Recommended books:
  • Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy
    Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy
    by Michael Ruse
  • The Libertarian Idea
    The Libertarian Idea
    by Jan Narveson
  • Beyond Morality
    Beyond Morality
    by Richard Garner
  • The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism
    The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism
    by David D. Friedman
  • Religion Explained
    Religion Explained
    by Pascal Boyer
  • Against Politics: On Government, Anarchy and Order (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought)
    Against Politics: On Government, Anarchy and Order (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought)
    by Anthony De Jasay
  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    by Steven Pinker
  • Ethics : Inventing Right and Wrong
    Ethics : Inventing Right and Wrong
    by J. L. Mackie
  • Six Political Illusions: A Primer on Government for Idealists Fed Up with History Repeating Itself
    Six Political Illusions: A Primer on Government for Idealists Fed Up with History Repeating Itself
    by James L. Payne
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)
    The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)
    by Matt Ridley
  • Morals By Agreement
    Morals By Agreement
    by David Gauthier
  • Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom
    Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom
    by Paul H. Rubin
  • The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State
    The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State
    by Bruce L. Benson
  • Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice: Essays on Moral and Political Philosophy
    Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice: Essays on Moral and Political Philosophy
    by Jan Narveson
  • The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
    The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
    by Bryan Caplan
  • The Evolution of Morality (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)
    The Evolution of Morality (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)
    by Richard Joyce
  • Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice (Independent Studies in Political Economy)
    Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice (Independent Studies in Political Economy)
    by Edward Stringham
  • Political Economy, Concisely: Essays on Policy That Does Not Work and Markets That Do (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    Political Economy, Concisely: Essays on Policy That Does Not Work and Markets That Do (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    by Anthony de Jasay
  • Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women
    Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women
    by Wendy McElroy
  • Overcoming Welfare: Expecting More From The Poor And From Ourselves
    Overcoming Welfare: Expecting More From The Poor And From Ourselves
    by James L. Payne
  • The Nature of Morality: An Introduction to Ethics
    The Nature of Morality: An Introduction to Ethics
    by Gilbert Harman
  • The Ethics of Voting
    The Ethics of Voting
    by Jason Brennan
  • Escape From Leviathan: Liberty, Welfare, and Anarchy Reconciled
    Escape From Leviathan: Liberty, Welfare, and Anarchy Reconciled
    by J.C. Lester
  • You and the State: A Short Introduction to Political Philosophy (Elements of Philosophy)
    You and the State: A Short Introduction to Political Philosophy (Elements of Philosophy)
    by Jan Narveson
  • The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God
    The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God
    by J. L. Mackie
  • Political Philosophy, Clearly: Essays on Freedom and Fairness, Property and Equalities (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    Political Philosophy, Clearly: Essays on Freedom and Fairness, Property and Equalities (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    by Anthony de Jasay
  • A History of Force: Exploring the Worldwide Movement Against Habits of Coercion, Bloodshed, and Mayhem
    A History of Force: Exploring the Worldwide Movement Against Habits of Coercion, Bloodshed, and Mayhem
    by James L. Payne
  • Causes, Laws, and Free Will: Why Determinism Doesn't Matter
    Causes, Laws, and Free Will: Why Determinism Doesn't Matter
    by Kadri Vihvelin
  • The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
    The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
    by Matt Ridley
  • To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice (Political Economy of the Austrian School Series)
    To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice (Political Economy of the Austrian School Series)
    by Bruce L. Benson
  • The Believing Brain: From Spiritual Faiths To Political Convictions
    The Believing Brain: From Spiritual Faiths To Political Convictions
    by Michael Shermer
  • Justice and Its Surroundings (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    Justice and Its Surroundings (Collected Papers of Anthony de Jasay)
    by Anthony de Jasay
  • The Myth of Morality (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
    The Myth of Morality (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)
    by Richard Joyce
  • Reclaiming Education
    Reclaiming Education
    by James Tooley
  • Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World
    Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World
    by David D. Friedman
  • For and Against the State
    For and Against the State
    Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
    by Steven Pinker
  • Moral Matters, second edition
    Moral Matters, second edition
    by Jan Narveson
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Europe's microstates: showing us the future of Europe?

Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City is a fact-filled book about the histories, cultures, economies, languages, and more, of these European microstates. The book also contains information for prospective travellers to the microstates of Europe. While the book is almost entirely descriptive and contains very little by way of analysis, on occasion the author Thomas M. Eccardt offers a few often astute observations and comments. "The European microstates", he notes, "all have mature service economies, and most have very little heavy industry or agriculture. They may represent the future of bigger states."


As the book (published in 2004) documents, these microstates are among the most affluent countries in the world. Crime rates are extremely low. Taxes in general are low in the microstates: "There is no income tax in Monaco and Andorra. The highest income tax rate in Liechtenstein is 16 percent ". "Andorra has the world’s highest life expectancy, and San Marino has the second highest. In fact, all the microstates of Europe sustain long average life spans, and they have the lowest levels of unemployment as well." "The seven microstates have generally done a good job of managing their natural environment. Perhaps their limited resources have led them to take exceptionally good care of what they have." "Another interesting aspect of these countries concerns the military - they have little or no armies. Hopefully, the microstates will lead the way to the future in this regard, too." As the author concludes at one point: "Obviously, these positive qualities of life are worth looking into."


The author notes that "Throughout the ages, the borders of these nations have been remarkably stable compared with those of their bigger neighbors".


While other European countries were taking turns conquering and dominating the continent, the microstates, without territorial ambitions, were able to maintain their borders mostly by minding their own business.


With the exception of Luxembourg (the biggest of the seven microstates) who is a member of NATO, the microstates of Europe are neutral and four of the seven microstates have no annual defense budget. Liechtenstein disbanded its entire army in 1868.


While the European microstates are not generous in bestowing citizenship upon their many foreign residents,


... they have been generous in helping the citizens of their neighbors. Andorra remained neutral during the Spanish Civil War and, after that, during World War II. It became an escape route for refugees from Spain fleeing to France, and then vice versa. San Marino took in one hundred thousand refugees fleeing fascist Italy during the same period: there were more than four guests for every inhabitant. Seventy years before that, San Marino took in many refugees fleeing retribution during Italy’s struggle for unification, including one of its heroes, Garibaldi. Malta was another important refuge for Italians during the Risorgimento.


Luxembourg was a founding member of the European Union and Malta joined the EU in 2004, but the other microstates of Europe have not been so eager to join political unions, "possibly because they fear elimination of their [relatively] unregulated industries." Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino use the Euro as their currency, which interestingly puts them inside the "Euro zone" while outside the EU. Liechtenstein is in a currency union with Switzerland and is "happy to remain in the European Free Trade Association."


The success of the microstates has often drawn jealous eyes from outside. As the author notes while a microstate may be willing to accept some "legal limitations" imposed on them from the outside (in exchange for benefits bestowed on them by their "big sisters"), they "may also have to put up with a certain amount of downright bullying as well. If a big sister is unhappy with a tiny nation's policies, there is little the latter can do to defend against any backlash." Examples of such bullying include the Italian ban on San Marino operating a radio station and when the French banned the importing of pharmaceuticals from Monaco.


It seems that big sisters are always trying to force "reform" on the microstates to eliminate the special industries that arise from the fact of being a small state. But whenever one such industry is eliminated, another always seems to pop up in its place.


Several of the microstates are monarchies and not fully democratic. As the author points out "Some people associate monarchies with dictatorial rule, but that has never been a valid assumption. Monarchs have always delegated their duties, and many did not interfere with the carrying out of those duties. Today most monarchs' activities are strictly limited by law, and they are largely ceremonial." From a classical liberal perspective, at least, a relatively laissez-faire monarch is much to be preferred over a democratically elected busybody.


In many respects, the European microstates can be seen as tiny bastions of freedom. They can serve as role models for others seeking independence. And, perhaps, even represent the future of Europe?


The University Outside State Control

[G]overnment interference in university education was not the outcome of a public outcry that university provision was of poor quality, but an act of control and subsequently of protectionism.

In the collection of writings making up the book The University Outside State Control, Professor John Kersey makes the historical point that

Government intervention in university education is a relatively recent, post-war phenomenon. In the past, even universities established by the state were largely self-regulating and self-governing, for example in the UK. Under this system there were few serious concerns about the capacity of universities to govern their affairs.

Analysing the subsequent development towards more state interference, Kersey writes

The increase of government control over the universities may be seen to have arisen not because of public outcry or university malfeasance, but rather because of the desire of government to bring university governance and admissions into line with their political views and agenda. More radically, such moves may also be seen as a political impulse to control what are potentially sources of powerful opposition to government policy.

What remains of the private sector - what Kersey calls the self-regulating sector - in higher education is under heavy attack.

The mainstream universities, concerned at competition for their territory and challenge to the system of tenure, have sought and often succeeded in persuading the state to legislate their competitors out of existence on the grounds that they threaten their definitions of quality in education. . . . The attack on the private sector has been vicious and unrelenting, bringing about crude market protectionism by the engagement of the state to defend those publically-regulated institutions from which it derives income. Make no mistake, this is a turf war, and the consumer is the loser.

Not only the academic and political establishments are to blame but also the media:

The media has been all too ready to print scandalous propaganda concerning private universities from state-sponsored sources without any serious investigation, which at its worst has led to a level of public debate on the issue of private universities that rises rarely above that of schoolyard name-calling. This is to some extent the result of the complexity of the issues concerned, which do not reduce into convenient soundbites, and also the public’s long-standing psychological dependence on the concept of state ownership of higher education, which is easily manipulated into the suggestion that the private sector poses a threat.

Kersey doesn't say this outright, but it becomes plausible on reflection that the academic and the political establishments have overlapping interests which enable a tacit alliance between the two to the effect that the state gives the universities funding and a legally privileged position in return for the universities allowing the government to pursue non-academically motivated social policies through the universities. There may also be a selection process in force with the effect that scholars who express views critical of government interference in academia are being held back from higher positions in the university hierarchy or deliberatively chose to leave academia to pursue other careers. Some scholars who hold views critical of government and remain within the university may chose not to express these views publicly in the knowledge that this might hurt their academic careers.

As Kersey points out, "academic freedom is a vital condition for the pursuit of scholarship" and "the control of educational institutions by government is ultimately in conflict with academic freedom". An independent university, by contrast, Kersey explains, is a university that "seeks to pursue its activities without government interference in order to enjoy academic freedom and control over its destiny." Such universities are self-regulating and establish their own funding. They offer educational programmes that meet market needs and, unlike a government controlled university, if the independent university fails in its mission, no government will bail it out.

In the free market, students and employers can decide for themselves what is acceptable for their own purposes. Some people may reject what others accept. Each may find the education that is suited to his or her own educational philosophy and individual needs. 

Choice leads to diversity, and diversity breeds excellence. Without the means of competition and innovation, mainstream university education will be all but dead in the water as education, and it will be overwhelmingly dependent on government because the web of the state’s influence will mean that it is too compromised to cope within the free market. On the other hand, free market competition from both large and particularly small private providers will not only sharpen up poor performers in the public sector, but also introduce more private sector options which will stimulate growth and demand for educational provision as a whole.

A major threat against diversity are the ongoing attempts of international bodies to standardise higher education such as the European Union's Bologna process and similar processes elsewhere. As Kersey points out

All these may be seen as ultimately constituting attempts to restrict free educational choice for the consumer and replace the existing diversity of provision with a series of standardised and hegemonic “state awards” (naturally reflecting the particular educational and political ideologies and agendas of their promoters).

On many points, Kersey's general perspective overlaps with that of James Tooley in the latter's excellent book Reclaiming Education (my review). But while Tooley is interested in education as a whole (which he stresses is much more than just schooling), Kersey is primarily concerned with higher education. As such, Kersey's book is a nice complement to Tooley's book. Both books discuss issues far beyond those I have mentioned above, and in Kersey's case these include the concepts and histories of non-traditional education and distance learning. He raises the fundamental question of what a university is and defends the "university of the Internet age".

Many chapters of The University Outside State Control are available online here.


Political and non-political contractarianism

The entry on contractarianism of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins thus:


"Contractarianism" names both a political theory of the legitimacy of political authority and a moral theory about the origin or legitimate content of moral norms. The political theory of authority claims that legitimate authority of government must derive from the consent of the governed, where the form and content of this consent derives from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. The moral theory of contractarianism claims that moral norms derive their normative force from the idea of contract or mutual agreement.


It is pointed out also that "There is no necessity for a contractarian about political theory to be a contractarian about moral theory, although most contemporary contractarians are both." The fact that some contractarians are anarchists - like the contemporary moral and political philosopher Jan Narveson - illustrates the logical independence of the two ideas.


The political social contract is supposed to ground the legitimacy of political authority. The parties to this contract are thought to be the subjects of political authority, on the one hand, and the wielders of that authority, on the other hand. That is, the citizens of a polity and their government or state. The legitimacy of the latter is thought to derive from the (explicit or implicit, actual or hypothetical) consent of the former. Like many critics have pointed out, as a matter of history, this is wildly inaccurate. Here is Anthony de Jasay making this point:


It must not be forgotten that contrary to the underlying postulate of [political] contractarianism, in reality no state has ever been formed at the unanimous wish of its prospective subjects. The origin of states has always been the assumption of power over the prospective governed by the prospective governors, usually by foreign conquerors, with support by a part of the governed purchased with the resources transferred to them from the rest of the governed. It is this standard mechanism that social contract theory seeks to represent in the metaphor of a voluntary contract of exchange between governors and governed.


By contrast, non-political or "moral" social contract theory not only has a completely different aim, but the parties to the contract in question are completely different. The parties here are every individual person with every other, or each with all the rest. David Gauthier is a representative of this kind of contractarianism. In his book Morals by Agreement, it is argued that it is rational for each person to adopt certain constraints on her behaviour in relation to her fellows on condition that they respect the same constraints on their behaviour in relation to her. It is the conditional feature that makes the terms "contract" or "agreement" suitable despite the fact that it is not a matter of any actual contract. "Contract" or "agreement" are metaphors or models for explaining the mutual advantage of accepting a set of interpersonal rules of conduct provided that others do so as well. Whether these rules should be thought of as being moral rules is, I believe, a further question that I have addressed in an earlier post.


Both political and non-political social contract theory make use of the idea of the "state of nature", but this imagined pre-agreement situation is very different in the two kinds of theory. In trying to understand why we would want something (government or social norms, for example) it is often a very good idea to try to imagine how it would be without it. Hence, the political contractarian imagines a situation without government (but with social conventions and the like intact) and asks how that situation would be like and whether establishing government could be seen to improve on that state. John Locke is a case in point. The non-political or moral contractarian asks instead about a situation without social rules regulating interpersonal relationships; without constraints on the pursuit of individual utility maximisation. Thomas Hobbes imagined that such a state would be one of war of all against all. As Jan Narveson points out in his very helpful Contractarian Theory FAQ,


The example of Hobbes, however, brings up the need for an immediate distinction, for in Hobbes' masterpiece "Leviathan", his avowed main purpose is to justify the State. To do so, he appeals to a moral theory, which he applies to the political problem. Ever thereafter there has been confusion, usually quite thoroughgoing, between Hobbes' moral theory and his political theory. . . . The question to ask about Hobbes's political theory is whether it is a correct application of the moral theory. I believe that it is not. For that reason, if the perceived problem with Contractarianism is that its political consequences are awful, then we must at least consider the possibility that the fault might lie, not in the contractarian moral theory itself, but in the attempt to extract political blood from contractarian turnips.


Some critics have (wilfully or not) conflated political and non-political contractarianism and taken themselves to have refuted the latter while in fact having offered arguments only against the former. Michael Huemer, for example, in his book The Problem of Political Authority, successfully demolishes political social contract theory and then later in the book misleadingly asserts that his arguments also undermine the idea (which Huemer explicitly attributes to Narveson) that "moral principles are determined by a hypothetical social contract". Huemer writes that "I reject all forms of social contract theory, for reasons discussed in Chapters 2 and 3", but turning back to those chapters one finds criticisms only of political social contract theory; criticisms with which the non-political social contract theorist could (and Narveson, I believe, would) readily agree. This is disappointing coming from Huemer who should know better. That Huemer himself sees no need for social contract theory - since he believes that our moral intuitions are a reliable guide to moral truth - is no excuse. If one, like me, however, thinks that moral intuitionism is ontologically and epistemologically hopeless, then contractarianism (of the non-political kind) remains an attractive approach to social rules.


Two interpretations of rational choice contractarianism

The foremost defender of rational choice contractarianism is David Gauthier. In his book Morals by Agreement, Gauthier puts forward a contractarian view of morality. Describing his project in that book, he says that


We shall develop a theory of morals as part of the theory of rational choice. We shall argue that the rational principles for making choices, or decisions among possible actions, include some that constrain the actor pursuing his own interest in an impartial way. These we identify as moral principles.


"Morality", Gauthier says, "can be generated as a rational constraint from the non-moral premisses of rational choice". He claims to have given morality "a sure grounding in a weak and widely accepted conception of practical rationality". All this sure sounds as if what Gauthier wants to do is to justify morality. However, in an independent essay written a few years after Morals by Agreement, Gauthier seems to suggest something quite different:


Deliberative justification [of a set of constraints on action] does not refute morality. Indeed, it does not offer morality the courtesy of a refutation. It ignores morality and seemingly replaces it.


Corresponding to these two strands in Gauthier's thinking, I believe that rational choice contractarianism is actually open to two radically different interpretations:


  1. Contractarianism is a way to justify morality and thereby to overcome moral scepticism. Thus understood contractarianism is a position within normative ethics alongside, for example, utilitarian and Kantian ethics. I will call this first interpretation moral contractarianism.

  2. Contractarianism is not another moral theory but rather an alternative to moral theorising as such. Thus understood it is an approach to rational constraints on interpersonal behaviour that is fully compatible with moral scepticism (and perhaps even partly motivated by commitment to moral scepticism). This I call non-moral contractarianism.


On 1, the social contract is morality. On 2, the social contract is instead an alternative to morality. I believe that Gauthier himself prefers 1 over 2, but I favour the second interpretation. One benefit of the non-moral interpretation is that it insulates contractarianism from "the relevance objection". Here is Holly Smith posing this objection:


We may characterize what Gauthier has done as arguing that individual rationality, or self-interest, requires a person to dispose herself to perform certain cooperative acts, and then actually to perform those acts when the time comes. Suppose we assume that the acts in question are precisely the same ones that morality requires. Still, the success of this argument would not show that morality has been provided with a justification. It would show that we have self-interested reasons to do what morality, if it were true (or correct), would demand - but it would not show that morality is true.


The non-moral contractarian can of course agree with all this and is thus not threatened by this objection. At this point one could perhaps think that the issue boils down to a merely verbal dispute about what deserves to be called by the label "morality". But I don't think this is so. Distinguishing between two very different types of justification will, I believe, bring out the seriousness of the objection. Traditional normative ethical theories aim at epistemic justification, arguments are provided for the truth (or correctness) of some moral claim or principle. This is the type of justification required for moral knowledge. The contractarian, by contrast, aims at deliberative or instrumental justification; he aims to show that adopting certain constraints on our behaviour towards others is beneficial for each person. Justifying a set of rules in the latter sense of justification falls way short of justifying them in the former sense of justification. Pointing out that deliberative or instrumental justification of a set of constraints on action is fully compatible with moral nihilism - the view that there are no moral facts, that nothing is morally right or wrong, obligatory or forbidden, etc. - should suffice to make this clear. The moral contractarian, who claims to be able to provide morality with a justification, needs to respond to this challenge, presumably by trying to convince the critic that despite appearances deliberative justification is the relevant sort of justification for morality. The non-moral contractarian remains unperturbed by all this and can readily accept that the epistemic type of justification is the relevant one for morality and that contractarianism fails to provide this - but, they hold, so much worse for morality!


Opting for the non-moral interpretation of contractarianism would bring Gauthier closer to the views of John L. Mackie in Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, Richard Garner in Beyond Morality, and Richard Joyce in The Myth of Morality. What these authors lack, however, and what Gauthier brings to the table, is a developed technical apparatus gathered from rational choice theory, game theory, and economic theory.


