We discussed a rationale for freedom and markets based on natural rights. Locke’s famous discussion of natural property rights is widely taken to have libertarian implications, at least among philosophers.
Gibbard and Professor Brown questioned whether Locke’s theory would have libertarian implications. They both noted that Locke’s proviso would sharply limit property rights in the world we inhabit. The proviso limits the appropriation of natural goods as property to cases where there is “enough and as good” left over for others (§27). As Professor Brown put it, that means the opportunity cost of appropriating something as private property has to be zero.
Gibbard also claimed to find problems with the moral theory underlying Locke’s views.
I thought this was worth discussing for two reasons. First, the contrast makes it clearer exactly what Locke’s position was. Second, the line of thought Gibbard traces is one that Rawls followed in deciding that a hypothetical social contract theory makes sense.
Some of the things that Professor Brown and Brendan were saying about efficiency and favoring the status quo put me in mind of this column by Uwe Reinhardt.