Discussion questions on Gauthier, chapter 7 and on rights
1. What is the difference between saying that P is free to do something and saying that P has a right to do something?
2. What is a "moral right," and how are moral rights related to legal or conventional rights?
3. How can one determine what moral rights people have? How can claims about moral right be defended?
4. What roles do right play within economics? How do rights contribute to economic growth and efficiency? How do rights interfere with economic growth and efficiency?
5. In section 10.4 McPherson and I discuss four strategies for justifying rights. Does Gauthier in Chapter 7 of Morals by Agreement employ any of these strategies, or does he argue in some other way?
6. On page 205 Gauthier writes "the proviso prohibits bettering one's situation through interaction that worsens the situation of another." Exactly what does this mean? To what extent does it conform to Locke's view that in appropriate the gifts of nature (including land), one must leave "enough and as good" for others? Give examples of actions of individuals that conform to Gauthier's version of the proviso and that violate the proviso.
7. On page 211, Gauthier maintains that if I dump my wastes in the river and thereby kill the fish downstream, where you make your living by fishing, I do not necessarily violate the proviso. Why? How is this consistent with the formulation of the proviso on page 205? Does Gauthier think that people have a right to pollute?
8. How does the proviso give rise to rights to life and bodily and mental autonomy?
9. Is conforming to the proviso necessary in order to behave justly? Is conforming to the proviso sufficient to behave justly?
10. Gauthier writes (p. 222) "The moral claims that each of us makes on others, and that are expressed in our rights, depend neither on our affections for each other nor on our rational or purposive capacities, as if these commanded inherent respect, but on our actual or potential partnership in activities that bring mutual benefit." What does he mean? Do you think he is right?
11. Gauthier asks on page 223, "Why does his [someone's] interest in market and cooperative arrangements, in itself an expression of his concern with utility-maximization, afford him reason to accept the proviso as limiting his rights in market and cooperative interaction?" What is his answer? Are you persuaded?
12. What moral does Gauthier draw from figure 10 on page 229? What does his discussion imply concerning what justice requires of our treatment of those who are disabled?