Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 27: Does Belief in Ethical Subjectivism Pose a Challenge to Classical Liberalism?

Niclas Berggren ()
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Niclas Berggren: The Ratio Institute, Postal: P.O. Box 5095, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Classical liberalism stresses the desirability of free markets, limited government and the rule of law. As such, it builds on some moral judgments. According to ethical objectivism, such judgments (in themselves always personal and subjective) can be true or false since objective moral facts exist against which the judgments can be assessed. Ethical subjectivism denies the existence of objective moral facts. This paper asks: Does it matter whether people believe that objective moral facts exist – in general and for a defense of classical liberalism? It is argued that the answer is in the negative. The implication for classical liberal strategy is that attempts to argue that a certain metaethical foundation is needed should be abandoned.

Keywords: metaethics; liberalism; values

JEL-codes: A13

27 pages, December 19, 2003

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