Papers

Papers by Topic

  1. Basic Income
  2. Business Ethics (including my papers on sweatshops and price gouging)
  3. Environmental Ethics
  4. Exploitation
  5. Libertarianism
  6. Miscellaneous Papers
  7. Book Reviews

Click Here for Papers in Progress

Basic Income

  1. Property Rights, Coercion, and the Welfare State: The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income for All,” The Independent Review vol. 19, no. 4 (Spring 2015).
    Many libertarians object to state-funded welfare systems because they think that the taxation necessary to fund such systems violates individual property rights. In this paper, I argue that the best libertarian defense of property rights actually supports a welfare state — in particular, a universal basic income.

  2. Classical Liberalism and the Basic Income,”Basic Income Studies, vol. 6, no. 2 (December, 2011), pp. 1-14.
    This paper provides a brief overview of the relationship between libertarian political theory and the Universal Basic Income (UBI). It distinguishes between different forms of libertarianism and argues that a one form, classical liberalism, is compatible with and provides some grounds of support for UBI. A classical liberal UBI, however, is likely to be much smaller than the sort of UBI defended by those on the political left. And there are both contingent empirical reasons and principled moral reasons for doubting that the classical liberal case for UBI will be ultimately successful at all.

  3. See also these blog posts on the subject: “The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee,” “Finland’s Plan to Fight Unemployment by Giving Everybody Cash,” “Switzerland’s Rejection Isn’t the Death of the UBI,” and “Why Did Hayek Support a Basic Income?

Business Ethics

  1. The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment,” with Benjamin Powell, Journal of Business Ethics vol. 107, no. 4 (2012), pp. 449-472.
    Over the last decade, scholarly criticism of sweatshops has grown increasingly sophisticated. This paper reviews the new moral and economic foundations of these criticisms, and argues that they are flawed. It seeks to advance the debate over sweatshops by noting the extent to which the case for sweatshops does, and does not, depend on the existence of competitive markets. It attempts to more carefully distinguish between the different ways in which various parties might seek to modify sweatshop behavior, and to point out that there is more room for consensus regarding some of these methods than has previously been recognized. It addresses the question of when sweatshops are justified in violating labor laws. And it assesses the relevance of recent literature on exploitation as it applies to sweatshop labor. It concludes with a list of challenges that critics of sweatshops must meet in order to productively advance the debate.

  2. Recent Work in Ethical Theory and its Implications for Business Ethics,” with Denis Arnold and Robert Audi, Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 4 (October, 2010), pp. 559-581.
    We review recent developments in ethical pluralism, ethical particularism, Kantian intuitionism, rights theory, and climate change ethics, and show the relevance of these developments in ethical theory to contemporary business ethics. This paper explains why pluralists think that ethical decisions should be guided by multiple standards and why particularists emphasize the crucial role of context in determining sound moral judgments. We explain why Kantian intuitionism emphasizes the discerning power of intuitive reason and seek to integrate that with the comprehensiveness of Kant’s moral framework. And we show how human rights can be grounded in human agency, and explain the connections between human rights and climate change.

  3. Price Gouging and Market Failure,” in Gerald Gaus, Julian Lamont and Christi Favor, eds., Essays on Philosophy, Politics & Economics: Integration and Common Research Projects (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 2010.
    This paper is a revision of “The Ethics of Price Gouging” that focuses on the argument that price gouging is morally objectionable and/or the proper subject of legal regulation because of the context of market failure in which it occurs. I argue that even if claims of market failure or true, they do not generate these normative conclusions.

  4. Price Gouging, Non-Worseness, and Distributive Justice,” Business Ethics Quarterly (vol. 19, no. 2, April 2009), pp. 295-306.
    This paper develops my position on the ethics of price gouging in response to Jeremy Snyder’s article, “What’s the Matter with Price Gouging.” First, it explains how the “nonworseness claim” supports the moral permissibility of price gouging, even if it does not show that price gougers are morally virtuous agents. Second, it argues that questions about price gouging and distributive justice must be answered in light of the relevant possible institutional alternatives, and that Snyder’s proposed alternatives to price gouging fare worse on the dimension of justice than a system in which goods are allocated by market prices.

