Social Philosophy and Policy 9 (1):201-230 (1992)
AbstractIn contemporary market societies, the laws do not place individuals under enforceable obligations to aid others. Perhaps the most striking exception to this broad generalization is the practice of conscription of able-bodied males into military service, particularly in time of war. Another notable exception is the legal enforcement in some contemporary societies of “Good Samaritan” obligations — obligations to provide temporary aid to victims of emergencies, such as car accident victims. The obligation applies to those who are in the immediate vicinity of the emergency and who can supply aid of great value to the victim at small risk and tolerable cost to themselves. The fact that not all contemporary societies have enacted such Good Samaritan laws underscores the point that the general rule is that individuals are under no legal obligation to help others. According to some moral views, this legal situation approximately accords with the moral fact that persons who have not voluntarily incurred obligations to aid others should not be coerced into tendering such aid. Moreover, it is worth noting that these two prominent exceptions to the tendency of legal systems to eschew enforcement of positive obligations to aid others are plausibly in everyone's ex ante interest and not notably redistributive in intent.
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