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Harm principle & libertarianism

Philocat
Posts: 728
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7/22/2015 10:44:10 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Right now I'm very interested in libertarianism, especially looking how it can work as a moral framework for debates. But I've come across some problems...

I accept the premise that we start with all rights and then the state limits them from the top down, instead of starting with no rights and working up.

But what criteria have we that allows us to non-arbitrarily limit our rights from the starting position of having all rights?

The most sensible and non-arbitrary criteria is, IMO, J.S Mill's harm principle. For those who don't know it, this is what it states:

'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.'

In other words, we have all rights up to the point at which our rights start harming others. At this point, these rights aren't justified. You can do whatever you want unless it harms others.

I like this principle - it seems intuitively correct and it feels like it's an adequate reflection of how libertarianism can work as an ethical theory. But right now there are some problems with it that I can't seem to solve:

1. An employer turning down a candidate at a job interview harms the candidate (they don't get the job), but the harm principle would allow the government to intervene and force the employer to hire this person, since this prevents harm. But surely this cannot be a justifiable governmental action from a libertarian perspective?

2. When we talk of 'harm to others', who constitutes an 'other'? Is it just persons? Or is it animals as well? This is a dilemma, since if we say it's just persons, then the government would be wrong to prevent animal cruelty. But if we include animals, which animals are included? Which criterion is used to determine inclusion?

What are your thoughts? I'm especially looking for the libertarians here on DDO.
s-anthony
Posts: 2,582
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7/22/2015 11:06:00 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/22/2015 10:44:10 AM, Philocat wrote:
Right now I'm very interested in libertarianism, especially looking how it can work as a moral framework for debates. But I've come across some problems...

I accept the premise that we start with all rights and then the state limits them from the top down, instead of starting with no rights and working up.

But what criteria have we that allows us to non-arbitrarily limit our rights from the starting position of having all rights?

The most sensible and non-arbitrary criteria is, IMO, J.S Mill's harm principle. For those who don't know it, this is what it states:

'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.'

In other words, we have all rights up to the point at which our rights start harming others. At this point, these rights aren't justified. You can do whatever you want unless it harms others.

I like this principle - it seems intuitively correct and it feels like it's an adequate reflection of how libertarianism can work as an ethical theory. But right now there are some problems with it that I can't seem to solve:

1. An employer turning down a candidate at a job interview harms the candidate (they don't get the job), but the harm principle would allow the government to intervene and force the employer to hire this person, since this prevents harm. But surely this cannot be a justifiable governmental action from a libertarian perspective?

2. When we talk of 'harm to others', who constitutes an 'other'? Is it just persons? Or is it animals as well? This is a dilemma, since if we say it's just persons, then the government would be wrong to prevent animal cruelty. But if we include animals, which animals are included? Which criterion is used to determine inclusion?

What are your thoughts? I'm especially looking for the libertarians here on DDO.

This is one reason absolutes don't work. The very fact your alive is both a benefit (cooperation) and a detriment (limited resources) to others.
Philocat
Posts: 728
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7/22/2015 11:13:16 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/22/2015 11:06:00 AM, s-anthony wrote:
At 7/22/2015 10:44:10 AM, Philocat wrote:
Right now I'm very interested in libertarianism, especially looking how it can work as a moral framework for debates. But I've come across some problems...

I accept the premise that we start with all rights and then the state limits them from the top down, instead of starting with no rights and working up.

But what criteria have we that allows us to non-arbitrarily limit our rights from the starting position of having all rights?

The most sensible and non-arbitrary criteria is, IMO, J.S Mill's harm principle. For those who don't know it, this is what it states:

'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.'

In other words, we have all rights up to the point at which our rights start harming others. At this point, these rights aren't justified. You can do whatever you want unless it harms others.

I like this principle - it seems intuitively correct and it feels like it's an adequate reflection of how libertarianism can work as an ethical theory. But right now there are some problems with it that I can't seem to solve:

1. An employer turning down a candidate at a job interview harms the candidate (they don't get the job), but the harm principle would allow the government to intervene and force the employer to hire this person, since this prevents harm. But surely this cannot be a justifiable governmental action from a libertarian perspective?

