The Sufficiency Proviso

Authored by: Fabian Wendt

The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138832169
eBook ISBN: 9781315709727
Adobe ISBN:


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A libertarian theory of justice conceives justice in terms of property rights. It holds that persons are self-owners and have the moral power to acquire property rights in initially unowned external resources. Different variants of libertarianism can be distinguished according to their stance on the famous (or infamous) Lockean proviso. The proviso requires, in John Locke’s words, to leave “enough and as good” for others (Locke 1960 [1689]: §§27, 33, 36) and thus specifies limits on the acquisition of property in external resources. Left libertarians like Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, and Michael Otsuka provide an egalitarian interpretation of the proviso. Many “right libertarians” reject any kind of proviso. 1 Robert Nozick and Eric Mack are prominent exceptions and defend rather weak versions of the proviso. In between, there is room for moderate interpretations of the proviso, and in particular for a sufficientarian interpretation: a “sufficiency proviso.” It is remarkable that this option has rarely been defended. 2 The resulting theory of justice can be called moderate libertarianism.

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