Speaker: Karl Widerquist, Associate professor of philosophy, Georgetown University-Qatar
Title: 'Are you better off today than you were 10,000 years ago: dubious claims about the state of nature in modern political theory'
Title, 'Are you better of today than you were 10,000 years ago: dubious claims about the state of nature in modern political theory'
About the talk:
Two influential political theories rely on the sweeping claim that everyone today is better off than people were at some point in prehistory. Most social contract theories argue that whenever no fully sovereign government exists, human societies degenerate into an unacceptable “state of nature.” Government, therefore, is justified by the consent of all rational, well-informed people. Most versions of the natural rights justification of private property claim that property is justified, in part, because the “Lockean proviso” is full filled. The proviso states roughly that individuals can assert property rights over land as long as doing so doesn’t make anyone worse off than people were before. Proponents of both theories appear blissfully uninterested in researching these claims. This presentation first shows how these theories rely on factual truth of these claims. It shows how these claims do not hold up against anthropological evidence about life in societies with neither fully sovereign government nor privately held land. These claims are not only unsupported; they are substantially refuted by existing evidence.
About the speaker:
Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University. He holds a doctorate in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and a doctorate in economics from the City University of New York (1996). He is the author of Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (2013). He is coauthor of Economics for Social Workers (2002) and coeditor of Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend: Examining its Suitability as a Model (2012) and Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform Around the World (2012).