Liberals, Libertarians and Educational Theory
Jun 8, OPINION | Libertarianism is a principled alternative to conservatism and Judge sets February trial date for GOP rep charged with The common heritage of socialism and classical liberalism is It had embraced a new meaning, the state having taken on a new democratic spirit, as least in theory. Jun 2, Date Written: May 1, First, although he derives a logically valid theory of libertarianism, which indeed Boettke, Peter J. and Candela, Rosolino, Liberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism is a Liberal View (May 1, ). It is not well known that classical liberal thought has had a strong tradition within it of .. Liberal Theory of Class Conflict” in Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory , “Democracy and Plutocracy” (no date) which also includes “Definitions of.
And it is this additional factor—related to the springs of state action and not merely its outcomes—that helps to distinguish the rulers and their allies on the one hand from mere beneficiaries of state action on the other. While those who receive such assistance may, indeed, acquire more from the state than they pay in taxes, they are not members of the ruling class or closely associated with it, since in no obvious sense are they in a position to move the levers of power, nor are they, in general, seeking to do so.
No doubt state actors do sometimes confer financial benefits on the poor and marginal to keep them pacified or to promote other benefits sought by the powerful and well-connected; and no doubt wealthy elites sometimes encourage the conferral of such benefits for this reason.
When these factors are taken into account, it is much less clear that many poor people, even if they do receive state-conferred benefits, qualify as net beneficiaries of state action. Whether they do or not, however, I believe the active role played by elite factions and their allies in securing state benefits for themselves and imposing regulatory and other costs on others distinguishes these groups from the economically marginal in an important way.
Class analysis remains a fruitful field of study for libertarian and classical-liberal historians, philosophers, lawyers, economists, and sociologists. This is so even if they are, rightly, committed to methodological individualism: And it is also quite compatible with acknowledging that the dominant classes are defined not only by their immediate receipt of cash transfers from the state but also by their active and effective role in securing state benefits.
But it need not in the abstract. Organized Mafiosi, for instance, might play a similar role in some contexts. I would like to begin by highlighting two related points from his synopsis.
First, distinctions between groups or classes of people have historically been recognized as important within the classical-liberal tradition. As Hart puts it in describing the first of his three ideas common to different versions of classical-liberal class analysis: The idea that even democratic forms of government generate privileges for those in power is and has been a great contribution of classical-liberal scholarship.
State power as such is a significant and often underappreciated source of inequality in authority and opportunity. But what I would like to suggest in this brief essay is that, in many societies, people cannot easily be sorted into those who rule and those who are ruled.
Considering class structure in this way puts the focus on rules and how they affect different groups of people rather than on particular external characteristics like race, gender, family membership, or economic status though these could turn out to be quite important if rules do discriminate on those characteristics.
Further, the classical-liberal tradition provides many valuable tools that can facilitate conceptualizing class in this way, including the focus on institutional analysis and emphasis on the significance of even effects which cannot be seen.
All rules in effect in a society—including laws, regulations, and consistently enforced social norms—have the potential to give authority to some that is denied to others. For example, a law requiring plumbers to procure a license from the state gives some individuals the authority to legally accept compensation in exchange for installing a shower while simultaneously denying others the right to do the same. Although the law will certainly have a greater impact on some individuals than others, it may or may not privilege a particular group.
For example, a law that prohibits women from driving means that the choice to drive is met with different consequences for them than for men.
The possibility of punishment is an additional cost borne only by women that they must consider when deciding whether to pursue a course of action that involves driving.
Consequently, in a society in which this rule exists and is enforced, it is likely that women will make systematically different choices from men, even with no difference in their interests or abilities. Class distinctions are most obvious when the same group is repeatedly singled out for differential treatment based on gender, religion, race, family name, place of birth, or some other identifiable characteristic. Think slave societies, caste-based societies, and other obviously discriminatory systems, such as those faced by women and racial and religious minorities in many different countries across the globe.
These institutional systems are of great concern to most of the liberal tradition, and it would be a missed opportunity for the classical-liberal voice to be missing from that discussion. It is also possible for the system of rules in effect in a particular society to include multiple non-general rules that do not always single out the same population. Political privileges and unequal power relationships could potentially be distributed quite widely through the population, possibly even in ways such that group membership is not static.
In a system with multiple hierarchies simultaneously in effect, it is possible for the same two people to have a different relationship to each other depending upon where and how they are interacting. Her position gives her a privileged authority with respect to a particular set of decisions—things like which roads will be plowed first after a storm, or perhaps whether or not to levy a property tax on vehicles garaged within city limits.
