Does Belief in Objective Morality Lead to Coercion? An Analysis of the Arguments of Kelsen and Buchanan

Reprint No. 2016:33

Author(s): Niclas BerggrenYear: 2016 Title: Review of Austrian Economics Volume (No.): 29 (3) Pages: 315–326
Online article (restrictions may apply)

Two leading scholars of the 20th century – Hans Kelsen and James Buchanan – both suggested that belief in an objective morality entails a disparaging attitude towards political and individual freedom. The main point was similar: Why let people decide for themselves, whether in politics or ordinary life, if what is objectively right is known? This paper presents their arguments and evaluates them, both by specifying three conditions that need to be met for the arguments to hold (the objective morality must be believed to be known, a belief in a known morality must entail a motivation to see it followed and the content of the known morality must not block coercion) and by relating them to recent experimental research (which nevertheless provides some empirical support).

Berggren, Niclas (2016), "Does Belief in Objective Morality Lead to Coercion? An Analysis of the Arguments of Kelsen and Buchanan". Review of Austrian Economics 29(3), 315–326.

Niclas Berggren


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