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Kent Greenawalt

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199756162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756162.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 November 2021

Legal Enforcement of Morality*

Legal Enforcement of Morality*

(p.135) Chapter 8 Legal Enforcement of Morality*
From the Bottom Up

Kent Greenawalt

Oxford University Press

“Legal Enforcement of Morality” addresses the question how far the law should enforce what people morally should do. Clearly the law should forbid many acts that harm others, but not every moral harm, such as hurt feelings. Sometimes the law should require acts that benefit others. The failure of our laws to require a stranger to easily rescue a drowning baby without any personal risk to himself is indefensible in principle. The relevance of indirect harm to others depends on multiple factors, such as the likelihood and importance of that harm. Generally, laws of liberal democracies should not override individuals’ perceptions of what is good for them, but, as with seatbelts in cars, it should sometimes attempt to preclude irresponsible actions or failures to act. Contrary to John Stuart Mill’s approach, taxation may rightly be used to discourage behavior, such as smoking cigarettes, that should not be directly forbidden.

Keywords:   Morally Relevant Harms, Acts that Help Others, Indirect Harms, Seat belts and Irresponsible Behavior, Taxation to Discourage, John Stuart Mill

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