1. Introduction: this book argues that we should use reason and persuasion to get our way when it comes to distributive justice, and that this supports libertarianism.
2. Morality and the state: morality constrains the permissible state, and we should ignore radical departures from commonsense like utilitarianism when thinking about distributive justice.
Part I Property
3. Libertarianism: a classic argument revisited: what makes “New England” libertarianism hard to reject isn’t an obsession with individual rights, but modesty about when we may transfer our burdens to others.
4. Property as a moral phenomenon: property isn’t in the first instance a legal phenomenon, and morality can confer on us claims to control assets, not just by our labor but by a whole host of relevant factors.
5. Property as a constraint on the state: the moral basis of property constrains just institutions.
6. Property and the creation of value: in advanced economies wealth is mostly generated by services, not natural resources, making it harder to argue people have an equal claim to that wealth.
7. Aid: just because we have various obligations to help others doesn’t mean the state should enforce these.
Part II Markets
8. Morality and markets: there is a standing moral reason to promote markets because they let people improve their positions, and most objections to free exchange have nothing to do with markets per se.
9. Luck and opportunity: social status can persist for centuries, but that doesn’t show that choice is ineffective, which is what really matters.
10. Wealth, disability and happiness: becoming a richer country doesn’t or soon won’t make us happier, but this mainly shows that we care about far more than happiness.
11. Popularity and incentives: we underestimate the extent to which markets can provide signals to help us make wise decisions.
Part III History
12. Justice and the wealth of nations I: if capitalism is so bad, why has it worked out so well?
13. Justice and the wealth of nations II: if socialism is so bad, why has it worked out so well?
14. Reparations, history and Nietzsche: reparations are owed for recent historical injustices, but become less plausible further back in time for specific reasons we can detail.
Part IV Theory and practice
15. Dilemmas of political correctness: political correctness often has legitimate aims, but suppresses debate in ways that can backfire.
16. Utopia and justice in the real world: we should be utopian about changing people’s minds, but jaded about people’s moral and intellectual capacities; radical shifts in governance are rarely wise, not even in the right direction.
Appendix A: utilitarianism as self-deception: few utilitarians exhibit much utilitarianism, prompting the suspicion that they have misunderstood their own views.
Appendix B: victim-blaming and moral modus tollens: perceptions of victimhood influence our understanding of causal structures and can blind us to agency.