  5. The Ethics of Price Gouging,” Business Ethics Quarterly (vol. 18, no. 3, July 2008), pp. 347-378.
    Price gouging occurs when, in the wake of an emergency, sellers of a certain necessary goods sharply raise their prices beyond the level needed to cover increased costs.  Most people think that price gouging is immoral, and most states have laws rendering the practice a civil or criminal offense.  But the alleged wrongness of price gouging has been seriously under-theorized.  The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the philosophic issues surrounding price gouging, and to argue that the common moral condemnation of it is largely mistaken.  I will make this argument in three steps, by rebutting three widely held beliefs about the ethics of price gouging: 1) that laws prohibiting price gouging are morally justified, 2) that price gouging is morally impermissible behavior, even if it ought not be illegal, and 3) that price gouging reflects poorly on the moral character of those who engage in it, even if the act itself is not morally impermissible.
  6. Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation,” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 4 (October, 2007), pp. 689-727.
    This paper argues that a sweatshop worker’s choice to accept the conditions of his or her employment is morally significant, both as an exercise of autonomy and as an expression of preference.  This fact establishes a moral claim against interference in the conditions of sweatshop labor by third parties such as governments or consumer boycott groups.  It should also lead us to doubt those who call for MNEs to voluntarily improve working conditions, at least when their arguments are based on the claim that workers have a moral right to such improvement.  These conclusions are defended against three objections: 1) that sweatshop workers’ consent to the conditions of their labor is not fully voluntary, 2) that sweatshops’ offer of additional labor options is part of an overall package that actually harms workers, 3) that even if sweatshop labor benefits workers, it is nevertheless wrongfully exploitative.

  7. Why Not Regulate Private Discrimination? San Diego Law Review, vol. 43, no. 4 (Fall, 2006), pp. 1043-1061.
    In the United States, discrimination based on race, religion, and other suspect categories is strictly regulated when it takes place in hiring, promotion, and other areas of the world of commerce.  Discrimination in one’s private affairs, however, is not subject to legal regulation at all.  Assuming that both sorts of discrimination can be equally morally wrong, why then should this disparity in legal treatment exist?  This paper attempts to find a theory that can simultaneously explain these divergent treatments by providing an account that fits the various aspects of our legal practices and our attitudes toward them, and justify those practices by providing an account that makes the divergence attractive from a moral point of view.  Three sorts of basis for the disparity are discussed: differences in our epistemological access to private and commercial discrimination; different effects these forms of discrimination have on their victims; and differences in the relative importance of the value of autonomy at stake.  I conclude that while considerations of autonomy provide the best explanation for the disparity in attitudes toward the legal treatment of discrimination, they still fall well short of an explanation that completely fits and justifies our current practice.  Specifically, I suggest that the disparity between our current legal treatment of private versus commercial discrimination is based on a mistaken belief about the greater importance of autonomy in the private realm than in the commercial sphere.  Because this belief is mistaken, a practice designed to consistently respect the value of autonomy ought to differentiate less between private and commercial discrimination, either by regulating the former more heavily, or by regulating the latter less heavily.

  8. Sweatshopsin James Climent, ed., Social Issues in Ameirca: An Encyclopedia (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006)
    An introductory-level essay on sweatshops which details their history in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and their re-emergence in the late twentieth century. Includes a brief discussion of some of the moral issues raised by sweatshops, but this is not primarilly an argumentative piece.

  9. A Libertarian Case for the Moral Limits of Markets,” Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, vol. 13, no. 2 (2015), pp. 275-290.
    Libertarians support free markets. But most actually existing markets are not entirely free. What, then, should libertarians think markets as they exist in the real world? This paper argues that the correct libertarian position is not an unequivocally “pro-market” one. Not all markets are such as to be deserving of libertarian moral support. And, more surprisingly, not all policy changes in the direction of freer markets are ones of which libertarians ought to approve. Like most political theories, libertarianism’s strength is its compelling vision of an ideally just society. But, again like most political theories, libertarianism faces a serious weakness in providing theoretical and practical guidance about how to think and act in a world that falls well short of that ideal. What libertarians need now, I argue, is a non-ideal theory of markets.

