Did We Trade Freedom for Credit?
Finance, Domination, and the Political Economy of Freedom
European Journal of Political Theory
This article concerns freedom and financial markets. First, I consider the republican case for liberalization, extending Robert Taylor’s economic model of republicanism to financial markets. This case adopts what I call a “philosopher-king” approach to political theory, arguing by reference an ideal or first-best set of policies or reforms. Then, I investigate the negative externalities of several decades of financial market liberalization, including the erosion of political accountability and the growing concentration of political and economic power in the hands of those best suited to profit from the rise of finance. From this “political economy” perspective, the impact of liberalization is clear: we paid for greater access to credit with political and economic domination. In republican terms, we traded freedom for credit. My analysis, moreover, has implications for republican debates on freedom and the market. In second-best worlds, where reforms will almost certainly be incremental, shaping the balance of power in ways that impact future policy, judging reforms by reference to a vision of domination-free markets will often suggest policies that make individuals less free. The political economy approach is far more relevant to debates about which economic institutions further or hinder freedom as non-domination.
On the Ethics, Practice, and American Politics of Personal Responsibility
Philosophy and Social Criticism
While libertarians (by most accounts) affirm personal responsibility as a central moral and political value, libertarian theorists write relatively little about the theory and practice of this value. Focusing on the work of F. A. Hayek and David Schmidtz, this article identifies the core of a libertarian approach to personal responsibility and demonstrates the ways in which this approach entails a radical revision of the ethics and American politics of personal responsibility. Then, I highlight several central implications of this analysis in the American political and economic status quo. First, this analysis makes a mockery of so-called libertarian/conservative ‘fusionism’, such that libertarian personal responsibility cannot partner with meritocratic conservative thought to provide a plural grounding for rejecting progressive or redistributive economic policy. Next, preferred libertarian policies threaten the status, esteem and social bases of self-respect of citizens who are worse-off through little or no fault of their own. Finally, these policies undermine the ethics of personal responsibility that Americans from across the ideological spectrum value and many conservatives and libertarians celebrate. In the American status quo, those who value personal responsibility must reserve a central place for policies that mitigate opportunity and distributive inequalities.
Global Labor Justice and the Limits of Economic Analysis
Business Ethics Quarterly
This article considers the economic case for so-called sweatshop wages and working conditions. My goal is not to defend or reject the economic case for sweatshops. Instead, proceeding from a broadly pluralist understanding of value, I make and defend a number of claims concerning the ethical relevance of economic analysis for values that different agents utilize to evaluate sweatshops. My arguments give special attention to a series of recent articles by Benjamin Powell and Matt Zwolinski, which represent the latest and best defense of the economic case for sweatshops. In the process, I challenge Zwolinski’s “non-worseness claim” (NWC), and the idea that opposition to sweatshop wages and working conditions fails to respect that the autonomy of would-be sweatshop workers. Ultimately, I conclude that even if the economic case for sweatshops rests on a solid empirical foundation, agents possess good reason to advocate for better wages and working conditions for sweatshop workers, and to prefer less exploitative or coercive relationships. Sweatshop labor undermines a compelling vision of free markets, according to both Kantian and republican conceptions of freedom, and the relationships formed by those who participate in such markets.
Freedom, Autonomy, and Harm in Global Supply Chains
Journal of Business Ethics
Responding to criticism by Gordon Sollars and Frank Englander, this paper highlights a significant tension in recent debates over the ethics of global supply chains. This tension concerns the appropriate focus and normative frame(s) for these debates. My first goal is to make sense of what at first reading seems to be a very odd set of claims: that valuing free, autonomous, and respectful markets entails a “fetish for philosophical purity” that is inconsistent with a moral theory that finds no wrong in harming workers, including the least advantaged among them. Sollars and Englander reach these conclusions, I believe, because their criticism assumes and relies upon the presumption of a global prioritarian frame, one which focuses individual welfare, and which they then apply at the level of individual political and economic actors. Much of Benjamin Powell and Matt Zwolinski’s work, I continue, including their criticism of political and economic activism and Powell’s indictment of organized labor, relies on a similar frame—while expanding the harms to include the freedom and autonomy of would-be sweatshop workers. This prioritarian frame, I argue, is particularly poorly suited to discussion of the ethical responsibilities of individual economic and political actors. We ought to reject it. To make progress on debates over global sweatshops, and the ethics of global supply chains in general, we need a better frame, and better standards of freedom and autonomy, than those invoked by many prominent defenders of sweatshops.
