Libertarianism without Inequality

By Michael Otsuka | Go to book overview

Introduction

In the following chapters I will present and defend an approach to political philosophy, and a set of moral and political principles, that draw their inspiration from John Locke's Second Treatise of Government. 1 I will develop—and modify and revise as necessary—those ideas in the Second Treatise that I find true, interesting, and illuminating of topics of contemporary concern among analytic political philosophers. In so doing, I will cover the main topics of this treatise: one's rights of control over oneself and the world (i.e. one's rights of self- and world-ownership), one's rights to use force in order to defend these rights, and the source and limits of political authority. I would like to end up with more than a ragbag of reflections on various topics each of which has a pedigree that can be traced to some passage or other in Locke, but none of which connects with the reflections on the other topics. Rather, I would like to retrieve an entire system of political thought from the treatise. I believe that Locke managed to apprehend some important truths of political morality, truths that together constitute an elegant and unified system of ideas. He was not, however, always able to apprehend these truths clearly. Even when he was able to grasp these truths, he often did so only in their bare outline or essence. Often he did not fully understand how they were true in detail nor why they were true. His Second Treatise was, after all, a pioneering work in developing a systematic and classically liberal political philosophy that derived the legitimate authority of government from the consent of individuals who were regarded as free and equal. Standing on Locke's shoulders, unblinded by the ideology and prejudice of his day, and with the aid of three hundred more years of political thought, I hope, from this superior vantage-point, better to

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