November 3, 2011 columns

An Introduction

Julian Sanchez discusses his perspective and philosphical interests.

As readers of the Cato-at-Liberty blog will know, my research for the Cato Institute focuses primarily on more concrete policy issues at the busy intersection of technlogy, privacy, and civil liberties. Yet I’ve never quite shaken the philosophy bug I picked up in my collegiate days at New York University (when I had the bittersweet honor of being, as far as I know, the last person to interview the late, great libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick). My ruminations on that front have mostly been confined to my personal blog to date, but I’m happy to have an outlet for them that I’ll be sharing with such sharp company.

I’ve always thought the somewhat fusty and unwieldy sounding “classical liberal” was a better fit for my political position than “libertarian” (though I’ll happily answer to that), and see myself as pretty thoroughly embedded in the broader liberal tradition. I’m probably one of about a dozen people on the planet who’ll describe themselves, with a straight face, as a “Rawlsian libertarian”—not the John Rawls of the difference principle and A Theory of Justice, mind you, but the Rawls of Political Liberalism who took seriously the obligation to justify state power to a pluralistic citizenry whose deep differences on ultimate moral and metaphysical questions had to be treated with respect. (Of course, I think if he’d taken that obligation sufficiently seriously, he’d have been more of a libertarian…) Other improbable influences include Derek Parfit, Thomas Nagel, and Ronald Dworkin—alongside some slightly more usual suspects: Robert Nozick, David Gauthier, Loren Lomasky, David Schmidtz, etc. With luck, this blog’s impetus to think more systematically about foundational questions again will leave us all with a clearer sense of just what that strange stew amounts to soon.