Environmental Ethics

  1.  “Libertarianism and Pollution,” forthcoming in Andrew Light and Benjamin Hale, eds., The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics (Routledge, 2015).
    Because of its support for strong rights of private property and relatively unregulated capitalism, libertarianism is often perceived as being fundamentally incompatible with the kinds of policy goals demanded by a thoroughgoing commitment to environmentalism. But, this paper argues, taking property rights seriously means taking pollution seriously. And indeed, given the stringency with which libertarians support the right of private property, it may mean taking the problem of pollution far more seriously than most of us would or should be willing to accept. This paper explores the radical implications of rights-based libertarianism for the problem of pollution, surveys some attempts by Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Eric Mack to avoid the most implausible of those radical conclusions. It concludes that none of these attempts are entirely successful, but notes that they exhibit a surprising degree of consensus on the ultimate goal: a principle of “live and let live.” Future research in this area should be directed toward further developing the theoretical foundation of this goal and its ramifications for various questions of environmental policy.
  2. Environmental Virtue Ethics: What It Is and What It Needs to Be,” with David Schmidtz, in Daniel Russell, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

 Exploitation

  1. “Exploitation and Consent,” forthcoming in Peter Schaber and Andreas Müller, eds., The Routledge Handbook on The Ethics of Consent (Routledge)
  2. Exploitation,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. With Alan Wertheimer. (2016)
  3. Structural Exploitation,” Social Philosophy and Policy (Winter, 2012), pp. 154-179.
    Allegedly exploitative transactions often occur against a backdrop of unjust social and economic institutions. This paper uses the issue of international sweatshop labor to explore how these background injustices do, and do not, matter for a correct understanding of exploitation. Over the last decade, scholarly criticism of sweatshops has grown increasingly sophisticated. This paper reviews the new moral and economic foundations of these criticisms, and argues that they are flawed. It seeks to advance the debate over sweatshops by noting the extent to which the case for sweatshops does, and does not, depend on the existence of competitive markets. It attempts to more carefully distinguish between the different ways in which various parties might seek to modify sweatshop behavior, and to point out that there is more room for consensus regarding some of these methods than has previously been recognized. It addresses the question of when sweatshops are justified in violating labor laws. And it assesses the relevance of recent literature on exploitation as it applies to sweatshop labor. It concludes with a list of challenges that critics of sweatshops must meet in order to productively advance the debate.

  4. Price Gouging, Non-Worseness, and Distributive Justice,” Business Ethics Quarterly (vol. 19, no. 2, April 2009), pp. 295-306.
    This paper develops my position on the ethics of price gouging in response to Jeremy Snyder’s article, “What’s the Matter with Price Gouging.” First, it explains how the “nonworseness claim” supports the moral permissibility of price gouging, even if it does not show that price gougers are morally virtuous agents. Second, it argues that questions about price gouging and distributive justice must be answered in light of the relevant possible institutional alternatives, and that Snyder’s proposed alternatives to price gouging fare worse on the dimension of justice than a system in which goods are allocated by market prices.
  5. The Ethics of Price Gouging,” Business Ethics Quarterly (vol. 18, no. 3, July 2008), pp. 347-378.
    Price gouging occurs when, in the wake of an emergency, sellers of a certain necessary goods sharply raise their prices beyond the level needed to cover increased costs.  Most people think that price gouging is immoral, and most states have laws rendering the practice a civil or criminal offense.  But the alleged wrongness of price gouging has been seriously under-theorized.  The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the philosophic issues surrounding price gouging, and to argue that the common moral condemnation of it is largely mistaken.  I will make this argument in three steps, by rebutting three widely held beliefs about the ethics of price gouging: 1) that laws prohibiting price gouging are morally justified, 2) that price gouging is morally impermissible behavior, even if it ought not be illegal, and 3) that price gouging reflects poorly on the moral character of those who engage in it, even if the act itself is not morally impermissible.
  6. Sweatshops, Choice, and Exploitation,” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 4 (October, 2007), pp. 689-727.
    This paper argues that a sweatshop worker’s choice to accept the conditions of his or her employment is morally significant, both as an exercise of autonomy and as an expression of preference.  This fact establishes a moral claim against interference in the conditions of sweatshop labor by third parties such as governments or consumer boycott groups.  It should also lead us to doubt those who call for MNEs to voluntarily improve working conditions, at least when their arguments are based on the claim that workers have a moral right to such improvement.  These conclusions are defended against three objections: 1) that sweatshop workers’ consent to the conditions of their labor is not fully voluntary, 2) that sweatshops’ offer of additional labor options is part of an overall package that actually harms workers, 3) that even if sweatshop labor benefits workers, it is nevertheless wrongfully exploitative.

 

Libertarianism

  1. The Separateness of Persons and Liberal Theory,” The Journal of Value Inquiry (vol. 42, no. 2, June 2008), pp. 147-165.
    The fact that persons are separate in some descriptive sense is relatively uncontroversial. But one of the distinctive ideas of contemporary liberal political philosophy is that the descriptive fact of our separateness is normatively momentous. John Rawls and Robert Nozick both take the separateness of persons to provide a foundation for their rejection of utilitarianism and for their own positive political theories. So why do their respective versions of liberalism look so different? This paper claims that the difference is based in Rawls’ and Nozick’s differing understandings of the morally significant aspects of personhood, and argues that respect for separateness is a value better suited to defend Nozickian libertarianism than Rawlsian liberalism.

  2. Libertarianism,”Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (March, 2008).
    This paper is an encyclopedia entry on the political philosophy of libertarianism. It discusses the major contemporary strands of libertarianism and their historical roots, and presents some of the main criticisms of these strands. Its focus is on libertarianism as a doctrine about distributive justice and political authority, and specifically on the consequentialist and natural rights formulations of these views.

  3. Social Darwinism and Social Justice: Herbert Spencer on Our Duties to the Poor,” in Camilla Boisen and Matthew Murray, eds., Distributive Justice Debates in Social and Political Thought: Perspectives on Finding A Fair Share (Routledge, 2015)
    Herbert Spencer is commonly regarded as a “social Darwinist,” who was, at best, indifferent to the suffering of the poor, and perhaps even positively welcoming of it. This paper re-examines Spencer’s thoughts regarding obligations to the poor, and argues that the common interpretation is deeply mistaken. Spencer was not a social Darwinist; he was not opposed to charitable assistance to the poor; and he was not even necessarily opposed to what we would now describe as the idea of social justice. 
    Spencer’s theory of justice was a principled libertarian one. And in many ways, the 20th century criticism of and disdain for Spencer’s thought mirrors the academic reaction to libertarian ideas more generally. Understanding where that criticism succeeds, and where it misses the mark, can thus potentially help us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of libertarianism as a contemporary social philosophy.
  4. A Critique of Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights,” forthcoming in Ayn Rand Philosophical Studies.
    This paper presents a critique of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist theory of rights. The critique focuses on three specific issues: first, the relationship between rights as liberties and rights and claims; second, the Objectivist claim that the mind is the ultimate source of all values and its relation to the justification of property rights; and third, the nature and justification within Objectivism of the non-aggression principle. My conclusion is that Rand’s theory of rights fails to provide a solid grounding for the libertarian (or pro-capitalist) conclusions she seeks to draw from it.
  5. A Libertarian Case for the Moral Limits of Markets,” Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, vol. 13, no. 2 (2015), pp. 275-290.
    Libertarians support free markets. But most actually existing markets are not entirely free. What, then, should libertarians think markets as they exist in the real world? This paper argues that the correct libertarian position is not an unequivocally “pro-market” one. Not all markets are such as to be deserving of libertarian moral support. And, more surprisingly, not all policy changes in the direction of freer markets are ones of which libertarians ought to approve. Like most political theories, libertarianism’s strength is its compelling vision of an ideally just society. But, again like most political theories, libertarianism faces a serious weakness in providing theoretical and practical guidance about how to think and act in a world that falls well short of that ideal. What libertarians need now, I argue, is a non-ideal theory of markets.
  6. Property Rights, Coercion, and the Welfare State: The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income for All,” The Independent Review vol. 19, no. 4 (Spring 2015).

