In his book, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Simon Blackburn takes the reader on a semi-structured tour of various ethical topics. He tackles a variety of bad ideas that have made their way into the ethical arena and spends the majority of the book focused on putting them down. Blackburn mostly refrains, however, from developing or advocating any particular ethical theory.
Surprisingly, given the title, the book not overly friendly to the uninitiated. The reader is often expected to already be familiar with major ideas, figures, and schools of thought in ethics and philosophy. While in the beginning Blackburn does do a good job explicitly motivating why ethical systems are important, by spending the bulk of the work on focused on flawed systems, the book might be discouraging to individuals looking for an ethical system to live by. Blackburn does drop a few hints at what he thinks a good ethic might look like, but sadly it seems to be some sort of democratic socialism.
Polystate: a Thought Experiment in Distributed Government
Zach Weinersmith identifies a serious problem in modern society, which he calls the geostate. A geostate is a bounded area of land dominated by a government. The problem with this, as Weinersmith sees it, is that people effectively have no choice in what kind of government they live under. He proposes a new kind of system in which people do not have to be involved with a geostate just because they live in a certain place, but rather may choose from a variety of anthrostates.
These anthrostates are similar to geostates in that they tax their subjects and provide some services. However, subjects may switch anthrostates every year. So two neighbors might belong to different anthrostates. If one anthrostate becomes undesirable for any reason, a person may simply switch to one that is more to their liking. He then defends this polystate system based on the numerous advantages it has over the geostate model.
The most important difference between a polystate and a geostate is not that the latter is location based and the former is not. Continue reading →
Norms of Liberty is a meandering defense of classical liberalism which gives it some relevance to libertarianism. David Gordon gives an excellent discussion of the book in the Mises Review. Writes Gordon:
This remarkable book is a sustained attempt to solve what its author term “liberalism’s problem.” In a liberal society, people are free to live as they wish, so long as they do not violate the rights of others. There is no “official truth”, whether religious or secular, that prescribes for people the content of a good life. (The authors are classical liberals rather than adherents of the modern leftist distortion of liberalism; but the problem that concerns them is not confined to classical liberalism.)
Liberalism’s problem might be summarized as: ‘what sort of ethical system is needed to produce the sort of society that liberalism would produce?’ Continue reading →