Milton Friedman on Freedom and the Negative Income Tax
Basic Income Studies
In addition to his Noble Prize-winning work in economics, Milton Friedman produced some of the most influential philosophical work on the role of government in a free society. Despite his great influence, there remains a dearth of scholarship on Friedman’s social and political philosophy. This paper helps to fill this large void by providing a conceptual analysis of Friedman’s theory of freedom. In addition, I argue that a careful reading of his arguments for freedom ought to lead Friedman, and like-minded liberals and libertarians, to give absolute priority to his negative income tax proposal. A substantial basic income furthers effective economic freedom (on Friedman’s own understanding), redeems his central claim that markets enable cooperation without coercion, and enables him to address his lifelong interlocutors by mitigating concerns for the ways in which economic dependence and inequality undermine both freedom and democratic legitimacy.
Multiculturalism and Equal Human Dignity
Bhikhu Parekh is an internationally renowned political theorist. His work on identity and multiculturalism is unquestionably thoughtful and nuanced, benefiting from a tremendous depth of knowledge of particular cases. Despite his work’s many virtues, however, the normative justification for Parekh’s recommendations is at times vague or ambiguous. In this essay, I argue that a close reading of his work, in particular his magnum opus Rethinking Multiculturalism and the selfproclaimed “sequel” A New Politics of Identity, reveals that his claims frequently rely upon a Kantian account of moral dialogue and indeed moral personhood that he remains unwilling to claim. Recognizing this latent Kantianism is essential to a thorough assessment of Parekh’s work on identity, and his criticisms of other theorists. It is only because of his ambiguity that his multiculturalism is able to avoid the sort of charges that he levels against other responses to diversity, including those of such authors as Rawls, Habermas, Kymlicka, and Raz.
The Ethics and Economics of Command-and-Control Environmental Policy
The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics (Routledge)
This chapter considers the ethics and economics of command-and-control environmental policy. Command-and-control refers to environmental policy that relies on direct regulation (permission, prohibition, standard setting) as opposed to policy that relies on economic or market-based incentives. Such policies are so named because they “command” a particular environmental outcome, and control how firms or individuals must meet that outcome. This approach dominated American environmental policy for many decades, and remains a central tool which legislatures utilize to attempt to reach desired environmental outcomes. Nonetheless, the past three decades of legal and economic discussion of command-and-control policy centers on the intrinsic limitations and inefficiencies of this approach, with some even going so far as to equate it to “Soviet-style” regulation and “socialist central planning.” The purpose of this chapter is not to defend command-and-control regulation from such criticisms. Instead, this chapter highlights several normative and practical concerns with market-based alternatives. These concerns, in many cases, provide reason for policy makers to continue to favor command-and-control regulation. In addition, this analysis calls for greater scrutiny and public discussion of the notions of efficiency theorists and policy makers utilize to determine whether command-and-control or market-based environmental policy is more efficient.
Freedom and the Ends of Financial Market Reform
The Philosophy of Finance and Money: An Anthology (Oxford University Press)
In this chapter, I consider the evolution of financial markets and the ways in which that evolution furthers or undermines individual liberty. Despite gains to individual freedom of choice and the promise of greater competition, trends in financial market legislation and development increasingly enable political and economic domination, further concentratIng the fruits of economic growth on those best suited to take advantage of the rise of finance. In the words of Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the rules of the game for financial markets increasing favor economic extraction rather than inclusion. In some ways, both Basel III and Dodd-Frank regulatory reforms exacerbate these issues. Freedom-minded financial market reform, I argue, should be directed at a simpler and more narrow banking (and regulatory) system that mitigates the ways in which complexity, instability, power and information asymmetries, regulatory capture, and a general lack of accountability undermine individual freedom. Building on the work of Anat Admati, Andrew Haldane, and others, I conclude by considering a number of specific avenues for reform.
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