chapter  7
31 Pages

“What is Left in Left-Libertarianism?”


This essay is a critical examination of key components of Hillel Steiner’s left-libertarianism1 as this doctrine is articulated in his most imposing An Essay on Rights (1994). The core of Steiner’s left-libertarianism consists in the affi rmation of certain original and universal rights-as does the core of standard rights-oriented libertarianism against which Steiner argues.2 That standard libertarianism can be said to affi rm only one original and universal right, viz., each agent’s right of self-ownership.3 It specifi cally denies that agents have any original right to particular extra-personal material or to shares of such material. In contrast, Steiner’s left-libertarianism affi rms both an original right of self-ownership and some original right with respect to extra-personal material. The left-ness of left libertarianism derives from this latter original right being a substantively equal right of ownership over the relevant extra-personal material.4 Steiner’s specifi cally left-libertarian affi rmations of original rights is preceded by a meticulous and illuminating account of the nature of rights and their function within any wider moral theory; this account is itself a major contribution to moral and political theory.