Brad DeLong Fails the Nozick Turing Test

Contra Brad DeLong, it’s fairly simple to demonstrate how DeLong himself readily fails his own Nozick Turing Test . DeLong’s problem is that he is composing a test of the Lockean Proviso from Locke’s Second Treatise. Anyone remotely familiar with Nozick should know that he considered Locke’s Second Treatise a deficient foundation for the “Lockean State.” In specific, Nozick recast the Lockean Proviso along the lines of:

“no one be left worse off by the appropriation than if the thing remained in common use”

In other words, Nozick added a constraint condition on “enough and as good left in common for others,” that determines the justice of expropriation of land from the commons. Nozick specifically gave an example of denying a Robinson Crusoe’s property rights claim of trespass against any future shipwrecked individuals on the basis that Robinson Crusoe’s claim violated the reformulated “Lockean Proviso.”

DeLong’s “1st Step” in his test “biases” the test:

1) Nobody is allowed to make utilitarian or consequentialist arguments. Nobody.

Although Nozick “constraint condition” would technically be a type of “Pareto condition” and not a utilitarian or consequentialist constraint, it is clear that the 1st Step is a rule that is meant to prevent one from making the Nozick argument. Since no “Nozick believer” would ever propose or follow such a rule, it is clear that the person who composed the rule either (1) does not understand Nozick or is (2) attempting to enforce a strawman argument(arguing Locke and not Nozick). Hence, anyone who obeys the rule gives away their bias. Put another way, DeLong’s Turing Test is a “biased test” and anyone who follows the test reveals their bias. So DeLong fails here…

DeLong’s contention: “I would maintain that only liberals can successfully explain Nozickian political philosophy” is belied, in this instance, by the fact that DeLong fails(either intentionally or unintentionally) to distinguish between Nozick and Locke regarding the “Lockean Proviso.”

It should be noted that there are additional data points regarding DeLong’s shortcomings as an arbiter of liberal theory. For example, this old post by Brad DeLong equates Smithian Self-Interest with psychopathy. According to DeLong, this astute observation “opens up a gap between the libertarian view and the world.” However, I think the better observation would be to question whether DeLong actually has ever read Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments.”


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