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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 25, Issue 2, Fall 2011

Jan Narveson
Pages 259-272


Gibbard accuses me of having an “extreme” view of property rights, even though he agrees that liberty is a good thing. But is it good enough to justify excluding handouts to the poor? He thinks not. I argue that the “social contract” idea of justice, which he in general shares, would underwrite the sort of strong property rights I plump for—noting that voluntary assistance to the poor (or anyone) is, after all, not only perfectly acceptable but much to be commended. I believe I agree entirely with Laurence Thomas, who argues that although decency calls for assisting the poor, we are not literally bound to do that. Contra Peter Vallentyne, I argue that liberty doesn’t permit the exceptions to the acquisition principle that he proposes: when we prevent someone from an acquiring that would harm no one, we do him a harm, which is forbidden by the liberty principle. The arguments, though, rather defy brief summary.

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