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The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 1: Harm to Others$
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Joel Feinberg

Print publication date: 1987

Print ISBN-13: 9780195046649

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195046641.001.0001

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Fairly Imputing Harms

Fairly Imputing Harms

(p.218) 6 Fairly Imputing Harms
The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 1: Harm to Others

Joel Feinberg

Oxford University Press

Feinberg identifies additional restrictions on the application of the harm principle. Thwarting competing interests, for example, is not a harm unless it is also wrong, which means that it is inflicted unfairly, not voluntarily consented to, or illegitimate. Accumulative harms (harms caused by the general performance of a given action that on an individual basis does not cause harm) must be assessed by the legislature according to the likelihood of people undertaking this action. Feinberg examines environmental pollution as an example of a public accumulative harm. The effort to minimize threats to public interest such as air and water pollution must operate within the limits of efficacy, equity, and fair play. Feinberg notes that, as a consequence of these criteria, the harm principle not only loses its character as a merely vacuous ideal but also loses all semblance of factual simplicity and normative neutrality.

Keywords:   accumulative harms, competing interests, environmental pollution, normative neutrality, public interest

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