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When we finished last time,
we were looking at John Stuart Mill's
attempt to reply to the critics of Bentham's utilitarianism.
In his book utilitarianism, Mill tries to show that critics
to the contrary it is possible within the utilitarian framework
to distinguish between higher and lower pleasures.
It is possible to make qualitative distinctions of worth and we tested
that idea with the Simpsons and the Shakespeare excerpts.
And the results of our experiment seem to call into question
Mill's distinction because a great many of you reported that you prefer
the Simpsons but that you still consider Shakespeare to be
the higher or the worthier pleasure.
That's the dilemma with which our experiment confronts Mill.
What about Mill's attempt to account for the especially weighty character
of individual rights and justice in chapter five of utilitarianism.
He wants to say that individual rights are worthy of special respect.
In fact, he goes so far as to say that justice is
the most sacred part and the most incomparably binding part
of morality.
But the same challenge could be put to this part of Mill's defense.
Why is justice the chief part and the most binding part of our morality?
Well, he says because in the long run,
if we do justice and if we respect rights,
society as a whole will be better off in the long run.
Well, what about that?
What if we have a case where making an exception and
violating individual rights actually will make people better off
in the long run?
Is it all right then to use people?
And there is a further objection that could be raised
against Mill's case for justice and rights.
Suppose the utilitarian calculus in the long run
works out as he says it will such that respecting people's rights
is a way of making everybody better off in the long run.
Is that the right reason?
Is that the only reason to respect people?
If the doctor goes in and yanks the organs from
the healthy patient who came in for a checkup
to save five lives,
there would be adverse effects in the long run.
Eventually, people would learn about this and
would stop going in for checkups.
Is it the right reason?
Is the only reason that you as a doctor won't yank the organs
out of the healthy patient that you think, well,
if I use him in this way, in the long run more lives would be lost?
Or is there another reason having to do with intrinsic respect
for the person as an individual?
And if that reason matters and it's not so clear
that even Mill's utilitarianism can take account of it,
fully to examine these two worries or objections,
to Mill's defense we need to push further.
And we need to ask in the case of higher or worthier pleasures
are there theories of the good life that can provide
independent moral standards for the worth of pleasure?
If so, what do they look like? That's one question.
In the case of justice and rights, if we suspect that Mill
is implicitly leaning on notions of human dignity
or respect for person that are not strictly speaking utilitarian,
we need to look to see whether there are some stronger theories
of rights that can explain the intuition which even Mill shares,
the intuition that the reason for respecting individuals
and not using them goes beyond even utility in the long run.
Today, we turn to one of those strong theories of rights.
Strong theories of right say individuals matter not just as
instruments to be used for a larger social purpose
or for the sake of maximizing utility,
individuals are separate beings with separate lives worthy of respect.
And so it's a mistake, according to strong theories
of rights, it's a mistake to think about justice
or law by just adding up preferences and values.
The strong rights theory we turn to today is
libertarianism.
Libertarianism takes individual rights seriously.
It's called libertarianism because it says
the fundamental individual right is the right to liberty
precisely because we are separate individual beings.
We're not available to any use that the society
might desire or devise precisely because we are
individual separate human beings.
We have a fundamental right to liberty,
and that means a right to choose freely,
to live our lives as we please
provided we respect other people's rights to do the same.
That's the fundamental idea.
Robert Nozick, one of the libertarian philosophers
we read for this course, puts it this way:
Individuals have rights.
So strong and far reaching are these rights that they
raise the question of what, if anything, the state may do.
So what does libertarianism say about the role of government
or of the state?
Well, there are three things that most modern states do
that on the libertarian theory of rights are
illegitimate or unjust.
One of them is paternalist legislation.
That's passing laws that protect people from themselves,
seatbelt laws, for example, or motorcycle helmet laws.
The libertarian says it may be a good thing
if people wear seatbelts
but that should be up to them and the state,
the government, has no business coercing them,
us, to wear seatbelts by law.
It's coercion, so no paternalist legislation, number one.
Number two, no morals legislation.
Many laws try to promote the virtue of citizens
or try to give expression to the moral values of the society as a whole.
Libertarian say that's also a violation of the right to liberty.
Take the example of, well, a classic example
of legislation authored in the name of promoting morality
traditionally have been laws that prevent sexual intimacy
between gays and lesbians.