2. When we talk of 'harm to others', who constitutes an 'other'? Is it just persons? Or is it animals as well? This is a dilemma, since if we say it's just persons, then the government would be wrong to prevent animal cruelty. But if we include animals, which animals are included? Which criterion is used to determine inclusion?

What are your thoughts? I'm especially looking for the libertarians here on DDO.

This is one reason absolutes don't work. The very fact your alive is both a benefit (cooperation) and a detriment (limited resources) to others.

So what is your criteria for who has human rights? And to what degree?
Nac
Posts: 326
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7/22/2015 11:16:00 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/22/2015 10:44:10 AM, Philocat wrote:
Right now I'm very interested in libertarianism, especially looking how it can work as a moral framework for debates. But I've come across some problems...

I accept the premise that we start with all rights and then the state limits them from the top down, instead of starting with no rights and working up.

But what criteria have we that allows us to non-arbitrarily limit our rights from the starting position of having all rights?

Personally, I utilize social contract theory, or the idea that the state protects individuals from harm by limiting their rights.

I do realize that this allows for deviation between nations, but I see no better way for a nation to operate. This system seems to be the only one which allows for revision.

The most sensible and non-arbitrary criteria is, IMO, J.S Mill's harm principle. For those who don't know it, this is what it states:

'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.'

In other words, we have all rights up to the point at which our rights start harming others. At this point, these rights aren't justified. You can do whatever you want unless it harms others.

I like this principle - it seems intuitively correct and it feels like it's an adequate reflection of how libertarianism can work as an ethical theory. But right now there are some problems with it that I can't seem to solve:

1. An employer turning down a candidate at a job interview harms the candidate (they don't get the job), but the harm principle would allow the government to intervene and force the employer to hire this person, since this prevents harm. But surely this cannot be a justifiable governmental action from a libertarian perspective?

2. When we talk of 'harm to others', who constitutes an 'other'? Is it just persons? Or is it animals as well? This is a dilemma, since if we say it's just persons, then the government would be wrong to prevent animal cruelty. But if we include animals, which animals are included? Which criterion is used to determine inclusion?

What are your thoughts? I'm especially looking for the libertarians here on DDO.

In your position, I would simply revise the harm principle to forbid the infringement of another's rights.
s-anthony
Posts: 2,582
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7/22/2015 12:03:46 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
So what is your criteria for who has human rights? And to what degree?

Responsibility.... Not only should a person have the right to act but the individual should be responsible, and accountable, for his, or her actions. For every action, there is reaction. For instance, an individual or corporation that abuses its rights or infringes on the rights of others through personal or political clout deserves the backlash it receives. In other words, not only should one enjoy the benefits he, or she, receives from society but also burden its expense
Kozu
Posts: 381
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7/22/2015 12:29:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/22/2015 10:44:10 AM, Philocat wrote:
1. An employer turning down a candidate at a job interview harms the candidate (they don't get the job), but the harm principle would allow the government to intervene and force the employer to hire this person, since this prevents harm. But surely this cannot be a justifiable governmental action from a libertarian perspective?

Turning someone down for a job in itself doesn't cause any harm. They can look for another job. If their situation is so bad that they do suffer from some sort of financial harm, then I imagine that's their own fault for being there in the first place.

2. When we talk of 'harm to others', who constitutes an 'other'? Is it just persons? Or is it animals as well? This is a dilemma, since if we say it's just persons, then the government would be wrong to prevent animal cruelty. But if we include animals, which animals are included? Which criterion is used to determine inclusion?

Well, I personally don't believe in animal rights, so I usually only apply this rule to people. Maybe corporations/business's in some circumstances.

What are your thoughts? I'm especially looking for the libertarians here on DDO.

The bigger issue for me is defining "harm", and at what point is the harm "harmful enough".