One of the most important frontiers of libertarianism is in the area of formal philosophy. While most libertarians may regard the issues and principles as settled, with the ongoing task that of communication and implementation of political ideals, the philosophers have still some important work to do.
The American Association for Philosophic Study of Society, Postal Box 13313, Wauwatosa, WI 53226, holds an annual conference of philosophers and economists. On October 7-9, the AAPSS met in Milwaukee. The question addressed by the first series of papers was the existence of government, in particular the anarchist-minarchist debate among libertarians. Dr. Ellen Paul of the Philosophy Department of the University of Miami, Ohio, gave a paper on the political theories of Herbert Spencer and Robert Nozick, arguing that there is an incompatibility between natural rights and contractarian theories of government. Jeffrey Paul, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Northern Kentucky, argued in a paper that libertarian anarchists have failed to show that limited government is immoral. Indeed, the arguments advanced by the anarchist position in criticism of minarchism demonstrate instead that the anarchist approach to punishment violates natural rights. Tibor Machan of the Philosophy Department at SUNY Fredonia presented a paper on the issue of due process of law, arguing that on the basis of an egoistic ethics and the principle of division of labor it can be demonstrated that the establishment of a jurisdictionally exclusive legal authority, or government, represents the best protection system. Professors Eric Mack and Fred D. Miller commented upon the papers, and called attention to several difficulties in the arguments.
J. Roger Lee, instructor in philosophy at the California State University in Los Angeles, delivered a comprehensive restatement of Ayn Rand's ethical position. Subjecting this rigorous formulation to critical scrutiny, he developed the view that her ethical system does not succeed because her theory of conceptual knowledge is flawed. Commentator Douglas Rasmussen, instructor in philosophy at Mount Mary College and one of the organizers of the AAPSS Conference, presented objections to Lee's paper which sparked a lively debate. A central issue was the nature of a viable ethical theory. Prof. Charles King of Pomona College in a paper on natural rights and social order demonstrates that the existence of unusual values, e.g. preferring murder above other values, does not weaken the case for natural liberty.
Robert Nozick's work was the subject of two papers, the first by Prof. Fred D. Miller of Johns Hopkins University, considered the differing views of natural assets and entitlements held by John Rawls and Nozick and the way in which the viewpoint influences the philosopher's conclusion about justice. Eric Mack of the Philosophy Department at Tulane University discussed Nozick's principle of compensation. In a meticulously complex paper, Mack developed the startling conclusion that by Nozick's analysis, especially the concepts of unproductive actions and unproductive exchanges, a typically free market might have to be regarded as characterized by "unproductive exchanges" and therefore subject to Nozick's principle of compensation. "Nozick's Marxism," as Mack once referred to it, certainly casts considerable suspicion on the strength of Nozick's case for a libertarian society.
Nyle Kardatzke, Professor of Economics at Marquette University, presented a new development in the theoretical distinction among markets, clubs, and polities. Svetozar Pejovich, Professor of Economics at the University of Dallas, argued in his paper for an economic conception of law. His value-free framework would provide a basis for distinguishing between stable and unstable legal systems. Bruce Den Uyl, a graduate student in economics at the University of Michigan, presented a carefully reasoned paper showing the limitations and strengths of a strictly economic analysis of the externality problem. The paper pointed out the type of situation where normative considerations must be included, and discussed some typical legal conflicts where economic analysis might offer solutions to environmental questions.
The three day conference was concluded with a three hour, videotaped panel discussion including philosophers Mack, Miller, Machan, and Doug Den Uyl of Marquette University, one of the organizers of the conference. The panel also included economists Kardatzke, Pejovich, Bruce Den Uyl, and David Glasner, Professor of Economics at Marquette. The topic of the panel discussion was the extent and applicability of economic analysis to the property rights question.
LIBERTARIAN SCHOLARS CONFERENCE
The Fifth Libertarian Scholars Conference was held at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies at Princeton, October 21-23. Papers and presentations included a discussion of Murray Rothbard's manuscript, The Ethics of Liberty, which has been submitted to a publisher but is not yet available in bookstores. Profs. P.T. Bauer and Stanislav Andreski discussed the role of government planning in hindering the economic development of the Third World. Eugen Loebl and James Dorn, both expert in the practice of central planning in Eastern Europe, discussed the problems experienced by Communist governments in attempting to coordinate economic systems. A highlight of this session of the conference was the discussion by Prof. Gerald P. O'Driscoll of the Mises-Hayek assault on socialist theory in the 1930's—pointing out that the socialists conceded defeat on this issue, although the proposals for such systems seem to spring forth anew each year.
The Saturday evening banquet speaker was Earl C. Ravenel, of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who presented a persuasive case for a non-interventionist foreign policy.
The Libertarian Scholars Conferences are sponsored by the Center for Libertarian Studies, 200 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003. Papers presented at the conferences are subsequently published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, which is available from Pergamon Press or through the CLS.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines: Philosophy Conferences".