The libertarian says nobody else is harmed,
nobody else's rights are violated,
so the state should get out of the business entirely of
trying to promote virtue or to enact morals legislation.
And the third kind of law or policy that is ruled out
on the libertarian philosophy is any taxation or other policy
that serves the purpose of redistributing income or wealth
from the rich to the poor.
Redistribution is a... if you think about it,
says the libertarian is a kind of coercion.
What it amounts to is theft by the state or by the majority,
if we're talking about a democracy, from people who happen to
do very well and earn a lot of money.
Now, Nozick and other libertarians allow that there can be
a minimal state that taxes people for the sake of what everybody needs,
the national defense, police force,
judicial system to enforce contracts and property rights,
but that's it.
Now, I want to get your reactions to this third feature
of the libertarian view.
I want to see who among you agree with that idea and who disagree and why.
But just to make it concrete and to see what's at stake,
consider the distribution of wealth in the United States.
United States is among the most inegalitarian society as far as
the distribution of wealth of all the advanced democracies.
Now, is this just or unjust?
Well, what does the libertarian say?
Libertarian says you can't know just from the facts I've just given you.
You can't know whether that distribution is just or unjust.
You can't know just by looking at a pattern or a distribution or
result whether it's just or unjust.
You have to know how it came to be.
You can't just look at the end stage or the result.
You have to look at two principles.
The first he calls justice in acquisition or in initial holdings.
And what that means simply is did people get the things they used
to make their money fairly?
So we need to know was there justice in the initial holdings?
Did they steal the land or the factory or the goods
that enabled them to make all that money?
If not, if they were entitled to whatever it was
that enabled them to gather the wealth,
the first principle is matched.
The second principle is did the distribution arise from
the operation of free consent, people buying and trading
on the market?
As you can see, the libertarian idea of justice corresponds to
a free market conception of justice provided people got what they used
fairly, didn't steal it, and provided the distribution results
from the free choice of individual's buying and selling things,
the distribution is just.
And if not, it's unjust.
So let's, in order to fix ideas for this discussion,
take an actual example.
Who's the wealthiest person in the United States...
wealthiest person in the world? Bill Gates.
It is. That's right. Here he is.
You'd be happy, too.
Now, what's his net worth? Anybody have any idea?
That's a big number.
During the Clinton years, remember there was a controversy donors?
Big campaign contributors were invited to stay overnight
in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House?
I think if you've contributed twenty five thousand dollars or above,
someone figured out at the median contribution that got you invited
to stay a night in the Lincoln bedroom,
Bill Gates could afford to stay in the Lincoln bedroom every night
for the next sixty six thousand years.
Somebody else figured out, how much does he get paid on an hourly basis?
And so they figured out, since he began Microsoft,
I suppose he worked, what 14 hours per day, reasonable guess,
and you calculate this net wealth, it turns out that his rate of pay
is over 150 dollars, not per hour, not per minute
150 dollars, more than 150 dollars per second
which means that if on his way to the office,
Gates noticed a hundred dollar bill on the street,
it wouldn't be worth his time to stop and pick it up.
Now, most of you will say someone that wealthy surely we can tax them
to meet the pressing needs of people who lack in education or lack enough
to eat or lack decent housing.
They need it more than he does.
And if you were a utilitarian, what would you do?
What tax policy would you have?
You'd redistribute in a flash, wouldn't you?
Because you would know being a good utilitarian that taking some,
a small amount, he'd scarcely going to notice it,
but it will make a huge improvement in the lives and in the welfare
of those at the bottom.
But remember, the libertarian theory says we can't just add up an
aggregate preferences and satisfactions that way.
We have to respect persons and if he earned that money fairly without
violating anybody else's rights in accordance with the two principles
of justice in acquisition and in justice in transfer,
then it would be wrong, it would be a form of coercion to take it away.
Michael Jordan is not as wealthy as Bill Gates but he did
pretty well for himself.
You wanna see Michael Jordan. There he is.
His income alone in one year was 31 million dollars and then
he made another 47 million dollars in endorsements for a Nike
and other companies.
So his income was, in one year, $78 million.
To require him to pay, let's say, a third of his earnings to
the government to support good causes like food and health care and
housing and education for the poor, that's coercion, that's unjust.
That violates his rights.
And that's why redistribution is wrong.
Now, how many agree with that argument, agree with the libertarian argument
that redistribution for the sake of trying to help the poor is wrong?
