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 “Compensation Systems” and all paternalistic, prohibitive, or punishment systems “Prohibition Systems“.) As Nozick notes, if we were to favor a “Compensation System” of enforcing moral boundaries, 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 “Compensation System” 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

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to How to enforce moral borders: compensation or prohibition?

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

  2. Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:

    I am reblogging part 17 of my review of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” The post below covers the third section of Chapter 4 of ASU (pp. 58-59), where Nozick presents two different ways of enforcing moral boundaries — what I call “Compensation Systems” and “Prohibition Systems”.

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