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Libertarian Self-Defeat

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I show that the standard libertarian conception of justice is vulnerable to a kind of basic collective self-defeat not characteristic of its rivals. All deontological liberals, including the libertarian, ought to be committed to two very general claims regarding the nature of justice. The RSC (Reasonable Stability Criterion) is the requirement that in the just society, human beings will typically exhibit genuine literacy with the relevant conception. The MEC (Moral Education Condition) consists in the thought that a necessary condition for any such literacy is a proper moral education. It is consistent with full respect for standard libertarian justice that a society living under its auspices will fail to satisfy the RSC, by failing to provide moral education to those who need it. This issues in the collective self-defeat of the conception, for by respecting all and only the constraints constitutive of libertarian justice, the group will have undermined the achievement of a characteristic aim.

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