And how many disagree with that argument?
All right, let's begin with those who disagree.
What's wrong with the libertarian case against redistribution?
Yes.
I think these people like Michael Jordan have received
we're talking about working within a society and they receive
a larger gift from the society and they have a larger obligation
in return to give that through redistribution, you know,
you can say that Michael Jordan may work just as hard as some who works,
you know, doing laundry 12 hours, 14 hours a day, but he's receiving more.
I don't think it's fair to say that, you know, it's all on him,
on his, you know, inherent, you know, hard work.
All right, let's hear from defenders of libertarianism.
Why would it be wrong in principle to tax the rich to help the poor?
Go ahead.
My name is Joe and I collect skateboards.
I've since bought a hundred skateboards.
I live in a society of a hundred people.
I'm the only one with skateboards.
Suddenly, everyone decides they want a skateboard.
They come to my house, they take my
they take 99 of my skateboards.
I think that is unjust.
Now, I think in certain circumstances it becomes necessary
to overlook that unjustness, perhaps condone that injustice
as in the case of the cabin boy being killed for food.
If people are on the verge of dying, perhaps it is necessary to
overlook that injustice, but I think it's important
to keep in mind that we're still committing injustice
by taking people's belongings or assets.
Are you saying that taxing Michael Jordan, say,
at a 33 percent tax rate for good causes to feed the hungry is theft?
I think it's unjust.
Yes, I do believe it's theft but perhaps it is necessary to condone that theft.
But it's theft.
Yes.
Why is it theft, Joe?
Because...
Why is it like your collection of skateboards?
It's theft because, or at least, in my opinion and by
the libertarian opinion he earned that money fairly and it belongs to him.
So to take it from him is by definition theft.
All right. Let's hear if there is... em
Who wants to reply to Joe? Yes, go ahead.
I don't think this is necessarily a case in which you have 99 skateboards
and the government...
or you have a hundred skateboards and the government is taking 99 of them.
It's like you have more skateboards than there are days in a year.
You have more skateboards that you're going to be able to use
in your entire lifetime and the government is taking part of those.
And I think that if you are operating in a society in which
the government's not... in which the government doesn't
redistribute wealth, then that allows for people to amass
so much wealth that people who haven't started from this very
the equal footing in our hypothetical situation, that doesn't exist
in our real society get undercut for the rest of their lives.
So you're worried that if there isn't some degree of redistribution
of some or left at the bottom, there will be no genuine
equality of opportunity.
All right, the idea that taxation is theft,
Nozick takes that point one step further.
He agrees that it's theft. He's more demanding than Joe.
Joe says it is theft, maybe in an extreme case it's justified,
maybe a parent is justified in stealing a loaf of bread to feed his
or her hungry family.
So Joe I would say, what would you call yourself,
a compassionate quasi-libertarian?
Nozick says, if you think about it,
taxation amounts to the taking of earnings.
In other words, it means taking the fruits of my labor.
But if the state has the right to take my earning or the fruits of my labor,
isn't that morally the same as according to the state the right
to claim a portion of my labor?
So taxation actually is morally equivalent to forced labor
because forced labor involves the taking of my leisure, my time,
my efforts, just as taxation takes the earnings that I make with my labor.
And so, for Nozick and for the libertarians,
taxation for redistribution is theft, as Joe says, but not only theft is
morally equivalent to laying claim to certain hours of a person's
life and labor, so it's morally equivalent to forced labor.
If the state has a right to claim the fruits of my labor,
that implies that it really has an entitlement to my labor itself.
And what is forced labor?
Forced labor, Nozick points out, is what, is slavery,
because if I don't have the right, the sole right to my own labor,
then that's really to say that the government or the
political community is a part owner in me.
And what does it mean for the state to be a part owner in me?
If you think about it, it means that I'm a slave,
that I don't own myself.
So what this line of reasoning brings us to is the fundamental principle
that underlies the libertarian case for rights.
What is that principle?
It's the idea that I own myself.
It's the idea of self possession if you want to take right seriously.
If you don't want to just regard people as collections of preferences,
the fundamental moral idea to which you will be lead is the idea
that we are the owners or the propietors of our own person,
and that's why utilitarianism goes wrong.
And that's why it's wrong to yank the organs from that healthy patient.
You're acting as if that patient belongs to you or to the community.
But we belong to ourselves.
