Responsibility and compensation rights

In Stephen De Wijze, Matthew H. Kramer & Ian Carter (eds.), Hillel Steiner and the Anatomy of Justice: Themes and Challenges. Routledge (2009)
I address an issue that arises for rights theories that recognize rights to compensation for rightsintrusions. Do individuals who never pose any risk of harm to others have a right, against a rightsintruder, to full compensation for any resulting intrusion-harm, or is the right limited in some way by the extent to which the intruder was agent-responsible for the intrusion-harm (e.g., the extent to which the harm was a foreseeable result of her autonomous choices)? Although this general issue of strict liability vs. fault liability has been much analyzed and debated, there is a promising position that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been much discussed. This is the view that (1) when the intruder is agent-responsible for violating the rights (e.g., does so knowingly), she owes the intrudee compensation for the entire intrusion-harm, but (2) when the intruder is not agentresponsible for wrongly intruding upon the rights (because the intrusion was not wrong or because the intruder could not reasonably have known it was wrong), then she owes the intrudee compensation only for the intrusion-harm for which she is agent-responsible (and not, for example, harm that she could not have reasonably foreseen). I shall develop and motivate this position without attempting a full defense. Throughout, I focus on the rights of the intrudee, against the intruder, to compensation and the correlative duty of the intruder to the intrudee. I’m pleased and honored to have this paper included in this collection in honor of Hillel Steiner. Much of what I know about rights and libertarianism I learned from him – both from his written works and from his very helpful correspondence over the years. Moreover, his intellectual rigor, honesty, and modesty have been a source of inspiration. Although Hillel has not written extensively on compensation for intrusion-harms, it is a topic central to his view of justice, as it is to mine.
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