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A Dilemma for Libertarianism

Karl Widerquist, University of Reading


This article presents a dilemma for libertarianism. It argues that libertarian principles of acquisition and transfer without regard for the pattern of inequality do not support a minimal state, but can lead just as well to a monarchy with full the full power of taxation without violation of self-ownership. The article considers and rejects several ways in which libertarianism might try to argue against a monarchy. Once the government ownership of property is shown to be consistent with just acquisition and transfer of property rights, monarchy, socialism, or state-managed capitalism can be seen as patterns of the distribution of property rights. Libertarian advocacy of a minimal state is simply a preference for one pattern of the distribution of property rights over another. Thus, libertarians must choose between the principles and the state they advocate.

Suggested Citation

Karl Widerquist. "A Dilemma for Libertarianism" Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 8.1 (2009): 43-72.
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