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NCJ Number: 182329 Find in a Library
Title: Collapse of the Harm Principle
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:90  Issue:1  Dated:Fall 1999  Pages:109-195
Author(s): Bernard E. Harcourt
Date Published: 1999
Page Count: 87
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This harm principle is examined, with emphasis on its effective collapse in recent years, the emergence of conservative liberalism, the ways in which debates in the philosophy of law influence legal and political rhetoric, and how legal and political rhetoric influence debates on the philosophy of law.
Abstract: Debates over the regulation or prohibition of prostitution, pornography, drug abuse, homosexuality, and other activities that have traditionally been associated with moral offense have turned away from arguments based on morality and to harm arguments. The broken windows theory of crime prevention has emphasized how minor crimes cause major crimes, neighborhood decline, and urban decay. The focus on harm has become so pervasive that the concept of harm is now setting the very terms of contemporary debate. Claims of harm have become so pervasive that the harm principle has become meaningless. The proliferation of conservative harm arguments has produced an ideological shift in the harm principle from its progressive origins. The original harm principle was never equipped to determine the relative importance of harms, so other approaches are needed to accomplish this goal. Nevertheless, the collapse of the harm principle may ultimately be beneficial in aiding understanding that most human activities probably involve harm. The collapse of the harm principle may promote more informed arguments and conclusions and may force attention to the other normative dimensions lurking beneath the concept of harm. It may also change thinking about remedies and result in nuanced remedies instead of broad prohibitions. Footnotes
Main Term(s): Crime prevention planning
Index Term(s): Conservatism; Crime control policies; Criminal codes; Criminalization; Decriminalization; Drug regulation; Jurisprudence; Law reform; Liberalism; Moral-decency crimes; Offense classification; Pornography; Prostitution; Public Opinion of Crime; Victimless crimes
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