Free Essay

Should Laws Reflect Indirect Harm?

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By verain10
Words 1308
Pages 6
Verain Vasudeva
March 30, 2014
Professor Mark Reitsma

Should Laws Reflect Indirect Harm?

Laws reflect the moral code of the majority within a society. Therefore, the majority within a society depict if a law should be reflective of an indirect harm. Indirect harm is “an action which itself did not harm, but may promote or eventually lead to harm”(Reitsma, Liberty and its Limits: Extent of Freedom), it may have no correlation to leading towards harm. John E. Mills indicated “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Heydt), but lawmakers perceive it justifiable to create laws that are reflective of indirect harm. Laws against Prostitution and drug’s are reflective of indirect harm. If ones using drugs or is a prostitute is not directly harming others in society. Even though laws that reflect indirect harm are to prevent harm from happing, indirect harm should not be considered whilst making laws because they tend to restrict one's freedoms & liberties and there is no substantial evidence that indirect harm leads to harm.

Laws tend to create restrictions upon individuals of the society. People are overwhelmed by the pressures of these restrictions and cannot express their freedoms & liberates. Firstly, if one is a distinguish as a criminal under indirect harm laws they will be condemned by society when they have not harmed any individual in society, in fact they have or are only wanting to do what they should able to do freely. Being considered a criminal, ones freedoms are limited to what people’s perception of them is, rather it be good or bad, they have to live according to societies demands. Secondly, these laws are in direct violation of one’s rights, as these individuals have not violated other individuals one rights as per Mill’s harm principle. Since these indirect harm laws do not prevent harm to others they instead violate the freedom & liberties of people who are restricted by these laws.
An example would be, a person using a drug is in now way shape or form directly harming another person but the law restricting the person from using drugs is violating his/her right of freedom. Lastly, majority of people within society determine indirect harm laws rather than the morals of the society. Moreover, majority’s opinion creates indirect harm laws that restrict the minority’s freedom & liberty. In this case, if majority opposes the use of drugs then the minority is not able to use the drugs; this now infringes the freedoms of the minority. The drug users are not directly harming, “which is a action in which the direct consequence is harm” (Reitsma, Liberty and its Limits: Extent of Freedom), the majority in any way.
This problem exists all around the world where minorities are being disregarded while creating laws, this is a violation of their rights. Indirect harm laws are constantly restricting ones freedom & liberties by condemning, violating of one’s rights and are not the morals of the society, but merely opinions.
Laws are created to prevent harm and are designed to control ones harmful behavior. The government can justify creating laws that reflect direct harm because the consequence of these actions is harm to others but there is no substantial evidence that indirect harm leads to harm. Firstly, the government is not consistent while making laws that reflect indirect harm. In this day and age, Internet crime is becoming more prevalent but they have not banned the Internet, while on the other hand they have banned the use of drugs. On the Internet it is easier to promote harm or eventually lead to/cause harm. Therefore, the government should be consistent with their indirect harm laws principle and ban the Internet. Secondly, indirect harm does not cause any direct harm and as per Mill’s “Harm principle”, the government does not have the authority to intervene unless ones action is causing harm to another individual. Mills indicated “power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”(Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty), Since ones action does not cause any harm, the government is then misusing its power to supress these individuals of society. Lastly, laws of such nature do not manifest harmful crime rather they attract crimes that are harmful. Objectifying indirect harm as crimes invites criminals to associate it with direct crimes. These laws only create a negative environment of individuals associating with indirect harms. Laws that reflect indirect harm create an environment where serious crimes are committed but if they were not laws then theses crimes would not be associated with serious crimes. The prefect example would be Alcohol Prohibition, where crimes sprung up around the alcohol trade, but were diminished when alcohol was legalized. Indirect laws cannot be justified as they prevent harm; therefore, there is no substantial evidence that indicates that indirect harm leads to harm. Laws of such nature are not consistent, do not cause any direct harm rather they attract crime that is harmful.

Even thought indirect harm does not lead to harm, there are indications that laws that reflect indirect harm benefit the majority in society and are for the well being of individuals. Firstly, the laws being created are reflective of the society, and governments can only implement what the majority want in a democracy. Secondly, indirect harm laws are to protect individuals or society form negative aspects of life such as drugs, prostitution and guns. These things are more prone to cause harm to an individual and potentially to society. The wellbeing of society plays an important factor of the indirect harm laws; these laws are implemented because majority want them to be and they protect individuals from negative aspects of life. Mill’s Harm principle doesn’t take in account that as people and society progress, the problems become more complicated. Indirect harm may not lead to harm but since majority within society accept the laws and it is implemented to protect individuals in society could be a justifiable reason for the government.

Freedom and liberty is still more important than society opinions. If one is not harming others in society, they should be free to do what ever they want to.
As John E. Mills indicated “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty), the government can not create laws for society wellbeing and has to respect one freedoms and liberty. In conclusion, Laws that reflect indirect harm are to prevent harm. Indirect harm should not be considered whilst making laws for tow reasons. First, tend to restrict one's freedoms & liberties. But most importantly, is not substantial evidence that indirect harm leads to harm.

Heydt, Colin . "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Mill, John Stuart. University of South Florida, n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2014. <>.
Reitsma, Mark. "Liberty and its Limits: Extent of Freedom." Class. Sheridan College. Sheridan College, Mississauga. 20 Mar. 2014. Lecture.
Organization of American States. "What Is The Law?." Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extraction . Organization of American States, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <>.
Royzman, Edward B., and Jonathan Baron. "The Preference for Indirect Harm." Social Justice Research 15.2 (2002): 165-84. ProQuest. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Cornford, Andrew. "Law and Philosophy." Indirect Crimes. N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <>.
Mill, John Stuart. “On Liberty” BLTC Research. Web. Sept. 25, 2008.

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