Dartmouth Events

Philosophy Department Sapientia Lecture Series

Mark Budolfson, Stanford; Lecture title: "Individual Freedom, the Tragedy of the Commons, and the Perils of Social Engineering: The Case for Modest Libertarianism"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Class of 1930 Room, Rockefeller Center
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars

Most political theorists take the phenomenon of market failure to show that laissez faire libertarianism fails in an obvious and dramatic way on its own terms. Furthermore, the fact that market failure – where transactions impose costs and/or benefits on non-consenting third parties – is the rule rather than the exception in real-world transactions is taken by these theorists to show that government intervention is justified far beyond any limits that could reasonably be called ‘libertarian’. In response, I show that even though the premises of this Standard Market Failure Argument against laissez faire are true, the argument is nevertheless invalid, and the particular way it fails helps explain why a more detailed understanding of the relevant economic and empirical facts has led to a near-consensus among experts in economics and policy that the strong default for public policy should be toward decentralized, pro-individual freedom policies that involve minimal government command and control, and that encourage individuals to pursue their own aims, make use of their own specialized knowledge, and innovate in the private and public sphere as they see fit – a view I articulate in more detail and call Default Libertarianism. Furthermore, these economic and empirical considerations also explain why many of these experts across the political spectrum can be described as endorsing an all-things-considered view I call Modest Libertarianism, which is essentially a contemporary cutting-edge version of the ‘classical liberal’ view favored by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and many other paradigmatic libertarians.

The Department of Philosophy's Sapientia Lecture Series is funded by The Mark J. Byrne 1985 Fund in Philosophy. These lectures will be held in the Class of 1930 Room, Rockefeller Center. All lectures are free and open to the public.

2013 Summer Term Sapientia Lecture series: 

Wednesday, July 31 at 1pm

  • Elinor Mason (Edinburgh) 
  • "Responsibility for Moral Ignorance"


Wednesday, August 7 at 3pm

  • James Van Cleeve (USC)
  • "Reid on Direct Realism and Nonexistent Objects of Conception"


Wednesday, August 14 at 1pm

  • Mark Budolfson (Stanford)
  • "Individual Freedom, the Tragedy of the Commons, and the Perils of Social Engineering: The Case for Modest Libertarianism"
For more information, contact:
Marcia Welsh

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.