Coercion, ownership, and the redistributive state: Justificatory liberalism's classical tilt

Gerald Gaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Justificatory liberalism is liberal in an abstract and foundational sense: it respects each as free and equal, and so insists that coercive laws must be justified to all members of the public. In this essay I consider how this fundamental liberal principle relates to disputes within the liberal tradition on the extent of the state. It is widely thought today that this core liberal principle of respect requires that the state regulates the distribution of resources or well-being to conform to principles of fairness, that all citizens be assured of employment and health care, that no one be burdened by mere brute bad luck, and that citizens' economic activities must be regulated to insure that they do not endanger the fair value of rights to determine political outcomes. I argue in this essay: (1) a large family of liberal views are consistent with the justificatory liberals project, from classical to egalitarian formulations (but not socialist ones); (2) overall, the justificatory project tilts in the direction of classical formulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-275
Number of pages43
JournalSocial Philosophy and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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