By James R. Otteson
A safety of the 'classical liberal' political culture, utilized to latest ethical and political matters.
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105), endeavoring to peer into the inner thoughts of people, asking neighbors to spy and give evidence on their neighbors, and so on. 21 I recommend instead, therefore, the Smithian conclusion that society should restrict its use of coercive power to enforcing adherence to the rules of negative justice. Leave the encouraging of positive virtue to other means. If it should turn out that the “other means” of encouraging virtue—we discuss what those are in due course—turn out not to be as successful or effective as we would like, still a society organized around an exact administration of justice will at least be a safe and peaceful one in which we can carry on with the business of our lives.
Imagined in Book V of his Republic—however zealously we tried to persuade parents to follow the policy, when they came upon children that they recognized as their own, well, again I think we both know what would happen. My conclusion, then, is that we should accept the facts of expanded but still limited natural self-interest, of natural but also limited benevolence, and of the governance of both by the familiarity principle. If we couple this claim with those I made earlier about the need for natural necessity in developing judgment and the requirement that we respect personhood, 22 Working Out the Position we begin to get an idea about what kinds of political institutions would be suitable—or, if not quite that yet, then at least what political institutions would be unsuitable—for human beings constituted as they actually are.
We say that I disagree with what you say, but that you have a right to say it; we say that you are wasting your life doing what you do, but that it is your business to do so; we say that you are making a mistake to pay so much money for a car, but that it is your money. Yet we do not say that you should not kill an innocent person, but that it is your business; we do not say I think you should not rape people, but that it is your business; we do not say I think you should not steal from others, but that it is your business.
Actual Ethics by James R. Otteson