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Harm and Liberty. What is the harm principle? “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral is not a sufficient warrant.”.

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slide3

What is the harm principle?

  • “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral is not a sufficient warrant.”
  • Why is the harm principle useful? Reasonable? Practical?
offense principle
Offense Principle
  • Theory that government intervention and restriction of individual liberties is justified when the action in question causes serious offense to others.
social contract theory
Social Contract Theory
  • Thomas Hobbes (@ 1651).
  • Psychological Egoism is real—people are motivated by selfishness.
  • All people are born roughly equal (in a physical not moral sense) and have equal hope at getting what they want, but since all cannot have everything, people become enemies.
when all people are enemies
When All People are Enemies?
  • Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
  • There is no common interest: there is no law, there is no justice, there is no rightful possession.
  • Force and fraud rule.
so in this state of nature
So, in this state of nature…..
  • Each individual naturally values his/her own existence above all else.
  • “It followeth that in such a condition, every man has a right to every thing; even to one another’s body.” (i.e. I can kill you if I need to).
  • But then again, you can kill me if you need to.
unless we recognize that
Unless we recognize that….
  • In a “state of nature,” the “law of nature” (or “natural law”) commands us to use REASON “to endeavor peace” to ensure our individual survival.
  • Thus, I surrender my willingness to kill you to get what I want if you surrender your willingness to kill me to get what you want.
  • The Social Contract: We will surrender to the state our prerogative to use violence against one another for the sake of survival.
the law
The Law
  • Establishes right/wrong and just/unjust.
  • Is never wrong or immoral (since it is the determiner of what is right/wrong and moral/immoral).
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Sovereign.
  • No matter how brutal and bad the state is, it is better than no state.
john locke @ 1710
John Locke (@ 1710 )
  • Also talked of a “state of nature.”
  • Born equal, but in a moral sense (we are all God’s creation) not in a physical sense.
  • Basic, God-given rights: “Life, health, liberty, and possessions.”
locke
Locke
  • “The earth and all that is therein…belongs to mankind in common.”
  • God established the right to property by giving away “His” creation to humankind.”
each individual owns
Each Individual Owns…
  • His/her body, labor, and the fruits of labor.
  • Tie this to material property (i.e. land): “As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property.” (as long as he doesn’t spoil it for others)
slide19

Society is not something that is kept together physically; it is held by the invisible bonds of common thought. If the bonds were too far relaxed the members would drift apart. A common morality is part of the bondage. The bondage is part of the price of society; and mankind, which needs society, must pay its price…It is not possible to set theoretical limits to the power of the state to legislate against immorality.

    • PartickDelvin, The Enforcement of Morals, 1965
  • The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859