Research

My research focuses on debates between libertarians, socialists, and anarchists over the moral status of the market and the state. I also do work in ethics, mostly exploring the necessary conditions for possessing Hohfeldian incidents such as rights, powers, and immunities. I am primarily interested in rights, consent, philosophical anarchism, luck egalitarianism, self-ownership, private property, initial appropriation, and Analytical Marxism. My long-term project is to provide a normative defense of a heterodox variety of anarchism.

I take anarchism qua political philosophy to be the joint endorsement of (a) select libertarian moral principles—particularly those that call into question the state’s claimed right to coercively govern—(b) moral principles typically associated with the socialist left, and (c) the proposition that the libertarian principles entail the socialist ones. Thus, my research program has three prongs, namely defending (a), (b), and, particularly (c). My hope is that, by articulating and defending the social anarchist position, I can show that an ideology popularly associated with rebellious youths actually has a compelling moral core that makes it a viable alternative to more reputable political philosophies. In this way, I hope to fill in a significant gap in the contemporary debate over the moral status of the market and the state—a debate that prominently features both libertarians and socialists but practically no left-wing anarchists.

I am currently working on a book defending this anarchist position. It characterizes social anarchism as the endorsement of a set of influential—but seemingly incompatible—philosophical theses. It then aims to show that these theses are not only compatible, but also logically connected, with some members of the set entailing the remaining members. Additionally, it contends that the theses are entailed by an independent meta-principle, which represents a novel ground for these principles. Finally, it argues that the theses avoid a number of objections raised in the literature once they have been adjusted to conform to the meta-principle. Thus, the book concludes that social anarchism qua political philosophy is both coherent and plausible.

Journal Articles

Luck Egalitarianism Without Moral Tyranny.” (forthcoming) Philosophical Studies.

Luck egalitarianism assigns a person a smaller share of advantage than others if and only if she makes certain sanctionable choices. It does this to avoid strict egalitarianism’s moral tyranny problem. According to strict egalitarianism, each person is entitled to an equal share irrespective of her past actions. For example, a person who ceaselessly destroys her holdings is still entitled to an equal share of advantage; thus, to comply with the theory, everyone else would have to keep redistributing resources to her until they are left with nothing. To state the moral tyranny problem generally: strict egalitarianism allows people to leave others worse off conditional on full compliance with the moral theory. By contrast, luck egalitarians contend that the destroyer chooses sanctionably, thereby forfeiting any claim to redistribution. However, some general theory of sanctionable choice is needed to support this contention. This paper proposes such a theory and argues that it resolves three influential objections to standard luck egalitarianism (including the objection that luck egalitarianism still licenses moral tyranny).

Explanation, Justification, and Egalitarianism.” (forthcoming) Synthese.

Suppose that there is some existing inequality that cannot be justified. Many egalitarians would conclude that this inequality is unjust. But why think that an inequality is unjust absent justification? In other words, why presume that inequality demands justification (in a way that equality does not)? This paper answers these questions by arguing that there is a consistent parallelism between the properties of justification and the properties of explanation such that one can infer that any property of explanation has a counterpart property of justification. It then presents two properties of explanation, the justificatory analogs of which vindicate the egalitarian presumption.

Does Initial Appropriation Create New Obligations?” (2020) The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 17(2): 228-38.

The standard libertarian position is that people can convert unowned resources into private property via acts of initial appropriation. However, this view seemingly grants people a problematic moral power to impose new duties on others without their consent. In reply to this objection, Bas van der Vossen has argued that initial appropriation does not impose new duties on others; rather, it changes the particular requirements of their already-existing duties. This makes appropriation of a kind with various unproblematic actions like growing out ones hair. When a person grows out new hair, people gain a new requirement to not touch this hair without her consent. However, this is not a new duty but, rather, an implication of the already-existing duty to not touch a person’s body without consent. Similarly, van der Vossen contends that appropriation’s imposed requirements simply follow from an already-existing duty to respect appropriators’ property claims. He thereby concludes that there is nothing uniquely problematic about initial appropriation. Against his reply, this paper argues that unproblematic acts like hair growing do not impose new requirements on others. Thus, even if appropriation does not impose new general duties, it is still uniquely allows people to impose novel requirements on people without their consent. Special skepticism of the power to appropriate therefore remains warranted.

An Anarchist Interpretation of Marx’s ‘Ability to Needs’ Principle.” (2020) The Journal of Value Inquiry. 54(2): 325-43.

Marx famously declared that, under communism, goods and services would flow from each person according to her ability to each according to her needs. Interestingly, this slogan has been embraced by a number of prominent anarchists who otherwise reject Marx’s views. This paper explains this phenomenon by arguing that there is a distinctive anarchist interpretation of Marx’s “ability to needs” principle: goods and services ought to be provided unconditionally. The paper then argues that this interpretation is entailed by the proposition that freedom diminishment is (at least prima facie) morally objectionable.

Community as Socialist Value.” (2019) Public Affairs Quarterly 33(3): 215-42.

Socialists often appeal to community as a foundational value. However, few socialist philosophers have attempted to develop a detailed account of the concept. This paper remedies this oversight by providing a positive account of community qua socialist value. According to this account, greater community is said to exist among the members of some groups to the extent that they have a greater disposition to enhance (and a weaker disposition to diminish) one another’s welfare. In defense of this account, the paper posits three desiderata that any theory of community should satisfy. It then argues that the account successfully satisfies these desiderata whereas the major rival accounts of community discussed in the literature do not. Finally, it argues that capitalism undermines community by pitting people against one another. Specifically, it identifies three ways in which capitalist markets make it so that people can only advance their interests at others’ expense.

Book Chapters

Social Anarchism and the Rejection of Private Property.” (2021) in The Routledge Handbook of Anarchy and Anarchist Thought, edited by Gary Chartier and Chad Van Schoelandt, Routledge.

Anarchists of all varieties believe that the state lacks political authority—i.e., a special right to be obeyed and to coercively rule its subjects. However, anarchists disagree about whether people have private property rights. This chapter defends the social anarchist rejection of such rights. Specifically, it takes Michael Huemer’s argument against state authority and redeploys it against private property. Huemer begins with the observation that the state coerces people in ways that are prima facie impermissible. He then considers the most prominent justifications for state coercion and argues they do not succeed. Similarly, this chapter notes that property owners coerce others in ways that are prima facie impermissible. It then argues that the most prominent justifications for property-related coercion do not succeed. Thus, just as Huemer concludes that states lack the right to coerce, the chapter concludes that property owners lack the right to coerce.