The Beneficiary Pays Principle and Strict Liability: exploring the normative significance of causal relations
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I will discuss the relationship between two different accounts of remedial duty ascriptions. According to one account, the beneficiary account, individuals who benefit innocently from injustices ought to bear remedial responsibilities towards the victims of these injustices. According to another account, the causal account, individuals who caused injustices (even innocently) ought to bear remedial duties towards the victim. In this paper, I examine the relation between the principles central to these accounts: the Beneficiary Pays Principle and the well-established principle of Strict Liability in law. I argue that both principles display a strong yet unexplored similarity as they make certain kinds of causal connection sufficient for incurring liability. Because of this similarity, I suggest that insights into the Beneficiary Pays Principle can be gained from exploring its relation with Strict Liability. In particular, I examine two new positive arguments that could be adapted to support of the Beneficiary Pays Principle: the Minimising Injustice Argument and the Normative Connection Argument. However, I’ll show that only one of those arguments, namely the Normative Connection Argument, can truly support the Beneficiary Pays Principle. I conclude that, if you endorse the Normative Connection Argument for Strict Liability, you have at least a strong prima facie reason to endorse the parallel argument for the Beneficiary Pays Principle.
KeywordsBeneficiary Pays Principle Strict Liability Political philosophy Political theory
For helpful written comments or discussions, I’d like to thank Cecile Fabre, Robert Huseby, Guy Kahane, Ole Martin Moen, Adam Perry, Henry Shue, Gerhard Øverland, as well as the members of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice (Oxford University), the audience members at the Conference in honour of Gerard Øverland, Philosophy Colloquium (Oslo University) and two anonymous reviewers for this Journal. For financial support, I’d like to thank the Research Council of Norway. I am also grateful to the CSMN (Oslo) for hosting me as a research fellow and to the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics (Oxford) for hosting me as a visiting fellow.
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