But the councilwoman does not have privileged authority relative to the other residents of the town in all areas of life. The members of the school board will be privileged with respect to what curriculum her children will be required to study.
The chief of the police department will be privileged with respect to how strictly she will be required to obey the posted speed limit. I leave it as a matter for further debate whether the head of the neighborhood association in which she lives, the pastor at the church she attends, and the supervisor at her day job might be considered to also have differential authority.
Particularly in a polycentric system in which rules are created by multiple types of organizations simultaneously,  possibly even with multiple organizations regulating the same types of decisions, teasing out the structure of class relationships in a particular society can be quite challenging.
Instead of beginning analysis with the assumption of a class relationship, classical liberals can take as their first task the identification of the many different rules in effect that shape the allocation of power throughout a class structure. This leads directly to two reasons why I think scholars working in the classical-liberal tradition are particularly well suited to study class structures. First, institutions matter, and this has always been an important part of the tradition of classical-liberal scholarship.
Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause -- it is seen. The others unfold in succession -- they are not seen: Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference -- the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee.
Of these effects only the first is immediate; it is revealed simultaneously with its cause, it is seen. The others merely occur successively, they are not seen; we are lucky if we foresee them. The entire difference between a bad and a good Economist is apparent here. A bad one relies on the visible effect while the good one takes account both of the effect one can see and of those one must foresee.
The group divisions they create will continue to have consequences, potentially very far into the future. For instance, what are the long-term ramifications of historical non-general rules such as the Jim Crow laws, or the Progressive Era decisions by the Supreme Court that upheld the constitutionality of gender-specific legislation? What are the likely effects of new non-general policies being considered today, such as proposals to limit the international mobility of particular groups according to their nationality or religion?
Class analysis can be a way to bring important classical-liberal insights about society and the nature of power to discussions about the long-term impacts of discriminatory laws. In a slave society it is very easy to see who has authority and who does not, and the power relationship is strongly unidirectional.
Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty Chicago: University of Chicago Press,and James M. Or, there could theoretically be other discriminatory rules that either decreased the cost of driving for women or increased the cost of driving for men that would counterbalance the expected effect. Coyne and Virgil H. Emerald Group Publishing Limited,pp.
Liberty Fund, p. Included in his discussion are differences among classical liberals themselves in how they framed their class analyses in terms of the rulers and the ruled.
I will discuss another difference in this comment.Classical Liberals vs Libertarians, and Donald Trump’s Political Philosophy (Brandon Turner Pt. 3)
Among classical liberals, criticisms of the ruling class were almost always directed at governments as they existed at a particular point in time. But Bentham proposed a solution to this rule by a special class, namely, universal suffrage, which would bring about a harmony of interests between the rulers and the ruled. Bentham believed that people would never or almost never vote against their own interests, so a democratic system would largely solve the problem of exploitation by government.
In contrast to Bentham, classical liberals in the Lockean tradition appealed to some version of social-contract theory to legitimize government. To appeal to express consent would be to render all government illegitimate, because no government could possibly meet this requirement. The point here is that most classical liberals did not view government per se as an exploitative ruling class; only certain forms of government, such as absolute monarchies, qualified for this epithet. Indeed, the social-contract model was frequently used to justify a minimal amount of taxation.
Consider the view, made famous or infamous by Robert Nozickthat people have a right against being forced to assist others, except as a result of voluntary agreement or prior wrongdoing. Such a view rules out redistributive taxation aimed at reducing material inequality or raising the standards of living for the poor.
One can a respect people as the primary controllers of their lives, labor, and bodies. This means working for whomever they want, on the terms they want, and keeping the gains. Recognizing this leaves little room for redistributive taxation. Or one can b endorse the enforcement of certain distributions. But in that case, the theory must endorse taking what people innocently produce through their own labor, redirecting their work to purposes they did not freely choose.
This latter option is unacceptable to anyone endorsing the idea of full self-ownership. As Nozick wrote, it involves claiming a kind of control over the lives of others that is similar to a claim of ownership in them. And this is unacceptablep. In part because it seems to lead to conclusions like these, the idea of full self-ownership is very controversial. A related, but different, worry concerns not duties of assistance, but situations in which individuals in extreme need can greatly benefit from the involvement of an agent.
To use an extreme example, is it permissible to gently push an innocent agent to the ground in order to save ten innocent lives?
Full self-ownership asserts that it is not. Again, the rough idea is that individuals are normatively separate, and their person may not be used non-consensually for the benefit of others.
