Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Psychic mountain harms

Here's an alternative scenario for Steve Landsburg's thought experiment about psychic harms.
3. Let's suppose that a mountain that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is hovered over by a helicopter in a way that causes no direct physical harm to the mountain - no injury, no rockslides, and no disturbing of the snow atop the mountain's peak. (Note: according to the account I've read, the Department of Conservation was not even aware that someone had hovered over the mountain until they read about it on the Internet some months later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, some people are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought that the mountain was treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of hovering? Should they be illegal?
The relevant legislation is here. Presumably one might hover over the mountain by seeking the appropriate concession from the Minister, but unauthorised hovering is a summary conviction offence carrying a maximum fine of $5000.

The psychic harms imposed by hovering are potentially large, unknowable, and easily overstated; the psychic benefits provided by hovering are potentially large, unknowable, and easily overstated. Solving for the correct solution using David Friedman's framework is left as an exercise for the student.

1 comment:

  1. We are hovering above the political landscape now Eric, and we are carrying weapons