any other? Addressing this question as the central problem of political philosophy, Norms of Liberty offers a new conceptual foundation for political liberalism that takes protecting liberty, understood in terms of individual negative rights, as the primary aim of the political/legal order. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for construing individual rights as metanormative principles, directly tied to politics, that are used to establish the political/ legal conditions under which full moral conduct can take place. These they distinguish from normative principles, used to provide guidance for moral conduct within the ambit of normative ethics. This crucial distinction allows them to develop liberalism as a metanormative theory, not a guide for moral conduct. The moral universe need not be minimized or morality grounded in sentiment or contracts to support liberalism, they show. Rather, liberalism can be supported, and many of its internal tensions avoided, with an ethical framework of Aristotelian inspiration-one that understands human flourishing to be an objective, inclusive, individualized, agent-relative, social, and self-directed activity.

So basically, if I get this right, the basic function of any political system is to protect one’s negative rights and individual liberty. Well, if you’re on the street, starving and homeless, with your negative rights being of no use to you…are they under attack?

That’s a very bad argument, I know. But I still think there is something there, something that my tired brain at just past midnight can’t articulate. I think there is something that can be a good justification for a universal basic income from a libertarian/classical liberal standpoint, and which I think will make the libertarian/classical liberal/neoclassical liberal argument that much more appealing to anyone who isn’t on the far left.

PS: The book I was looking for was Liberty and Nature: An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order, an attempt to kinda sorta merge deontological ethics with virtue ethics; or to defend a system of natural rights (or “side constraints”) within a wider system of virtue ethics. Yes, me and my friend get quite intellectual at times.