    Many libertarians object to state-funded welfare systems because they think that the taxation necessary to fund such systems violates individual property rights. In this paper, I argue that the best libertarian defense of property rights actually supports a welfare state — in particular, a universal basic income.

  7. Classical Liberalism and the Basic Income,”Basic Income Studies, vol. 6, no. 2 (December, 2011), pp. 1-14.
    This paper provides a brief overview of the relationship between libertarian political theory and the Universal Basic Income (UBI). It distinguishes between different forms of libertarianism and argues that a one form, classical liberalism, is compatible with and provides some grounds of support for UBI. A classical liberal UBI, however, is likely to be much smaller than the sort of UBI defended by those on the political left. And there are both contingent empirical reasons and principled moral reasons for doubting that the classical liberal case for UBI will be ultimately successful at all.

  8. Libertarianism and the Welfare State,” forthcoming in Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism.
    Most libertarians regard the welfare state as morally illegitimate. This paper will examine why opposition to the welfare state is the default libertarian position, and why some libertarians have deviated from this default in certain political and historical circumstances. Through a combination of intellectual history and philosophical argumentation, this paper aims to show that opposition to the welfare state is neither as universal nor as fundamental to libertarianism as has generally been assumed. Both moderate classical liberals and more radical libertarians can and have supported various forms of state-based welfare, though they generally differ both regarding their reasons for supporting redistribution, and regarding the kind of redistribution they favor.

