This paper examines the efforts of contractualists to develop an alternative to aggregation to govern our duty not to harm (duty to rescue) others. I conclude that many of the moral principles articulated in the literature seem to reduce to aggregation by a different name. Those that do not are viable only as long as they are limited to a handful of oddball cases at the margins of social life. If extended to run-of-the-mill conduct that accounts for virtually all unintended (...) (in the sense of undesired) harm to others—noncriminal activities that impose some risk of harm on others—they would rule out all action. Moreover, because such conduct poses an irreducible conflict between freedom of action and freedom from expected harm, it can be regulated only by principles that accept the necessity of making precisely the sorts of interpersonal trade-offs that contractualism is foundationally committed to reject: trade-offs in which the numbers count, such that a risk of serious harm to one person can be justified by small benefits to the many. (shrink)
Barbara H. Fried presents a powerful critique of the nonconsequentialist approaches that have been dominant in recent Anglophone moral and political thought. She argues that nonconsequentialist theories have disastrous consequences in the political domain and are inadequate at dealing with conflicts of individual interests in the moral domain.
The nonconsequentialist revival in tort theory has focused almost exclusively on one issue: showing that the rules governing compensation for acts reflect corrective justice rather than welfarist norms. The literature either is silent on what makes an act wrongful in the first place or suggests criteria that seem indistinguishable from some version of cost/benefit analysis. As a result, cost/benefit analysis is currently the only game in town for determining appropriate standards of conduct for socially useful but risky acts. This is (...) no small omission, and the failure of nonconsequentialists to acknowledge it or cure it can be traced to a number of recurring problems in the nonconsequentialist tort literature. Chief among them is the tendency to conflate prohibition and compensation, and to treat imposition of risk and imposition of harm as if they were distinct forms of conduct rather than the same conduct viewed from different temporal perspectives. (shrink)
Rawls's theory of justice has had two parallel lives in political theory. The first is framed as an alternative to utilitarianism, and in particular utilitarianism's failure to take seriously the separateness of persons and each individual's right to pursue his or her own projects in life. The second is framed as an alternative to libertarianism, and in particular libertarianism's failure to take seriously our moral obligations to the well‐being of our fellow citizens. This chapter explores where and why Rawls's “justice (...) as fairness” and libertarianism come apart. It focuses on their respective treatments of the just distribution of wealth. Finally, in the real world one would have to worry about the strains of commitment not just for those who want to defect from “justice as fairness” once they see how things turn out for them, but also from those who never accept its normative vision. (shrink)
At 30 years' distance, it is safe to say that Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia has achieved the status of a classic. It is not only the central text for all contemporary academic discussions of libertarianism; with Rawls's A Theory of Justice, it arguably frames the landscape of academic political philosophy in second half of 20th century. Many factors, obviously account for the prominence of the book. This paper considers one: the book's use of rhetoric to charm and disarm its (...) readers, simultaneously establishing Nozick's credibility with readers, turning them on his ideological opponents, and helping his argument over some of its more serious substantive difficulties. Footnotesa I am grateful to Joe Bankman, Tom Grey, Pam Karlan, Ellen Frankel Paul, Seana Shiffrin, and Bob Weisberg for their very helpful comments on previous drafts of this essay. I am also grateful to my fellow contributors to this volume and to the participants in the Berkeley GALA and the UCLA Law and Philosophy Workshop, at which earlier versions of this essay were presented. All errors and indiscretions are mine alone. (shrink)
A mental heuristic is a shortcut (means) to a desired end. In the moral (as opposed to factual) realm, the means/end distinction is not self-evident: How do we decide whether a given moral intuition is a mere heuristic to achieve some freestanding moral principle, or instead a freestanding moral principle in its own right? I discuss Sunstein's solution to that threshold difficulty in translating “heuristics” to the moral realm.
The article considers a surprisingly resilient argument, going back to Adam Smith, for the fairness of proportionate taxation: that proportionate taxation represents the fair way to divide the surplus value produced by social cooperation among all of society's members. The article considers two recent variants on that argument, one by Richard Epstein in Takings and one by David Gauthier in Morals by Agreement. It concludes that the normative and empirical assumptions that underlie these, and all other variants, of the argument (...) are so implausible as to suggest the argument cannot be taken seriously as a defense of proportionate taxation. The article concludes by considering other possible explanations for the enduring attraction of proportionate taxation for political philosophers, particularly those with libertarian and quasi-libertarian leanings. Footnotes I am grateful to participants in faculty workshops at Vanderbilt, NYU, Virginia and Stanford Law Schools and the Qunnipiac College School of Law Conference on Law and Philosophy, as well as the anonymous outside readers for this journal, for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts. (shrink)