I highly recommend it.
[Hat tip: Kruse Kronicle.]
I am a bit skeptical of Otterson's central idea that the only just ethic is one which treats all people as ends rather than means. Not that we should not do this, but the very capitalism Otterson defends does not always do this. Employers see employers as means, employees see employers as means, producers see consumers as means (to more revenue) and consumers see producers as means (of getting products and services). The entire process of bargaining (getting the most from the other for as little expenditure as possible) involves seeing the other as a means to get what you want for as little cost as necessary. I could be wrong, but that Otterson did not even entertain this objection floored me.
Of course persons may be treated as means--when one pays someone else to mow one's lawn, for example--but persons may never be treated merely as means. Respecting the lawnmower's personhood would entail, for example, making him an offer and allowing him either to accept or not as he judges fit; allowing him to choose is a recognition that he has his own 'ends' or goals or purposes--he is a person, in other words, not a thing. (italics in the original)Apparently Currie-Knight missed that discussion. On to his second objection:
Neither did Otterson consider the idea that "Respecting the individual" (a) may entail more than the negative liberty of leaving her free to make decisions for herself, but (b) may not be a value that overrides all other consdierations in every case. The obvious argument in favor of public education is that we may accept small incursions into taxpayers' liberty over their money in order to enhance each individual's ability to exercise judgment by educating them at public expense. Otterson's argument, at all times, seems to reduce to pointing out that doing this violates individual sovereignty and disrespects the individual (to which the utilitarian replies that they've already admitted that it does, but that the benefits outweigh the costs. (In fact, a plausible argument could be made that as education enhances one's ability to live independently, the state is respecting individuality by helping children cultivate it.) Otterson doesn't show oterwise and, as such, talks past his opponents.)
Now, opposing the use of political means for this kind of relief does not mean, however, opposing all kinds of relief for those who need it. On the contrary--and this cannot be emphasized enough--it means only that such cases as require the help of others are all matters of social means and social power. So the objection [I raised] is only to the use of political means, not to the provision of help generally. My argument is that when help is required, social means, and social means only, should be employed. People who need help, families that need shelter, infants who need formula, children who need operations, students who need scholarships, adults who need a second chance, laid-off workers who need new job training--in these cases and any others like them, if help is required, then take action! Do not wait for someone else to do it. Do not shift your personal moral responsibilities onto distant agencies or unknown third parties and believe that you have thereby fulfilled your duty. If in any particular situation moral responsibility attaches to the doing of something, then that responsibility can be assumed only by individuals--which means by you and me. So let us roll up our sleeves and get to work. (italics in the original)
I argued in chapters 2 and 3 that only the limited, "classical liberal" state is consistent with respecting people's personhood. In that way I claimed to have made a "principled" case: because respecting personhood is the bedrock moral principle, disrespecting it is wrong regardless of other considerations. At the end of chapter 3, however, I suggested that the argument left one central question as yet unaddressed: What about the poor? I argued that respect for personhood meant allowing only social, not political, power to be employed to help others. But perhaps restricting the state so that it secures and enforces [this negative conception of] 'justice' will benefit those who already have (substantial?) private property. Again, where does it leave the poor? What exactly is our obligation to give to those who have less than we? If the poor suffer unduly under the classical liberal state, perhaps "general welfare" out to supersede or trump the "principled" case made earlier. (p. 129)This seems to approximate exactly the objection Currie-Knight suggests. But note that that is the first paragraph of this chapter. I go on to devote the rest of the chapter, as well as the subsequent chapter, to addressing precisely this issue. That is quite a lot of the book for Currie-Knight to have missed.
Good judgment develops [...] not only by enjoying the freedom to exercise it, but also by being required to take responsibility for its exercise. [...] Another way of making the same point: if you were going to create your own new religion, one requiring people to sacrifice and change their otherwise everyday behavior, it would help to have a hell. Promises of good things to come if one behaves the way your religion prescribes will take you some distance, more with some people and less with others; but your efforts will be considerably aided if you also have punishment for bad behavior. (pp. 11-12)Not quite the same claim, and I was talking about the development of human judgment, not economic growth. But both seem to agree that (1) human beings respond to incentives and (2) negative incentives for unwanted behavior are at least as important, if not more, than positive incentives for wanted behavior.