Social Justice and the Formal Principle of Freedom

  • Olga Nikolić, Igor Cvejić Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade


The aim of this paper is to show, contra the right-libertarian critique of social justice, that there are good reasons for defending policies of social justice within a free society. In the first part of the paper, we will present two influential right-libertarian critiques of social justice, found in Friedrich Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty and Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia. Based on their approach, policies of social justice are seen as an unjustified infringement on freedoms of individual members of a society. In response to this critique, we will introduce the distincion between formal and factual freedom and argue that the formal principle of freedom defended by Hayek and Nozick does not suffice for the protection of factual freedom of members of a society, because it does not recognize (1) the moral obligation to help those who, without their fault, lack factual freedom to a significant degree, and (2) the legal obligation of the state to protect civic dignity of all members of a society. In the second part of the paper, we offer an interpretation of Kant’s argument on taxation, according to which civic dignity presupposes factual freedom, in order to argue that Kant’s justification of taxation offers good reasons for claiming that the state has the legal obligation to protect factual freedom via the policies of social justice.
Keywords:  social justice, social policy, taxation, freedom, dignity, Hayek, Nozick, Kant


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How to Cite
IGOR CVEJIĆ, Olga Nikolić,. Social Justice and the Formal Principle of Freedom. Filozofija i društvo / Philosophy and Society, [S.l.], v. 28, n. 2, p. 270-284, july 2017. ISSN 2334-8577. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 sep. 2017. doi: