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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rules for Living: The Ethics of Social Cooperation


Published in 1999, this book is a shorter version of Hazlitt’s underappreciated Foundations of Morality. It contains a number of chapters from the book that are framed by an introduction by Leland Yeager. Hazlitt argues that our ethical and moral rules should be judged by the degree to which they forward social cooperation. He is putting forward a form of what Yeager, in his own similar work, has termed “indirect utilitarianism.” Ethical rules are not given by God or a priori reasoning, but by observing practices that have demonstrated their ability to allow humans to flourish by cooperating through the market and other institutions. Hazlitt’s argument here is a brilliant attempt to flesh out the ethical implications of Mises’s Human Action and this shorter version makes his work that much more accessible.