Front Page Titles (by Subject) Is Capitalism Free and Just? - Literature of Liberty, Winter 1981, vol. 4, No. 4
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Is Capitalism Free and Just? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Winter 1981, vol. 4, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Is Capitalism Free and Just?
“Freedom, Justice and Capitalism.” New Left Review No. 126(March-April 1981):3–16.
Professor Cohen, a Marxist analytic philosopher and author of Karl Marx's Theory of History, argues that principled opponents of capitalism must develop a far more logically rigorous case. The strategy for such an anti-capitalist case, he reasons, would be to meet libertarian defenses of the legitimacy of private property on the very grounds that libertarians and classical liberals value. Since libertarians affirm that private property is legitimate on the grounds of human freedom and justice, the opponent of private property must demonstrate that, on the contrary, it violates both freedom and justice. Sound arguments are required, not just assertions that capitalists follow their class interests in defending property. Lack of conceptual clarification, Cohen states, can explain why capitalist ideology can be sincerely believed by both the rich and the poor.
Capitalism, as an ideology of private property, is defended by the economic argument (private property allows good economic consequences), the freedom argument (economic freedom, even apart from its consequences, is good because freedom is good), and the justice argument (property is morally right). The author concentrates in his “critique of ruling ideology” on the freedom argument and sketches the outline of his response to the justice argument.
Cohen rejects as logically weak the socialist attack on capitalist freedom that either laments the human price of unrestricted freedom or dismisses capitalism as mere “bourgeois freedom.” He recommends a more powerful logical attack: socialists should argue against the capitalist that capitalism is “inimical to freedom in the very sense of ‘freedom’ in which...a person's freedom is diminished when his private property is tampered with.”
Cohen maintains that libertarians and classical liberals misuse the slippery notion of freedom. If libertarians were consistently to favor a society in which there are no social and legal constraints on individual freedom, then they must oppose private property which uses the state or some other agency to restrict the freedom of someone to use any property that does not belong to him. Libertarians do not see that private property constrains freedom since they tend to view property as a permanent given, a “part of the structure of human existence in general.” Yet if we are serious in our neutral definition of freedom then we must admit that property withdraws liberty from those who do not own it. “I am unfree whenever someone interferes justifiably or otherwise with my actions.”
Libertarians, when pressed, will admit in the case of defending legitimate private property, that one is justified in reducing the freedom of the trespasser. We thus see that they earlier were using a moralized definition of freedom. Their ultimate ground for defending private property, then, is not neutral freedom (they would admit the imprisoned trespasser is unfree). They finally must rest their case on the grounds of justice. They thus represent “interference with rightfully held private property as unjust and therefore, by virtue of the moralized definition, invasive of freedom.” Social democrats and Marxists must address this defense of property as a just entitlement. The author briefly outlines what such a counterargument (designed to reveal the structural injustice of private property) would look like.