Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism
With this book, Richard A. Epstein provides a spirited and systematic defense of classical liberalism against the critiques mounted against it over the past thirty years. One of the most distinguished and provocative legal scholars writing today, Epstein here explains his controversial ideas in what will quickly come to be considered one of his cornerstone works.
He begins by laying out his own vision of the key principles of classical liberalism: respect for the autonomy of the individual, a strong system of private property rights, the voluntary exchange of labor and possessions, and prohibitions against force or fraud. Nonetheless, he not only recognizes but insists that state coercion is crucial to safeguarding these principles of private ordering and supplying the social infrastructure on which they depend. Within this framework, Epstein then shows why limited government is much to be preferred over the modern interventionist welfare state.
Many of the modern attacks on the classical liberal system seek to undermine the moral, conceptual, cognitive, and psychological foundations on which it rests. Epstein rises to this challenge by carefully rebutting each of these objections in turn. For instance, Epstein demonstrates how our inability to judge the preferences of others means we should respect their liberty of choice regarding their own lives. And he points out the flaws in behavioral economic arguments which, overlooking strong evolutionary pressures, claim that individual preferences are unstable and that people are unable to adopt rational means to achieve their own ends. Freedom, Epstein ultimately shows, depends upon a skepticism that rightly shuns making judgments about what is best for individuals, but that also avoids the relativistic trap that all judgments about our political institutions have equal worth.
A brilliant defense of classical liberalism, Skepticism and Freedom will rightly be seen as an intellectual landmark.
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Two Forms of Skepticism
The System of Liberty 3 2
A Preference for Preferences
Metapreferences Relative Preferences
Staying the Course
Table of Cases
allows argument attack basic behavioral economics better bias biases choice claim classical liberal coercion cognitive common law compensation competitive conceptual consequentialist context contract Critical Legal Studies decisions defendant Econ economic endowment effect Epstein example exchange firm force gains H. L. A. Hart harm Hayek hindsight bias Holmes individuals initial institutions justify labor laissez-faire legal rules legal system libertarian liberty limited matter monopoly moral moral relativism moral skepticism natural law offer ordinary outcome overall owner parties PD game percent person political position Posner possession possible practice presumptions principle private property problem protection question rational rational choice theory reason regulation relative preferences require Richard risk self-interest Self-Ownership sense skepticism social society standard strategy sunk costs Sunstein theory tion tort trade transactions utility voluntary wages wealth welfare workers