Sterba advances the argument that libertarian negative liberty supports a welfare state. Narveson disagrees, using social contract theory to support his position.
Featuring the dueling authors Jan Narveson, University of Waterloo; and James P. Sterba, University of Notre Dame; moderated by David Boaz, Executive Vice President, Cato Institute. Are the political ideals of liberty and equality compatible? This question is of central and continuing importance in political philosophy, moral philosophy, and welfare economics. In this book, two distinguished philosophers take up the debate. Jan Narveson, author of The Libertarian Idea, argues that a political ideal of negative liberty is incompatible with any substantive ideal of equality, while James P. Sterba, author of Justice for Here and Now, argues that Narveson’s own ideal of negative liberty is compatible with, and in fact leads to the requirements of, a substantive ideal of equality. Of course, they cannot both be right. Thus, the details of their arguments about the political ideal of negative liberty and its requirements will determine which of them is right. Their debate will be of value to all who are interested in the central issue of what the practical requirements of a political ideal of liberty entail.