Wednesday 17th February, 3.15 - 5pm, online.
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Kant’s political philosophy is based on freedom; and it opens with an account of property. What is the relation between these? Is the right to do what you want with your property a fundamental freedom that can be limited only by other people’s equal freedom? Or do the exclusions involved in defending private property involve a fundamental unfreedom of some? There is debate in the literature about whether a political philosophy based on defending and enabling equal external freedom rather than on meeting needs would support redistributive taxation and market regulation. My aim in this paper is to investigate the relation between freedom, property and economic justice in Kant’s political philosophy by thinking about the relation between external freedom, property and so-called free markets. Liberalism is associated with ‘free’ markets, but what conception of free markets follows from a Kantian account? What is it for markets to be free? My argumentative strategy is reconstructive not primarily based on claims made in Kant’s texts directly about markets and the economy (of which there are very few), and many of the issue I discuss with respect to markets are contemporary concerns. But my aim is to explore what follows from Kant’s political philosophy for how we should think about markets. As is well known, the Doctrine of Right is very sketchy, leaving much work for us to do in working out what follows from the account. My approach is influenced by Charles Mills’ critique of ideal theory, as well as his ‘occupy liberalism’ approach to rethinking liberalism, though my focus (unlike his) is on Kant’s political philosophy. My interest is in theorizing non-ideal concerns specifically in relation to property and markets in Kant’s account of justice. I argue that, in Kant’s account, voluntary market exchange of property is something that must be thought of as depending on and being subordinate to the framework of civic equality, rather than something fundamental which drives what civic equality is and constrains it. I argue that this has implications for the responsibility of the state to manage natural resources, including those that affect the climate.
Picture by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash