Monday, March 10, 2014

Harm Principle (Sorry for the late post. I fell asleep while I was typing.)

Mill's harm principle is when a person may be punished when his/her actions cause harm to others. Does Mill's harm principle make any sense? For example, there is a famous water brand called Fiji. Many people buy and drink Fiji water. What they don't know is that the actual people in Fiji can't get safe drinking water because they are buying it all. If we apply the Harm Principle here, everyone who purchases Fiji brand water causes harm to people of Fiji and should be punished. The problem here is that the buyers of Fiji water don't know that they're acquisition of the product causes harm to other people. In actuality one could list several situations where the actions of people cause harm to others, where the causers don't know that their actions cause harm to others. So the question to ponder, is should the ignorant causers be punished?


  1. I do not think that Mill would agree with your statement. In class today, we spoke about treating corporations like individuals in Friedman. This idea can also be brought into Mill's teachings. The Fiji Water Corporation is the one who should be held responsible for depriving the people of Fiji from fresh water in order for the company to make a profit. Mill (and most of us) would state that since the company is causing harm to other people, the government of Fiji should step in and regulate this in order to stop the harm being caused onto the citizens of Fiji.

    1. I agree with you Fiorentin. I think that in the case of FIJI water the company should be held responsible for harming the people of FIJI. Ignorance on the part of the consumer who buys FIJI water should not expose him to legal repercussions. I believe that in most cases ignorance actually does excuse people from being held accountable for their actions, though it doesn't justify them. If the company were to print a label on the bottle warning consumers that they were taking fresh water away from locals, could they then be held liable? Is the line between "wrong" and "punishable" really so definite? Should they be separate at all (is something still wrong if you don't get punished for it)?

  2. Invoking Mill's harm principle with respect to this example may be a step in the wrong direction. Mill is clear in his definition of this principle and seems to use it most emphatically when discussing the disallowance of the "tyranny of the majority." Friedman is concerned with the individual and believes that corporations possess equal economic freedoms as the individual, but on a broader scale. In the case of Fiji Water, I believe this is an extreme example, albeit a transgression of economic freedom and power with exploitive intent. If corporations are to be treated as economically free individuals, nations are to be granted the same liberty. Regarding Governor Brewer and SB 1062, another extreme example, it is made clear that Friedman's concept of political power is merely a byproduct of corporate economic power. Contrary to the unfortunate repercussions of Fiji Water, company's choosing not to engage with Arizona economically thus forcing Brewer to veto the bill is an exercise in economic freedom of choice of large proportion. Government responding to the health and stability of their economy is not a new phenomenon and while many see the veto as a hindrance of liberty, others will see it as a step towards equality; neither viewpoints relying on whether or not the Super Bowl will be held in their state.


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