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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.