Personally, I think that it is when one has come to accept moral scepticism and nihilism that rational choice contractarianism becomes most attractive. Once one has come to believe that there are no moral facts, no objective values, no real moral obligations woven into the "fabric of the universe", and no moral knowledge, then rational agreement for mutual benefit readily suggests itself as an alternative approach to judging social rules. The non-moral social contract can still, I believe, function as a (pre-legal, pre-political) benchmark for evaluating social and political institutions and practices (it just won't be a matter of moral evaluation). It is this that I prefer to call "morality version 2.0".


The argument David Friedman is still losing

I have just finished reading the third edition of David Friedman's excellent classic The Machinery Of Freedom. While in general I share almost all of Friedman's views, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed by his stance on the nature and status of normative claims. In a new chapter entitled "An Argument I Lost", Friedman describes how his thinking on this topic has developed over the years since the first edition of the book was published in 1971. The view he once held was a naive form of subjectivism:


My view at the time was that my belief that murdering people was bad had the same logical status as my belief that chocolate ice cream was better than vanilla, that both were statements of tastes rather than objective facts.


He describes how he once lost an argument with philosopher Isaiah Berlin on the subject and Friedman has now apparently swung all the way to an opposite extreme. He now endorses ethical intuitionism and moral realism:


The view that I eventually came to as a result of losing my argument with Berlin is what philosophers refer to as intuitionism, the claim that there are facts of moral reality that we perceive via moral intuition just as we perceive the facts of physical reality via our physical senses, and that the evidence for the reality of those facts is the considerable, although not perfect, agreement in how different people perceive them.


One very serious problem with this view is that while we have a very good, scientifically well-established story to tell about how ordinary sense perception works, we lack anything close to a corresponding story about how "moral perception" is supposed to work. It is clear that we have five senses in sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, but the claim that we in addition possess a sixth sense dedicated to moral perception is unfounded and wildly implausible. That our moral beliefs and convictions have their origin in emotional reactions is a much simpler and better explanation than that they would somehow be caused by any moral perceptions. Positing peculiarly moral facts as well as a special sense organ by which we could be aware of these facts fills no explanatory purpose but merely introduces more things that need to be explained.


The fact that there is close to universal agreement about some very basic normative claims is much better explained by appeal to common human nature and our shared evolutionary heritage than by positing a set of independent moral facts that we supposedly all have "intuited". Friedman is aware of this:


There is an alternative view of the status of normative beliefs to which I can offer no adequate rebuttal: moral nihilism. According to that position, nothing is good or bad, virtuous or wicked. Moral beliefs are neither true nor false. The consistency of those beliefs, at the level at which they are consistent, is due not to moral reality but evolutionary biology. Humans have evolved those hardwired moral beliefs whose possession led to reproductive success in the environment in which we evolved . . . Since we are all descended from ancestors who evolved under roughly similar circumstances we are all hardwired with about the same beliefs . . .  


What Friedman does not acknowledge is that evolution gives us good reason to think that ordinary sense perception is a reliable process. Natural selection could hardly have produced a being with factulties of percetion that led it to form systematically mistaken beliefs about everything around him. But evolution could very well have produced a being with systematically mistaken moral beliefs. Indeed, as argued by Richard Joyce, we have strong reasons to believe that we would have held whatever moral beliefs we do hold whether or not any of them were true. 


Friedman's commitment to intuitionism is particularly odd in light of the fact that it plays no necessary part of his overall argument for a free and stateless society, especially as he has admirably gone out of his way to avoid appeals to moral intuitions. In others of the new chapters he argues convincingly that it is possible for rational individuals to bargain themselves out of a Hobbesian state of nature and into an orderly and peaceful, stateless society; he provides a positive (as opposed to normative) account of rights; he argues that virtue pays in the sense that honesty gives you more opportunities for mutually beneficial interaction and the best way to appear honest is to actually be honest. Hypothetically, if Friedman changed his mind and came to accept moral nihilism and scepticism instead of realism and intuitionism very little if anything of the book would have to be changed. His moral intuitionism seems more like a dispensable afterthought in the context of an otherwise highly persuasive book.