Intentionally Harming Others Without Benefit to Oneself
23 Pages Posted: 11 May 2023 Last revised: 30 Aug 2023
Date Written: April 30, 2023
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: Suggested Citation