Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Word About Justice

I did the reading Jacob Levy assigned. The comments thread contains two discussion really:

1. An argument about the relative merits of utilitarianism and deontology (to which I added my two cents about the futility of utilitarianism and the obvious superiority of Aristotle).

2. A back-and-forth about libertarianism and utilitarianism as they apply to questions of inequality and injustice.

I'd like to say something slightly tangential to 2. I have no doubt that libertarianism owns justice. Utilitarianism simply has nothing to say about justice. There are critiques of utilitarianism that avoid libertarianism and yet hold onto a concept of justice (Rawls, Sen, Hegel), but that doesn't affect the point I really want to make:

I have no doubt that capitalism is just. It is rigorously respectful of human freedom in exactly the way that Richard Pozner argues. And yet, I also have no doubt that capitalism, left to run its course, will lead human beings to be the first species to go extinct by its own hand. And the road to this self-destruction will be built by justice.

Kant famously endorsed the maxim: Let justice be done, though the heavens fall. This is capitalism's motto. I am extremely averse to utilitarianism--it is incoherent, as far as I can tell--but we need to get over our justice fetishism, before it kills us.

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