The Godfather premiered fifty years ago in March of 1972. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the wide domestic release of this classic film, I just posted an essay to SSRN titled “Coase and the Corleones“. By way of background, one of the most influential ideas in legal, moral, and political philosophy is John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, i.e. the notion that people should be free to do or say whatever they wish unless their actions or words cause harm to somebody else. The work of Ronald Coase, however, shows us why the harm principle is logically incoherent. Aside from the difficulty of defining what counts as a harm, the main problem with the harm principle is that harms are often reciprocal in nature. That is, most harms are, logically speaking, either the direct or indirect result of both the wrongdoer’s and the victim’s decisions. In my Godfather paper (see here), I illustrate this counter-intuitive Coasean picture of harms using three memorable examples from the famous wedding scene in original Godfather movie.
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