Miscellaneous Papers

  1. Virtue, Repugnance, and Deontology,” with David Schmidtz, forthcoming in Reason, Value, and Respect: Kantian Themes from the Philosophy of Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Mark Timmons and Robert Johnson, eds., (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  2. The States of Nature,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 45, no. 1 (2011) pp. 27-36.Whatever else might be said about the Lockean and Hobbesian states of nature, it is widely believe that they are mutually incompatible. One or the other (or neither) is a correct way of thinking about the state of nature, but not both. This paper argues that this intuitively plausible claim is incorrect – if not as a matter of textual interpretation, then as a matter of analysis of the concepts that we have inherited from those texts. Not only does it make sense to talk about a Hobbesian and Lockean state of nature existing simultaneously, but doing so allows us to draw important and novel insights about important contemporary questions in political philosophy.
  3. Liberty,” in John Shand, ed.,Central Issues in Philosophy (Malden, MA: Blackwell), 2009.This essay is intended to provide an introductory overview of the philosophical problems involved in understand the nature nad value of liberty, and the range and categories of philosophic solutions that have been offered to those problems. This essay covers the distinction between negative and positive liberty, MacCallum’s tripartite analysis of liberty, debates over the subject of liberty and the significance of various constraints on liberty, and the significance of philosophical analyses of liberty for political philosophy. Concludes with a short bibliographical essay and suggestions for further reading. Appropriate for first-year to advanced undergraduates.
  4. “Respect for Persons and the Authority of Morality,” Reason Papers no. 29 (Fall, 2007), pp. 71-82.This paper was originally prepared for a conference celebrating the political philosophy of Jan Narveson. In it, I argue that libertarians’ skepticism of governmental authority is hard to square with their sometimes too-easy acceptance of moral authority. In particular, Narveson’s claim that morality derivces its reason-giving force by its ability to serve the interests of the moral agent is in deep tension with the sort of universal and near-absolute rights in which most libertarians claim to believe. One thing or the other has to give – either morality’s reason-giving force is not as dependent on its ability to serve our interests as Narveson (and many of us) would like to think, or morality is more relativistic than Narveson (and many of us) would like to think.
  5. “Person-Neutrality and the Separateness of Persons,”Southwest Philosophical Studies, vol. 25 (2006), pp. 95-104.My argument in this paper is that understanding the appeal to the separateness of persons as an objection to ‘person-neutral’ moral theories fails to provide us with a compelling reason to reject utilitarianism, and fails to support any alternative moral position. First, even if the objection tells us that distribution matters, it does not tell us how it matters, and thus does not show that utilitarianism’s distributive principles are unsound.  Second, even if the objection did provide a reasonable alternative principle of distribution, it would still fail to constitute an argument against utilitarianism.  The person-neutrality of utilitarianism, I conclude, is not the fundamental way in which it runs afoul of the separateness of persons. The real argument lies elsewhere.
  6. Natural Law and Evolutionary Conservatism,” San Diego Law Review, vol. 42, no. 3 (2005), pp. 1143-1149.This brief piece was written in respoinse to an essay by Janet Radcliffe-Richards, appearing in the same volume. I argue that her dismisal of normatively-laden appeals to ‘nature’ as anachronistic and unbecoming a post-Darwinian age is too hasty. While the claim that what is natural is inherently normative must be rejected by a modern, secular worldview, the claim that what is naturally done is normative need not be. This latter claim can be defended on purely secular and evolutionary grounds, and is crucial in understanding the conservativism of Edmund Burke and the conversative strains of Friedrich Hayek’s thought.
  7. Virtue Ethics and Repugnant Conclusions,” in Philip Cafaro and Ronald Sandler, eds., Environmental Virtue Ethics (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 107-117.Written with David Schmditz. Both utilitarian and deontological moral theories locate the source of our moral beliefs in the wrong sorts of considerations. One way this failure manifests itself, we argue, is in the ways these theories analyze the proper human relationship toward the non-human environment. Another, more notorious, manifestation of this failure is found in Derek Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion. Our goal is to explore the connection between these two failures, and to suggest that they are failures of act-centered moral theories in general. As such, they cannot be fixed by simply developing a better version of such a theory. Virtue-based theories, we suggest, provide a more promising alternative.

Book Reviews

  1. Review of Loren Lomasky, Rights Angles (Oxford University Press, 2016)Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2017.03.10).
  2. Review of Ralf Bader and John Meadowcroft (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Cambridge, 2011),” Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2012.10.03.
  3. Review of Gijs Van Donselaar, The Right to Exploit (Oxford, 2009),Ethics, vol. 121, no. 1 (October, 2010), pp. 228-232.
  4. “Review of George Brenkert and Tom Beauchamp, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2009),Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010.06.32.
  5. Review of Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Harvard, 2009),” The Review of Metaphysics vol. LXIII, no. 4 (2010), pp. 45-47.
    A very short review of a delightful and important book.
  6. Review of Horatio Spector, Autonomy and Rights: The Moral Foundations of Liberalism (Oxford,1992),”The Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 43, no. 2 (June, 2009), pp. 255-262.
    This is a review of Spector’s book on the occasion of its publication in paperback form in 2007. The version of the review posted here includes a number of footnotes and references that had to be deleted in the final published version.
  7. Review Essay: Dale Jamieson, ed., A Companion to Environmental Philosophy (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001)Environmental Ethics vol. 25 (Spring, 2003).
    Written with David Schmidtz. This is a (very positive) review of Dale Jamieson’s excellent companion to environmental philosophy, focusing on the entries on Leopold, deep ecology, economics and discounting, wilderness, biodiversity, technology, sustainability consumption, and land and water.

 

 

Papers in Progress

  1. Outside the Original Position: Rawlsian Justice and the Morality of Commerce,” in Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis, eds., Wealth, Commerce, and Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers on Business Ethics (University of Chicago Press, under contract).