The trolley problem as a problem for libertarians

Utilitas 19 (4):407-429 (2007)
Many political libertarians argue, or assume, that negative moral duties (duties not to harm others) prevail over positive moral duties (duties to aid others), and that the legal system ought to reflect such pre-eminence. I call into question this strategy for defending a libertarian order. I start by arguing that a successful account of the well-known case of a runaway trolley that is about to kill five innocents unless a passer-by diverts it onto one innocent, killing him, should point to (i) the ex ante advantage to all six of being subject to a policy of redirection of runaway trolleys, and (ii) the causal structure of killing vs. letting-die choices. I then argue that this account of the trolley case entails that legal systems reflecting the relative stringency of negative and positive moral duties should uphold redistributive measures at odds with libertarianism. The assumption that the legal system ought to reflect, through non-causal routes, moral principles and their relative weights leads to either an ideal-theory (in Rawls's sense) assessment of libertarianism or a symbolic account of the relationships between morality and law. Libertarians should undermine this assumption if they hope to offer an all-things-considered case for free markets
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/S0953820807002713
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 29,530
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Organ Conscription Trolley Problem.Adam Kolber - 2009 - American Journal of Bioethics 9 (8):13-14.
The Moral of the Trolley Problem.Margery Bedford Naylor - 1988 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 48 (4):711-722.
The Trolley Problem Revisited.Michael J. Costa - 1986 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 24 (4):437-449.
Contractarianism and the "Trolley" Problem1.Alexander Rosenberg - 1992 - Journal of Social Philosophy 23 (3):88-104.
A Suggested Solution to the Trolley Problem.C. L. Sheng - 1995 - Journal of Social Philosophy 26 (1):203-217.
Thomson and the Trolley Problem.B. C. Postow - 1989 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (4):529-537.
Thomson and the Trolley Problem.Michael Gorr - 1990 - Philosophical Studies 59 (1):91 - 100.
Self-Sacrifice and the Trolley Problem.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (5):662-672.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
174 ( #28,034 of 2,210,800 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #91,564 of 2,210,800 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature