Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 5, pp 1057–1070 | Cite as

‘The kids are alright’: political liberalism, leisure time, and childhood

  • Blain NeufeldEmail author


Interest in the nature and importance of ‘childhood goods’ recently has emerged within philosophy. Childhood goods, roughly, are things (including kinds of activities) that are good for persons qua children independent of any contribution to the good of persons qua adults (although they may also be valuable in this way). According to Colin Macleod, John Rawls’s political conception of justice as fairness rests upon an adult-centered ‘agency assumption’ and thus is incapable of incorporating childhood goods into its content. Macleod concludes that because of this, justice as fairness cannot be regarded as a complete conception of distributive justice. In this paper I provide a political liberal response to Macleod’s argument by advancing three claims. First, I propose that political liberalism should treat leisure time as a distinct ‘primary good.’ Second, I suggest that leisure time should be distributed via (a) the ‘basic needs principle’ and (b) the ‘difference principle’ for all citizens over the course of their complete lives, including their childhoods. Third, the provision of leisure time in this way supports the realization of childhood goods for citizens.


Children Justice as fairness Leisure time Political liberalism Primary goods John Rawls 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Association for Political Theory’s 2016 annual conference, the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division’s 2017 meeting, and the Canadian Philosophical Association’s 2017 meeting. I am grateful to the audiences at all of those presentations for their helpful questions and comments. In particular, I would like to thank Randall Curren, Tommie Shelby, and Rosa Terlazzo for their comments at the APA presentation; those comments led me to rethink and revise the overall argument of the paper. I also would like to thank Peter Dietsch, Joseph Heath, Louis-Philippe Hodgson, and Anthony Skelton for their comments and questions at the CPA presentation; those comments and questions helped me to revise and fine-tune a number of key points. I especially am grateful to Lori Watson for organizing the special panel at the APA on political liberalism and children, which prompted me finally to turn a languishing outline into a complete draft. Finally, I owe a special thanks to Colin Macleod for answering a number of questions I had about his view over a couple of pints in Montreal a few years ago.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PhilosophyUniversity of Wisconsin - MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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