How to enforce moral borders: compensation or prohibition?

The third subsection of Chapter 4 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia (pp. 58-59) narrows down and reformulates the problem of enforcing moral boundaries in terms of two hard questions (p. 59): (i) why not allow or permit boundary crossings so long as the boundary crosser is required to pay full compensation to his victim? Or in the alternative, (ii) why not strictly prohibit all non-consensual boundary crossings, regardless of the boundary crosser’s willingness or ability to pay full compensation to his victim? (For future reference, let’s call all compensation-based schemes or permissive methods of enforcing moral boundaries “Type 1 Systems” and all paternalistic, prohibitive, or punishment systems “Type 2 System”.) As Nozick notes, if we were to favor a type 1 system of compensation, two related problems will arise. One is the problem of measurement: how should harms or boundary crossings be measured and priced? The other is the problem of evasion: some fraction of boundary crossers will be able to avoid detection, apprehension, and punishment. Shouldn’t the price of a boundary crossing somehow reflect this risk of evasion, in order to deter future boundary crossings from occurring in the first place? Nozick will delve into these subsidiary System 1 questions in the next two subsections of Chapter 4 (pp. 59-65), and so will we in our next blog post …

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Credit: Lynda Barry

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One Response to How to enforce moral borders: compensation or prohibition?

  1. Pingback: Digression: Nozick’s relevance to legal theory | prior probability

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