Governing Least

A New England Libertarianism

[Amazon Link]

Note the subtitle. And yet, the University Near Here's Interlibrary Loan folks needed to obtain this book from Southeast Missouri State University. My geography is weak, but I'm pretty sure that's not New England. I'm grateful, but isn't it kind of ironic that it wasn't available from someplace… closer by?

The author, Dan Moller, is a philosophy prof at the University of Maryland (also: not in New England). In this book, he attempts to promote and defend a version of libertarianism that (unlike, say, Nozick) does not depend on assertions about the absolute moral rights of individuals.

Instead, Moller aims to show that our everyday, common-sense, views of morality look askance at "burden-shifting". (And the "New England" part of this is based on an imaginary thought experiment involving a wannabe welfare recipient pleading his case before his peers at an old-style town meeting. Also, Emerson and Thoreau are cited.) Moller notes (reasonably enough) that some burden-shifting might be necessary, but thresholds must be met; it's not anything-goes.

The beginning of the book was the roughest going for me, where Moller defends his take on civic morality. Unsurprising: this is an area where people have been trying and failing to resolve issues for millennia; there's a whole language (using terms like "deontic"). Things get easier once we're past that.

Moller lays out his thesis with a lot of insight and some wit. If you're interested at all in libertarian political philosophy, recommended.