Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article


Richard J. Arnesona1

a1 Philosophy, University of California, San Diego


Left-libertarianism is a version of Lockean libertarianism that combines the idea that each person is the full rightful owner of herself and the idea that each person should have the right to own a roughly equal amount of the world's resources. This essay argues against left-libertarianism. The specific target is an interesting form of left-libertarianism proposed by Michael Otsuka that is especially stringent in its equal world ownership claim. One criticism advanced is that there is more tension than Otsuka acknowledges between private ownership of self and equal ownership of the world. This emerges once one notices that self-ownership should not be conceived merely in a thin, formal way but also as a thicker substantive insistence on wide individual freedom. A second criticism is that in other respects the formal idea of self-ownership that Otsuka and other left-libertarians embrace is an extreme doctrine that merits rejection.

Richard J. Arneson is Professor, Above Scale (Distinguished Professor) of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. In the fall of 2008, he was Adjunct Professor at the School of Law, University of San Diego, where he is also affiliated with the Institute for Law and Philosophy. His recent writings are in political philosophy (on theories of justice) and in moral philosophy (on act consequentialism versus deontology).


I thank Ellen Paul for her astute criticisms and questions directed at an earlier draft of this essay.