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Jurisprudence Commons

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General Law

2011

Articles 1 - 2 of 2

Full-Text Articles in Jurisprudence

The Hollowness Of The Harm Principle, Steven D. Smith Dec 2011

The Hollowness Of The Harm Principle, Steven D. Smith

Steven D. Smith

Among the various instruments in the toolbox of liberalism, the so-called “harm principle,” presented as the central thesis of John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty, has been one of the most popular. The harm principle has been widely embraced and invoked in both academic and popular debate about a variety of issues ranging from obscenity to drug regulation to abortion to same-sex marriage, and its influence is discernible in legal arguments and judicial opinions as well. Despite the principle’s apparent irresistibility, this essay argues that the principle is hollow. It is an empty vessel, alluring but without any ...


Collective Choice, Justin Schwartz Jan 2011

Collective Choice, Justin Schwartz

Justin Schwartz

This short nontechnical article reviews the Arrow Impossibility Theorem and its implications for rational democratic decisionmaking. In the 1950s, economist Kenneth J. Arrow proved that no method for producing a unique social choice involving at least three choices and three actors could satisfy four seemingly obvious constraints that are practically constitutive of democratic decisionmaking. Any such method must violate such a constraint and risks leading to disturbingly irrational results such and Condorcet cycling. I explain the theorem in plain, nonmathematical language, and discuss the history, range, and prospects of avoiding what seems like a fundamental theoretical challenge to the possibility ...