Generally speaking, liberal democracies have accepted some version of John Stuart Mill's harm principle. The
harm principle, paraphrased, says that people are free to make their own choices and do what they want unless and until their own choices harm other persons and/or interfere with their liberty. Harm and interference typically and traditionally have been understood as referencing immediate, guaranteed, and physical results, for example, you cannot assault someone, steal or destroy their property, kidnap them, etc. However, we have begun to accept that the harm principle can also apply to risk. For example, driving drunk does not guarantee harm, but it puts people at risk of harm. Requiring parents to have their children vaccinated against HPV is similar, except there are more layers of risk. Having sex with HPV does not guarantee that HPV would be transferred to the partner, it just risks that it does. And getting HPV does not guarantee that someone would get cancer, it just risks that it does. And getting the vaccination does not guarantee that someone will be protected from getting HPV, it just lowers the risk that they will. Do you think it is in general a good idea to limit someone's liberty because of imposed risk? If so, when do we know a risk is important enough to restrict liberty? Can you think of two examples of behaviors that are not currently illegal, but *should* be illegal because they are risky? OR Can you think of two activities that *are* currently illegal based on risk, but you think that they should not be?
Recently Asked Questions
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