One of mankind's most enduring questions is the legitimate scope of state power: how far and in what ways may the government meddle with people's lives? Where lies the line that government ought not cross? For more than three centuries, the western world has answered these questions with a set of institutions and practices that have come to be known as liberal democracy. Though deeply rooted, liberalism has stirred critical attacks from both the left and the right and it has never wholly taken over as the dominant political school of thought for any length of time. During the past 40 years, many of liberalism's most distinguished defenders have presented complex, controversial, abstruse, and even impenetrable theories to justify liberal institutions and practices, often relying on metaphysical constructs, imaginary beings, and fanciful events to describe abstract liberal principles that rarely reach real-world problems. In Liberalism Undressed, Jethro K. Lieberman returns to liberalism's roots to explain, in accessible and readable prose, why liberalism retains its power and appeal.
He begins with the memorable thesis of John Stuart Mill that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Building on Mill's well-known but rarely analyzed Harm Principle, Liberalism Undressed undertakes to show that this widely-accepted precept-"it's a free country; I should be able to do what I want as long as I don't hurt anybody"-can justify a government robust enough to deal with pressing modern problems of human abuse and suffering while restrained enough to provide people freedom to live life on their own terms. A stirring defense of the harm principle as the bedrock of liberal governance, Liberalism Undressed rethinks the very purpose of government in the twenty-first century.
Jethro K. Lieberman is the author of The Litigious Society and many other books. He has had a varied career: as a practicing lawyer, both in private practice and as a Navy JAG officer; as a journalist and the first Legal Affairs Editor of Business Week; and as a Professor, of Law at New York Law School and for several years Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.
Chapter 1: The Liberal Premise ; Commitments in Search of a Premise ; The Harm Principle ; The Ends, Means, Reach, and Shape of Government ; Liberal Alternatives to the Harm Principle ; The Modesty of the Harm Principle ; The Self: Autonomous Solitary or Communal Solidary? ; A Few Words about Reason ; Chapter 2: Constructing Harm from Natural Rights: The Cases of Locke and Nozick ; The Traditional Neglect of Harm ; Locke and the Indeterminacy of Harm ; Nozick and the Relativity of Harm ; Ignorance and Harm ; The Relativity of Property ; Chapter 3: The Meaning of Harm Derived from Interests: Feinberg's Harm Principle ; The Butterfly Effect ; Wrongful Harmdoing: Harm as Wrongful Setback to Interest ; The Interest Criterion ; The Setback Criterion ; The Criterion of Wrongfulness ; Harmless Wrongdoing ; Harm in Criminal and Civil Contexts ; Aggregative Harms and the Problem of Risk ; Accumulative Harms and the Problem of Causation ; Chapter 4: Collective Harms and the Market: Problems of Causation ; The Market as Natural Force ; The Market as Human Agency ; Addressing Market Harms ; Competition Harms ; Investment Harms and the Problem of Planning ; Market Harms and Harms to Market ; Production Harms and Restrictions on Property ; Employment Harms and Working Conditions ; A Note on Market Socialism ; Welfare Harms ; Chapter 5: Taxation, Welfare, and Benefits ; The Problem of Charity ; Positive and Negative Rights ; Welfare Benefits ; Projects ; Self-provisioning ; Rule-Making ; Preventing Incipient Harms ; Duty to rescue ; Education and Families ; Chapter 6: The Duty to Act: Toward the Fiduciary Ethic ; Proximity and the Duty to Act ; Special Relationships and the Duty to Act ; The Fiduciary Ethic ; Chapter 7: The Forms of Intervention ; Modes and Types of Intervention ; Modes of Intervention ; Types of Intervention ; General Limiting Principles of Intervention ; Proportionality Principle ; Principle of Least Intrusion ; Retroactivity Principle ; Equality Principle ; Principle of Procedural Fairness ; Redressing Harm ; Aggregative Harms ; Accumulative Harms ; Regulation vs. Litigation: The Case for Licensing ; Chapter 8: What Who? ; Why Who? ; Democracy and the Harm Principle ; Stakeholders: Ownership and Independence as the Basis of Political Power ; Expertise as the Basis of Political Power ; Citizenship as the Basis of Political Power ; Restraints on Government Power ; Restraints Preserved in a Constitution ; Separation of Powers ; Laws Applied Equally to All, Including Legislators ; Non-Delegation of Legislative Power ; Frequent Elections and Universal Suffrage ; Freedom of Speech and Press ; A Note on Rights ; Other Constitutional Restraints ; Against Constitutionalizing the Harm Principle ; Chapter 9: Paternalism and the Time Line ; Self-Regarding and Other-Regarding Behavior ; Consent to Risks ; Consent to Harms ; Banning Permanent Deprivations of Liberty ; Custom and Paternalism ; Some Notes on Exploitation ; Self Binding ; The Time Line ; Soft Paternalism as Liberty Limiting ; Chapter 10: Harm to Norms ; Expectations and the Externality Constraint ; Disobeying Religious Commands: Provoking the Wrath of God ; Prohibiting Immoral Conduct ; Immorality as Harm to Community ; Banning Actual Immorality ; Actual Immorality and Community ; Actual Immorality and Personal Distress ; Harmless Immorality ; The Communitarian Challenge to Liberalism ; Community as Source of Value ; Civic Republicanism ; Multiculturalism and Group Rights ; Harms by Community: Association and Equality ; Chapter 11: Liberalism Redressed ; Farewell to Zoon Politikon: Value Beyond the State ; The Passive Nobility of Liberalism ; Millian Moments: Is the Harm Principle at Work in the Real World? ; Facing Up to Harm ; Appendix: Four Liberal Premises and Their Problems ; The Consent Premise ; The Dialogue Premise ; The Equality Premise ; The Neutrality Premise ; Acknowledgments ; References