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Knowing Killing and Environmental Law

Lisa Heinzerling

Georgetown University Law Center

January 2006

Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 875644
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 875644

This paper argues that the ethical commitment against knowing killing should play a role in decisions about environmental problems. The ethical commitment against the knowing killing of one person by another - against murder - is reflected in laws that exist in all fifty U.S. states, in modern regulatory laws at the federal level, and in civil jury awards in tort cases involving profit-oriented corporations. This ethical commitment is also reflected in otherwise disparate approaches to moral philosophy. The ethical value discussed here is thus not a new norm, nor, in its traditional setting, a controversial one. Applying this norm in the context of environmental risks does create several complications, but they are not enough to de-activate the norm in this setting.

This analysis reveals the morally problematic nature of using cost-benefit analysis to evaluate environmental decisions. Cost-benefit analysis involves precisely the kind of pre-killing weighing of the choice whether a person will live or die which our norm against knowing killing condemns.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

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Date posted: January 17, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Heinzerling, Lisa, Knowing Killing and Environmental Law (January 2006). ; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 875644. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=875644 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.875644

Contact Information

Lisa Heinzerling (Contact Author)
Georgetown University Law Center ( email )
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
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