In A Consequentialist Defense of Libertarianism, Richard Fumerton argues that empirical facts concerning consequences must always play a crucial role in a plausible defense of freedom. After making distinctions between morality and law, he defends the view that it is a fundamental mistake to think that the law should always, or even usually, attempt to mirror morality. With this framework in place, Fumerton addresses various controversial questions concerning when the law ought to side with freedom. He offers a nuanced defense of several positions shared by many "moderate" libertarians.
This consequentialist defense of freedom offers a fresh perspective on some very old philosophical debates. As more people become frustrated with a perceived lack of principled attempts by established political parties to appreciate important concerns people have involving their desire for freedom, the issues discussed in this book are particularly timely.
Richard Fumerton is F. Wendell Miller Professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.
Part I: Theoretical Controversies: The Importance of Consequentialist Reasoning
Chapter 1: Level Distinctions and a Philosophical Dilemma
Chapter 2: Law, Rationality, and Morality
Chapter 3: Controversies in Meta-ethics and Meta-rationality
Part II: Defending Freedom
Chapter 4: Mill’s Defense of Freedom
Chapter 5: Consequentialist Arguments for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Chapter 6: Social Libertarianism
Chapter 7: Economic Libertarianism
Chapter 8: Summary
"It might seem that consequentialism and libertarianism make strange bedfellows. But for Richard Fumerton, in this tour de force of a philosophical journey ranging from metaethics to public policy, they make a happy marriage."
“Libertarianism valorizes individual freedom, and on the traditional libertarian view, that freedom is demanded and secured by individual rights. Consequentialism is often thought to be antithetical to libertarianism precisely because it cannot accommodate such rights, instead requiring significant personal sacrifice for the greater good. In A Consequentialist Defense of Libertarianism, Richard Fumerton turns this debate on its head, advancing a consequentialist libertarianism that is more subtle than most extant rights-based versions of libertarianism and anything but doctrinaire.”
"Richard Fumerton’s A Consequentialist Defense of Libertarianism is a tour de force working through many major issues in ethics, political and legal philosophy, epistemology, and philosophy generally, done by one of the most distinguished philosophers of our times. Fumerton’s judgments on these issues are well-organized and clearly expressed in a manner accessible to lay readers, and yet despite such widespread accessibility, there is no sacrifice of the kind of philosophical sophistication achievable only by one who has spent a lifetime maturing his judgments about such issues."
"A masterful, rich, and lucid overview of what consequentialism is and how consequentialism approaches policy questions. Taking on abortion, the legalization of recreational drugs, and taxes, Fumerton explains in compelling terms why policies that preserve and protect social and economic freedom are likely to have the best consequences for communities."