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Is social justice for or against liberty? The philosophical foundations of Mill and Hayek’s theory of liberty

  • Huei Chun Su
Article

Abstract

By comparing the philosophical foundations of Mill and Hayek’s theory of liberty, this paper shows that some similarities in the economic theories of Mill and Hayek are actually based on different rationales. It follows that any attempt to find a common thread in Mill and Hayek to provide reasonable guidance for social policy can be promising only if we can find the common ground from their social philosophy. While analyzing the rationales behind their opinions regarding the role of government and taxation policies, this paper will focus on exploring the role of two philosophical ideas, liberty, and justice. This will clarify the relationship between social justice and liberty as well as their status in relation to the ultimate principle of rules in the philosophy of Mill and Hayek. This paper will offer an explanation why, in Mill’s utilitarian philosophy, the pursuit of social justice aligns with the real freedom of everyone, but in Hayek’s philosophy, it is a hindrance.

Keywords

Justice Freedom Equality Rule of law Role of government Taxation 

JEL codes

B25 P16 K0 B12 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The preliminary version of this paper was presented at the Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economic Thought 2006 at the George Mason University, where it received helpful feedback. The author is grateful to have received the Don Lavoie Memorial Essay Competition Prize for 2006, awarded by the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics at the SDAE annual conference, for an early version of this paper. In particular, the author would like to thank her supervisor Professor John Maloney, Dr. Bernard Brscic, and the referees for their valuable comments on this article. The responsibility for all errors and opinions belongs to the author.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business and EconomicsUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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