Buying Local and Blocking Out the Sun

candle

This week in Ethics & Economics Challenge, we read part of Frederic Bastiat’s satirical essay, “The Candlemakers’ Petition.” In it, the French “petitioners” seek a new law forcing everyone to block sunlight out of buildings. As a result of the law, people will have to buy lots of candles and candelabras, creating a “multiplier effect” that will result in more […]

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Paternalism: why or why not?

On Liberty

Paternalism can be defined simply as the use of coercion (force) against someone for that person’s own good. For instance, slapping a cigarette out of someone’s hand while yelling, “Smoking is bad for you!” would be an exercise of vigilante paternalism. John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty that paternalism of this kind is wrong. A person’s own good is […]

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A right to do wrong?

Theory of Moral Sentiments

My last post on whether generous action is an enforceable moral duty leads naturally into the question of whether there can be “rights to do wrong.” To recap, Adam Smith says that being a generous, beneficent person is a good way of living that an impartial spectator approves of. If you never do good things for people, you haven’t committed […]

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Is generous action an enforceable moral duty?

Last week, I talked with the students at Merrimack Valley High School in Concord about Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. According to Smith, you know an act is right when an impartial spectator would sympathize (or empathize) with the emotions motivating your act. Smith says that an impartial spectator will always empathize with both the kindness of someone who acts […]

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