And that's the same reason that it's wrong to make laws
to protect us from ourselves or to tell us how to live,
to tell us what virtues we should be governed by,
and that's also why it's wrong to tax the rich to help the poor
even for good causes, even to help those
who are displaced by the Hurricane Katrina.
Ask them to give charity.
But if you tax them, it's like forcing them to labor.
Could you tell Michael Jordan he has to skip the next week's games
and go down to help the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina?
Morally, it's the same.
So the stakes are very high.
So far we've heard some objections to the libertarian argument.
But if you want to reject it, you have to break in to
this chain of reasoning which goes, taking my earnings
is like taking my labor, but taking my labor
is making me a slave.
And if you disagree with that, you must believe in
the principle of self possession.
Those who disagree, gather your objections
and we'll begin with them next time.
Anyone like to take up that point? Yes.
I feel like when you live in a society, you'd give up that right.
I mean, technically, if I want to personally go out and kill someone
Because I live in a society, I cannot do that.
Victoria, are you questioning the fundamental premise of self possession?
Yes. I think that you don't really have self possession
if you choose to live in a society because you cannot just discount
the people around you.
We were talking last time about libertarianism.
I want to go back to the arguments for and against
the redistribution of income.
But before we do that, just one word about the minimal state,
Milton Friedman, the libertarian economist,
he points out that many of the functions that
we take for granted as properly belonging to government don't.
They are paternalist.
One example he gives is social security.
He says it's a good idea for people to save for their retirement
during their earning years but it's wrong.
It's a violation of people's liberty for the government to force everyone
whether they want to or not to put aside some earnings today
for the sake of their retirement.
If people want to take the chance or if people want to live big today
and live a poor retirement, that should be their choice.
They should be free to make those judgments and take those risks.
So even social security would still be at odds with the minimal state
that Milton Friedman argued for.
It sometimes thought that collective goods like police protection
and fire protection will inevitably create the problem of free riders
unless they're publicly provided.
But there are ways to prevent free riders.
There are ways to restrict even seemingly collective goods
like fire protection.
I read an article a while back about a private fire company,
the Salem Fire Corporation, in Arkansas.
You can sign up with the Salem Fire Corporation,
pay a yearly subscription fee, and if your house catches on fire,
they will come and put out the fire.
But they won't put out everybody's fire.
They will only put it out if it's a fire in the home
of a subscriber or if it starts to spread and to threaten
the home of a subscriber.
The newspaper article just told the story of a home owner
who had subscribed to this company in the past but failed
to renew his subscription.
His house caught on fire.
The Salem Fire Corporation showed up with its trucks
and watched the house burn,
just making sure that it didn't spread.
The fire chief was asked, well, he wasn't exactly the fire chief.
I guess he was the CEO.
He was asked how can you stand by with fire equipment and allow
a person's home to burn?
He replied, once we verified there was no danger to a member's property,
we had no choice but to back off according to our rules.
If we responded to all fires, he said, there would be no incentive
to subscribe.
The homeowner in this case tried to renew his subscription
at the scene of the fire.
But the head of the company refused.
You can't wreck your car, he said, and then buy insurance for it later.
So even public goods that we take for granted
that's being within the proper province of government
can many of them in principle be isolated,
made exclusive to those who pay.
That's all to do with the question of collective goods
and the libertarians injunction against paternalism.
But let's go back now to the arguments about redistribution.
Now, underlying the libertarian's case for the minimal state
is a worry about coercion, but what's wrong with coercion?
The libertarian offers this answer:
To coerce someone, to use some person for the sake of the general welfare
is wrong because it calls into question the fundamental fact that we own ourselves
the fundamental moral fact of self possession or self ownership.
The libertarian's argument against redistribution begins with
this fundamental idea that we own ourselves.
Nozick says that if the society as a whole can go to Bill Gates
or go to Michael Jordan and tax away a portion of their wealth,
what the society is really asserting is a collective property right
in Bill Gates or in Michael Jordan.
But that violates the fundamental principle that we belong to ourselves.
Now, we've already heard a number of objections to the libertarian argument.
What I would like to do today is to give the libertarians among us
a chance to answer the objections that have been raised and some have been
some have already identified themselves and have agreed to come and make
the case for libertarianism to reply to the objections
that have been raised.
So raise your hand if you are among the libertarians
who's prepared to stand up for the theory and respond to the objections.
You are?
Alex Harris.
Alex Harris, who's been a star on the web blog.
All right, Alex, come here.
Stand up. Come.
We'll create a libertarian corner over here.
And who else?
Other libertarians who will join. What's your name?
- John. - John?
- Sheffield. - John Sheffield.
Who else wants to join?
Other brave libertarians who are prepared to take on
- Yes, what's your name? - Julia Rotto.
Julia Rotto. Julia, come join us over there.
Now, while the... while team libertarian
Julie, John, Alex.
While team libertarian is gathering over there,
let me just summarize the main objections that I've heard
in class and on the website.
Objection number one... and here I'll come down to...
I wanna talk to team libertarian over here.
So objection number one is that the poor need the money more.
That's an obvious objection, a lot more than... thanks...
than do Bill Gates and Michael Jordan.
Objection number two, it's not really slavery to tax because
at least in a democratic society it's not a slave holder.
It's congress. It's a democratic...
you're smiling, Alex, already.
You're confident you can reply to all of these?
So taxation by consent of the governed is not coercive.
Third, some people have said don't the successful like Gates
owe a debt to society for their success that they repay by paying taxes.
Who wants to respond to the first one,
the poor need the money more?
- All right, and you're? - John.
John. All right, John, what's the... here I'll hold it.
All right. The poor need the money more.
That's quite obvious. I could use the money.
You know, I certainly wouldn't mind if Bill Gates give
me a million dollars.
I mean, I'd take a thousand.
But at some point you have to understand that
the benefits of redistribution of wealth don't justify the initial
violation of the property right.
If you look at the argument the poor need the money more,
at no point in that argument do you contradict the fact that
we've extrapolated from, agreed upon principles
that people own themselves.
We've extrapolated that people have property rights and so whether or not
it would be a good thing or a nice thing or even
a necessary thing for the survival of some people,
we don't see that that justifies the violation of the right
that we've logically extrapolated.
Good. Okay.
And so that also, I mean, there still exist this institution
of like individual philanthropy.
Milton Friedman makes this argument...
All right, so Bill Gates can give to charity if he wants to.
Right.
But it would still be wrong to coerce him.
Exactly.
To meet the needs of the poor.
Exactly.
Are the two of you happy with that reply?
Anything to add? All right, go ahead. Julie?
Julia, yes. I think I can also add, it's okay.
I guess I could add that there's a difference between needing something
and deserving something.
I mean, in an ideal society everyone's needs would be met
but here we're arguing what do we deserve as a society and, yeah.
And the poor don't deserve don't deserve the benefits
that would flow from taxing Michael Jordan to help them.
Based on what we've covered here I don't think you deserve
something like that.
All right, let me push you a little bit on that, Julia.
The victims of Hurricane Katrina are in desperate need of help.
Would you say that they don't deserve help that would come
from the federal government through taxation?
Okay, that's a difficult question.
I think this is a case where they need help, not deserve it, but I think,
again, if you had a certain level of requirements to meet sustenance,
you're gonna need help, like, if you don't have food
or a place to live, that's a case of need.
So need is one thing and deserve is another.
Exactly.
All right. Who would like to reply?
Yes.
Going back to the first point that you made about the
property rights of individual.
The property rights are established and enforced by the government,
which is a democratic government, and we have representatives
to enforce those rights.
If you live in a society that operates under those rules,
then it should be up to the government to decide how
those resources [inaudible] taxation are distributed because it is
through the consent of the government.
If you disagree with it, you don't have to live
in that society where that operates.
All right, good, so, and tell me your name.
Raul.
Raul is pointing out, actually, Raul is invoking point number two.
If the taxation is by the consent of the governed,
it's not coerced. It's legitimate.
Bill Gates and Michael Jordan are citizens of the United States.
They get to vote for congress. They get to vote their
policy convictions just like everybody else.
Who would like to take that one on? John?
Basically, what the libertarians are objecting to in this case is
the middle 80 percent deciding what the top ten percent
are doing for the bottom ten percent.
Wait, wait, wait, John. Majority.
Don't you believe in democracy?
Well, right, but at some point...
Don't you believe in, I mean, you say 80 percent,
10 percent majority. Majority rule is what?
The majority.
Exactly, but...
In a democracy. Aren't you for democracy?
Yes, I'm for democracy, but
Hang on, hang on, hang on.
Democracy and mob rule aren't the same thing.
Mob rule?
