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Moral Insights

Nic Tideman: The Constitutional Conflict Between Protecting Expectations and Moral Evolution

Constitutions must be amendable, to allow for the possibility of incorporating new moral insights into them. This impinges on the protection of expectations, including those regarded as property. Protection of property rights is achieved by constitutional restrictions on the ability of voters and legislators to reduce the value of property by regulation, taxation or expropriation. But such restrictions also prevent voters and legislatures from reflecting new moral insights in legislation, if those insights would reduce the value of property. There have been times in the past when moral development has compelled societies to change laws in ways that reduced the value of property (e.g., elimination of slavery). We cannot guarantee that there will be no future advances in our moral evolution that would require similar changes in laws, reducing or eliminating the value of what we now consider property. Looking forward to the possibility of such moral advances, we should design constitutions that permit amendments to reflect new moral insights, while prohibiting legislators (or voters in referenda) from passing laws that redistribute in ways not explicitly sanctioned by the constitution.

1. The Possibility of New Moral Insights that Necessitate Redistribution
2. Assigning the Costs of Moral Accidents
3. The Possibility of a Right of Secession
4. The Complementary Right of Equal Access to Natural Opportunities
5. Power, Population and Process

... Three hundred years ago virtually no one questioned the propriety of slavery. Even John Locke, that most articulate advocate of human freedom, invested in slaves. But over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, amid extreme controversy in some times and places, slavery was nearly eliminated from the world. With a bit of a lag, a consensus gradually evolved among humanity that slavery was wrong, indeed that no distinctions in civil rights based on race could be justified.

Two hundred years ago almost no one thought that women should be allowed to vote. Amid extreme controversy in some times and places, they were granted voting rights. Now virtually no one argues that women should be denied any rights that men have. We have not yet arrived at a consensus about what equality of the sexes means, but we are near a consensus that we should strive for it. ...  Read the whole article

Nic Tideman:   The Political Economy of Moral Evolution

This paper argues that a liberal theory of the resolution of disagreements about the requirements of justice must include the possibility of secession. When such a possibility is allowed, it can be predicted that there will be changes not only in the character of disputes about the requirements of justice, but also in the patterns of taxes and public expenditures. There will be a greater propensity for seeing the other side's point of view in disputes about the requirements of justice, and a greater tendency to support public activities by efficient taxes on the beneficiaries of public expenditures.

The paper begins with a discussion of the nature of moral truth, its relation to scientific truth, and the way in which moral knowledge grows. Next discussed is the difficulty of translating moral knowledge into social institutions, arising from the inevitability and impropriety of judging one's own cause. Ackerman's "neutral dialogue" is endorsed as the most acceptable way of dealing with this difficulty. But I suggest that in dialogues regarding the requirements of justice there should be an understanding that one possible outcome of the dialogue is failure to agree on mutually acceptable conditions for being part of the same society, leading to a parting of the ways. The conditions under which such a parting would occur constitute the most fundamental question of justice. I suggest that Ackerman's proposed condition of equal sharing of the providence of nature (Ackerman's initial manna) among all generations constitutes an appropriate basis for parting if agreement should be impossible.

I argue that such an understanding of the possibility of secession would provide a better framework for the growth of moral knowledge than when the politically successful are able to preclude experiments with alternative conceptions of justice. It would also reduce opportunities for the politically adroit to exploit the less adroit. If competition among societies for citizens resulted from the possibility of secession, the competitive equilibrium would include land value taxation....  Read the whole article

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper