A Politics of Harmlessness

Ethics for our Political Lives

Students for Liberty asked me to contribute an entry to their “Bastiat Scrolls” series, so I took the opportunity to write about the virtue of harmlessness, and what taking it seriously means not just for our personal lives, but for politics, as well.

We should aim for harmlessness. No matter what else we set ourselves to throughout our lives, and no matter what other values and principles we might hold to, unpinning and informing it all must be a commitment to refrain from causing harm.

Sometimes harm is unavoidable, of course. We can find ourselves in tragic situations where we have no choice but to inflict suffering, if only as an alternative to inflicting greater suffering through a different course of action. The world isn’t perfect and it isn’t fair. But our intent should be harmlessness, nonetheless. And this intent, if we take it seriously, means developing an awareness of which actions are harmful, and which harmless.

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