Mob rule, exactly.
In an open society you have a recourse to address that
through your representatives.
And if the majority of the consent of those who are governed
doesn't agree with you, then you know,
you're choosing to live in a society and you have to operate
under what the majority the society concludes.
All right, Alex, on democracy.
What about that?
The fact that I have one, you know, five hundred thousandth
of the vote for one representative in congress is not the same thing
as my having the ability to decide for myself how
to use my property rights.
I'm a drop in the bucket and, you know, well...
You might lose the vote.
Exactly.
And they might take...
And I will. I mean,
I don't have the decision right now of whether or not
to pay taxes.
If I don't, I get locked in jail or they tell me to get out of the country.
But, Alex, Alex, let me make a small case for democracy.
And see what you would say.
Why can't you, we live in a democratic society with
freedom of speech.
Why can't you take to the Hustings, persuade your fellow citizens
that taxation is unjust and try to get a majority?
I don't think that people should be, should have to
convince 280 million others simply in order to exercise
their own rights, in order to not have their self ownership violated.
I think people should be able to do that without having
to convince 280 million people.
Does that mean you are against democracy as a whole?
No, I...
I just believe in a very limited form of democracy
whereby we have a constitution that severely limits the scope
of what decisions can be made democratically.
All right, so you're saying that democracy is fine
except where fundamental rights are involved.
Yes.
And I think you could win.
If you're going on the Hustings, let me add one element
to the argument you might make.
May you could say put aside the economic debates, taxation.
Suppose the individual right to religious liberty were
at stake, then, Alex, you could say, on the Hustings.
Surely, you would all agree that we shouldn't put the right to
individual liberty up to a vote.
Yeah, that's exactly right, and that's why we have a
constitutional amendments,
and why do we make it so hard to amend our constitution.
So you would say that the right to private property,
the right of Michael Jordan to keep all the money he makes
at least to protect it from redistribution is the same
kind of right with the same kind of weight as the right
to freedom of speech, the right to religious liberty,
rights that should trump what the majority wants.
Absolutely.
The reason why we have a right to free speech is because
we have a right to own ourselves, to exercise our voice
in any way that we choose.
All right, good.
All right, so there we...
All right, who would like to respond to that argument
about democracy being... Okay, up there. Stand up.
I think comparing religion economics it's not the same thing.
The reason why Bill Gates is able to make so much money is because
we live in an economically and socially stable society.
And if the government didn't provide for the poor as ten percent
as you say through taxation, then we would need more money
for police to prevent crime and so, either way,
there would be more taxes taken away to provide
what you guys call the necessary things that the government provides.
What's your name?
Anna.
Anna, let me ask you this.
Why is the fundamental right to religious liberty different
from the right Alex asserts as a fundamental right
to private property and to keep what I earn?
What's the difference between the two?
Because you wouldn't have...
You wouldn't be able to make money, you wouldn't be able to own property
if there wasn't that socially, like, if society wasn't stable,
and that's completely different from religion.
That's like something personal, something that you can practice
on your own in your own home or like me practicing my religion
is not going to affect the next person.
But if I'm poor and I'm desperate,
like I might commit a crime to feed my family and that can affect others.
Okay, good, thank you.
Would it be wrong for someone to steal a loaf of bread
to feed his starving family? Is that wrong?
I believe that it is. This is...
Let's take a quick poll of the three of you.
- You say yes. - Yes, it is wrong.
John?
It violates property rights. It's wrong.
Even to save a starving family?
I mean there are definitely other ways around that
and by justifying, no, hang on, hang on,
before you laugh at me.
Before justifying the act of stealing,
you have to look at violating the right that we've already agreed exists,
the right of self possession and the possession of, I mean,
your own things.
We agree on property rights.
All right, we agree at stealing.
Yeah, we agree at stealing.
So property rights is not the issue.
All right, but...
So why is it wrong to steal even to feed your starving family?
Sort of the original argument that I made in the very first
question you asked.
The benefits of an action don't justify, don't make the action just.
Do what, what would you say, Julia?
Is it all right to steal a loaf of bread to feed a
starving family or to steal a drug that your child needs to survive?
I think, I'm okay with that, honestly.
Even from the libertarian standpoint,
I think that, okay, saying that you can just take money
arbitrarily from people who have a lot to go to this pool
of people who need it, but you have an individual
who's acting on their own behalf to kind of save themselves and then
I think you said they, for any idea like self possession,
they are also in charge of protecting themselves and keeping themselves
alive so, therefore, even for a libertarian standpoint,
that might be okay.
All right, that's good, that's good.
All right, what about number three up here?
Isn't it the case that the successful,
the wealthy, owe a debt.
They didn't do that all by themselves.
They had to cooperate with other people that they owe a debt
to society and that that's expressed in taxation.
You wanna take that on, Julia?
Okay, this one, I believe that there is not a debt to society
in the sense that how did these people become wealthy?
They did something that society valued highly.
I think that society has already been giving, been providing for them...
if anything, I think it's... everything is cancelled out.
They provided a service to society and society responded by somehow
they got their wealth, so I think that...
So be concrete.
In the case of Michael Jordan, some...
I mean, to illustrate your point.
There were people who helped him make the money, the teammates,
the coach, people who taught him how to play.
But they've... you're saying, but they've all been paid for their services.
Exactly, and society derived a lot of benefit and pleasure from watching
Michael Jordan play.
I think that that's how he paid his debt to society.
All right, good.
Who would, anyone likes to take up that point? Yes.
I think that there's a problem here with that we're assuming
that a person has self possession when they live in a society.
I feel like when you live in a society, you give up that right.
I mean, technically, if I want to personally go out and kill someone
because they offend me, that is self possession.
Because I live in a society I cannot do that.
I think it's kind of equivalent to say because I have more money,
I have resources that can save people's lives,
is it not okay for the government to take that from me?
Self possession only to a certain extent because I'm living in a society
where I have to take account of the people around me.
So are you question, what's your name?
Victoria.
Victoria, are you questioning the fundamental premise of self possession?
Yes.
I think that you don't really have self possession
if you choose to live in a society because you cannot just discount
the people around you.
All right, I want to quickly get the response of the libertarian
team to the last point.
The last point builds on, well, maybe it builds on Victoria's
suggestion that we don't own ourselves because it says that Bill Gates
is wealthy, that Michael Jordan makes a huge income,
isn't wholly their own doing.
It's the product of a lot of luck and so we can't claim that they
morally deserve all the money they make.
Who wants to reply to that? Alex?
You certainly could make the case that it is not...
their wealth is not appropriate to the goodness in their hearts,
but that's not really the morally relevant issue.
The point is that they have received what they have through
the free exchange of people who have given them their holdings,
usually in exchange for providing some other service
Good enough.
I want to try to sum up what we've learned from this discussion,
but, first, let's thank John, Alex, and Julia for a really wonderful job.
Toward the end of the discussion just now Victoria challenged
the premise of this line of reasoning that's libertarian logic.
Maybe, she suggested, we don't own ourselves after all.
If you reject the libertarian case against redistribution,
there would seem to be an incentive to break in to the libertarian line
of reasoning at the earliest, at the most modest level,
which is why a lot of people disputed that taxation
is morally equivalent to forced labor.
But what about the big claim, the premise, the big idea
underlying the libertarian argument?
Is it true that we own ourselves or can we do without that idea
and still avoid what libertarians want to avoid creating a society
in an account of justice where some people can be just used
for the sake of other people's welfare or even for the sake of the general good?
Libertarians combat the utilitarian idea of using people as means
for the collective happiness by saying the way to put a stop
to that utilitarian logic of using persons is to resort to
the intuitively powerful idea that we are the proprietors
of our own person.
That's Alex and Julia and John and Robert Nozick.
What are the consequences for a theory of justice
and in account of rights of calling into question
the idea of self possession?
Does it mean that we're back to utilitarianism and using people
and aggregating preferences and pushing the fat man off the bridge?
Nozick doesn't himself fully develop the idea of self possession.
He borrows it from an earlier philosopher, John Locke.
John Locke accounted for the rise of private property from the state
of nature by a chain of reasoning very similar to the one that Nozick
and the libertarians use.
John Locke said private property arises because when we mix our labor with things,
unowned things, we come to aquire a property right in those things.
And the reason?
The reason is that we own our own labor,
and the reason for that?
We are the proprietors, the owners of our own person.
And so in order to examine the moral force of the libertarian claim
that we own ourselves, we need to turn to
the English political philosopher, John Locke, and examine his account
of private property and self ownership and that's what we'll do next time.
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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

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蔡孟諺 發佈於 2013 年 5 月 24 日

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