Jason Brennan

American philosopher and business professor

Jason F. Brennan (born 1979) is Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

Neoclassical Liberalism: How I’m Not a Libertarian (2011)


"Neoclassical Liberalism: How I’m Not a Libertarian" (March 3, 2011)

  • In academic philosophy, people tend to use the term ‘libertarian’ in a restrictive way, to refer to people who 1) hold that property rights and other rights are absolute or nearly absolute, 2) who ground their theories of rights and justice on the concept of self-ownership, 3) who reject social justice, and 4) who reject the idea that positive liberty really is liberty, and is a valuable form of liberty which society should project and promote. Libertarians hold that justice requires that we respect property rights, period, even if that means a large percentage of people will starve, lead poor and desperate lives, or have no stake in their society. If that’s libertarianism, count me out.
  • Most liberals agree that some rights and liberties are more basic than others. All liberals include some economic liberties on their list of basic liberties. The purpose of these liberties is (at least in part) to protect citizens’ ability to act as independent decision-makers over a wide range of choices they face in their lives, to facilitate them facing each other as autonomous and equal citizens, and to allow them to develop their moral powers.
  • Liberals disagree about the scope, nature, and weight of the liberties they consider basic. High liberals have a thin conception of economic liberty. They think that freedom of occupation and freedom to own personal property are among the basic liberties. In contrast, classical liberals, libertarians, and neoclassical liberals think that the basic liberties also include strong rights to freedom of contract, freedom to own and use productive property, freedom to buy and sell on voluntary terms, and so on. They regard these rights as on par with civil liberties, while high liberals regard them as lesser rights, or in some cases, not rights at all. High liberals tend to interpret the civil liberties broadly. They assume that the civil liberties have a wide scope and are quite weighty. Neoclassical liberals hold that economic liberties have the same weight and wide scope as the civil liberties. (High liberals will want to ask: Why?)
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