Capability Approach

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Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's successor to liberalism, liberty and rights. This approach to human well-being emphasizes the importance of freedom of choice, individual heterogeneity and the multi-dimensional nature of welfare. It is an excellent substitute for archaic interpretations of liberty or freedom. Most libertarians won't accept it because of (a) "muh property" or (b) the corporations and plutocrats that produce libertarian propaganda won't like its funding requirements.


Capability Approach (Wikipedia) [More...]
And unusually readable outline of the Capability Approach, who is developing it, and how it is being adopted.
Sen’s Capability Approach (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [More...]
"The Capability Approach is defined by its choice of focus upon the moral significance of individuals’ capability of achieving the kind of lives they have reason to value... A person’s capability to live a good life is defined in terms of the set of valuable ‘beings and doings’ like being in good health or having loving relationships with others to which they have real access."
The Capability Approach: a theoretical survey [More...]
"This paper aims to present a theoretical survey of the capability approach in an interdisciplinary and accessible way. It focuses on the main conceptual and theoretical aspects of the capability approach, as developed by Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, and others." See especially figure 1, pg. 98.
Capabilities and Libertarianism, Part I: Basics of Capabilities [More...]
A decent and simple overview of the Capability Approach. "The capabilities approach explores the needs and reasonable desires of each individual and demands these needs and desires be met for a society to be said to be flourishing."
Capabilities and Libertarianism, Part II: Capabilities for Bullet-Biting Libertarians [More...]
"[H]ow some common justificatory bases for libertarianism fail, and do so in ways readily grokked from a capabilitarian vantage." The NAP, property, Ayn Rand and spontaneous order take a beating.
Capabilities and Libertarianism, Part III: Capabilities for Neoclassical Liberals [More...]
"I know of no libertarian who works explicitly within a capabilities framework, but some libertarians hint at capabilitarian inclinations. For libertarianism to be justified in terms of the capabilities approach, libertarian principles would be affirmed and defended because they advance human capabilities. "
Capabilities and Libertarianism, Part IV: Libertarianism for Capabilitarians [More...]
A list of libertarian hobbyhorses he wants to try on Capabilitarians, as if they were not already aware of these ideas. Most are exaggerated by libertarians: misunderstood coercion, discredited Public Choice Theory, limits of democracy and Spontaneous Order.
The Capabilities Approach and Libertarianism [More...]
Paul Crider finds the ideas of "life, liberty, and property" to be too limited. "What we really want is a concept of flourishing. We want to describe a society not only where nobody’s rights are violated, but where everyone -- even the least of those among us -- is living well."
The Capability Approach (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [More...]
"An explication of the capability approach from a philosophical point of view." An excellent discussion of the philosophical context of the capability approach.
The Second Bill Of Rights: FDR's UNfinished Revolution-- And Why We Need It More Than Ever (book)
FDR proposed 8 economic rights: employment, with a living wage; food, clothing and leisure; farmers' rights to a fair income; freedom from unfair competition and monopolies; housing; medical care; social security; education. A foreshadowing of the Capability Approach.
Value-free economics? [More...]
Vivian Walsh and Hilary Putnam's The End of Value-Free Economics points out that the attempt to draw a sharp line between "fact" and "value" turns out to be impossible. Including in economics. That means bringing in orienting human values at the foundations.
Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined (book, online)
"In a nutshell, the reason the capability approach is worth our time and attention is that it gives us a new way of evaluating the lives of individuals and the societies in which these people live their lives. The attention is shifted to public values currently not always considered most important -- such as wellbeing, freedom and justice."
Workplace coercion and the capability approach [More...]
Procedural liberty fails because one person's liberty forcibly excludes others. Amartya Sen's Capability Approach is an alternative.


We live in the richest societies in history. We produce so many times more than past societies that we could abolish almost all poverty, as has been done in so many Scandinavian nations. We are at the point where we can ask what ALL people should have. All people should have the Four Freedoms. All people should have education, medical care, food, clothing, housing. Who should be excepted and why? Libertarians have no answer here: their obsession with property above all other values produces Procrustean solutions at best. Libertarians have no ideological guidelines for balancing property with other values, no way to go beyond "I've got mine."
Mike Huben, "Libertarianism Has Unbalanced Values"