A third worry is that full self-ownership may permit voluntary enslavement. Agents have, on this view, not only the right to control the use of their person, but also the right to transfer that right e. Theorists who endorse the possibility usually argue that full self-ownership is a theory about the moral right to control permissible use by giving or denying permissionnot about the psychological capacity to control.
Vallentyne ; Steiner A fourth concern about the counter-intuitive nature of full self-ownership points out its restrictive implications. Full self-ownership might seem to condemn as wrongful even very minor infringements of the personal sphere, such as when tiny bits of pollution fall upon an unconsenting person.
Prohibiting all acts that can lead to such minor infringements poses an unacceptable limit to our liberty. But from the point of view of self-ownership, there is no principled difference between minor infringements and major infringements. Thus, this objection goes, self-ownership theory must be rejected Railton ; Sobel Suppose we understand the moral benefits that self-ownership confers along two dimensions: As the objection points out, it is not possible to simultaneously maximize the value of both dimensions: Since maximizing the protection-dimension implausibly restricts the use-dimension, the correct response is not to reject self-ownership, but rather to loosen the protection-dimension somewhat in order to enhance the use-dimension.
Doing this would allow minor infringements for the sake of self-ownership. Thus, one could accept limited non-consensual duties of assistance, say, and accept some reduction in the control-dimension of self-ownership.
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Others, as we have already seen, reject the idea that self-owners have the power of transfer themselves into voluntary slavery. Either way, the result will not be a theory of full self-ownership, but one that approximates that idea. Weakened conceptions of self-ownership, however, raise important questions. For one, if self-ownership turns out to have multiple dimensions that can be weakened in light of competing considerations, it loses some of its theoretic appeal.
Once we start trading off the idea against other considerations, those considerations are thereby admitted into the libertarian moral universe. This raises complicated questions about their relative weights, appropriate trade-off rules, and so on.
Moreover, if trade-offs are possible between these dimensions, we will want to know why we should sacrifice one in favor of the other. And in order to answer that question, we may need to invoke some further, underlying value. This threatens the status of self-ownership as a foundational principle in libertarian theory. Presumably, foundational principles are not based on underlying values. For many libertarians, this is not much of a concession, however. If few endorse full self-ownership, even fewer endorse it as a foundational principle.
Such a move would also avoid a final kind of objection, this one more theoretical in nature. This objection holds that, upon inspection, the idea of self-ownership is neither as simple nor as clear-cut as it initially appeared.
One version of this objection points to the indeterminacy of the idea of ownership. Positive law recognizes a wide variety of ownership arrangements, including ones that consist of very different kinds of rights than the self-ownership theorist defends.
There may be no clear general notion of ownership to which one can appeal to defend self-ownership. Instead, ownership claims may be conclusions of intricate moral or legal arguments Fried However, if self-ownership is understood to be importantly analogous to ownership in general, this poses no objection. Instead, it shows a more fruitful way for theorizing our rights over our persons are more fruitfully Russell While Nozick is typically read as someone who treats full self-ownership as a premise or foundational principle see especially the influential discussion in Cohenit is far from clear that this is correct.
One obvious problem is that Nozick invokes the idea of self-ownership only once in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. And while that passage is oft-quoted, in terms of his arguments, the idea as such does little work in the book. Part II of Anarchy, State, and Utopia develops a large number of arguments against redistributive conceptions of justice which do not invoke or rely on the idea of full self-ownership. Nozick also invoked ideas that contradict reading him as a proponent of full self-ownership as a foundational principle.
He argued that self-ownership is an expression of the Kantian requirement that we treat people only as ends in themselves suggesting that the Kantian idea, and not self-ownership as such, is foundational. Some remain committed to the idea and have offered responses to all the objections above.
Other Routes to Libertarianism Just as Nozick may have seen libertarianism as the best way to express a host of moral considerations in the realm of justice, so too many other libertarians embrace different principles as the foundation of their theories. Such authors seek to honor people as rights-holders or sovereign individuals, whom we need to treat as the primary claimants of their lives and bodies. But they also seek to avoid some of the implausible elements of full self-ownership.
Views like this treat self-ownership neither as necessary maximally strong, nor as self-evident or foundational. Libertarian theory can thus be defended in many different ways. Examples of the former include Eric Mackwho sees self-ownership rights as among several natural rights grounded in our nature as purposive beings. Similarly, Loren Lomasky derives rights from a related, although slightly different, conception of people as project pursuers. John Tomasi argues that strong rights over our bodies are required by the ideal of democratic legitimacy.
According to Daniel Russellself-ownership rights provide the only way that people who live together can all genuinely live their own lives. Many libertarian theories invoke insights from economics. An influential strand of thinking in this tradition, closely related to F.
Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, argues that libertarian or classical liberal political conclusions follow from human epistemic limitations. Free societies, and in particular free market systems, best utilize the available information in society by allowing and incentivizing individuals to act on the partial information they possess, including information about their local circumstances, needs, and desires, as well as their productive abilities and the trade-offs that those might present.
Any society that wants to deviate from the decentralized decision-making represented by market exchange, the argument goes, will have to collect, process, and fully understand all this dispersed and complex information, aggregate it into some kind of social welfare function, and assign goods accordingly. This latter process is simply beyond our capabilities. Free societies thus will predictably outperform other societies on important metrics Hayek; Von Mises Another example follows the work of Adam Smith, claiming that libertarian ideas are inherent in our ordinary moral psychology.
Smith famously considered justice to be strictly negative in nature: These are the only acts that are generally disapproved of in a way calling for punishment , p. Smith grounds his view in a deeply social view of moral psychology. We can label this vocational progressivism because it has its origins in the belief that the main purpose of education is to prepare people to be efficient workers.
It is based ultimately on the utopian belief that human beings could develop an unfettered mode of existence in which the intellect did not interfere with direct experience, that old romantic idea that what was wrong with European civilisation was the Aristotelian split between body and mind.
It survived as a current in thinking about vocational education in the post-war period. But the full flowering did not come till the s, and has continued to the present. That kind of worker is more readily managed than a craftsman who has a stable identity from which individual autonomy might spring. In one sense that is what Marx, Hegel and Adam Smith were writing about in their concept of alienation: Writers such as Zygmunt Bauman argue, further, that work is increasingly governed by aesthetic criteria rather than by abstract theory.
This idea about a new professional class comes ultimately from Basil Bernstein, who defined the new middle class as those concerned with the symbolic ordering of society Bernstein, David Hartley points out that the language used here is remarkably close to the language used by the progressive educationists to promote experience, creativity, and spontaneity in schooling.
The more thorough argument is then that this movement, having started in the lower-status parts of vocational education, has now spread to embrace almost all education. School and university curricula have been reconstructed in the last twenty years to follow the same ideology. There has grown also the belief that students have to be motivated all the time — that deferred gratification is not any longer a sufficient rationale for study and almost unfettered choice is part of this.
But the re-modelling of education on experiential lines has gone very far indeed. My main proposition is then that this has resulted from a progressivism of the right, drawing upon the main tenets of student-centred utopianism to impose its own utopia of experience, first of all on vocational education and, in the last two decades, on the whole of education. Critique 24Not everyone on the left regrets this shift, precisely because there are so many points of contact between it and left-anarchist progressivism.
Ball then welcomed the sympathy which many larger employers showed for the vocational progressivism, and saw this as a way of reviving left-anarchist progressivism and of radically reconstructing schooling whether vocational or not: Understanding all this requires propositional knowledge, embedded in theories and emerging out of a tradition of intellectual engagement. Spontaneity is not enough 28John Dewey, having doubts about the most radical versions of experiential learning, acknowledged that children cannot develop truth out of their own minds Dewey, Related to this is the celebration of emotion over reason, which is dangerous to thought in many more mundane ways than Gramsci observed from the Italian fascists.
It has been argued, in fact, that basing an educational philosophy on the experience of students replaces the authoritarianism of the teacher with the authoritarianism of the learner, who becomes the only arbiter of what is worth knowing Walter, So this first element of the left critique of progressivism is an educational instance of the general left critique of the romantic naivety of what has been called s radicalism including existentialism. So, despite the rhetoric of individuality, this pedagogy is actually opposed to the development of any coherent and stable kind of individual autonomy.
It is not aimed at developing or shaping autonomous individuals, but at the manipulation of experience by means of measurable outcomes. The best-known exponent of this idea is Lev Semenovich Vygotskywho proposed the importance of formal learning for any advanced understanding Gee, As a matter of fact the children of the bourgeoisie will be socialised through their families into forms of knowledge that will give them power as Pierre Bourdieu repeatedly argued. So not to teach explicitly, and to rely on knowledge developing spontaneously through experience, would be merely to further privilege those who are already privileged.
Again, student-centredness is only superficially individualistic. Because it abstracts the individual from social relations, student-centredness has no conception of how to educate the individual into a critical relationship to a tradition.
By thus allowing the learner to be ignorant of structural impediments to learning, student-centredness actually negates individual autonomy.