Intentionally Harming Others Without Benefit to Oneself

23 Pages Posted: 11 May 2023 Last revised: 30 Aug 2023

See all articles by Peter K. Westen

Peter K. Westen

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: April 30, 2023

Abstract

Is it wrong in itself to purposely harm others without any benefit to oneself? I examine this question through the lens of an enigmatic provision of the Model Penal Code, which proposes that it be an offense to purposefully obtain property of another “by threatening to inflict any harm that would not benefit the actor.” I argue that the act of inflicting harm without benefit to oneself is not inherently wrong because (i) in contrast to “prima facie torts,” which consist solely of unjustified harms, harms that do not benefit actors are not necessarily unjustified, given that they may justifiably benefit third parties, and (ii) contrary to the “abuse of rights” doctrine, any malice evidenced by inflicting harm without benefit to oneself does not transform justified harms into unjustified harms. Then, after considering and rejecting several reasons for thinking otherwise, I argue that a threat of harm without benefit to oneself is also not not itself a morally wrongful inducement to surrender property.

Keywords: criminal law, tort law, extortion, model penal code

Suggested Citation

Westen, Peter K., Intentionally Harming Others Without Benefit to Oneself (April 30, 2023). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2023, U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 23-028, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4433673

Peter K. Westen (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

3178 South Hall
701 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091
United States
505 577-2855 (Phone)
505 992-6885 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
50
Abstract Views
268
PlumX Metrics