Question: Would the government of a free society issue bans or otherwise regulate activities dangerous to bystanders? At the turn of the 20th century it was common to use cyanide gas to fumigate buildings. Although it was well-known that cyanide gas was extremely poisonous and alternatives were available, its use continued and resulted in a number of accidental deaths due to the gas traveling through cracks in walls and even in plumbing. With the development of better toxicology practices, these deaths were more frequently recognized for what they were and at the end of summer in 1825 the NYC government banned its use. In this and other situations, it was recognized that the substance in question was extremely poisonous and could only be handled with the most extreme care – care that was rarely demonstrated. The question is this: Should the government step in and ban the substance from general use or should it simply stand by and wait for people to die and prosecute the users for manslaughter? Or is there another option?
Question: Should minors be forbidden from buying dangerous goods? Under current law, minors are often restricted from buying goods regarded as dangerous, such as cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, or firearms. In a free society, should those restrictions be abolished or upheld? Should parents be allowed to permit their children to buy such goods?
Question: Should a person be prosecuted for property damage when committed in order to rescue the property owner's pet from harm or death? Recently, I heard a story about a man who smashed the window of a stranger's car in order to rescue a dog left inside. It was a very hot day, and the dog would have died or suffered brain damage if it had not been rescued. Was it moral for the man to do this? Should he be charged with criminal damages for smashing the window? Should the owner of the dog be charged with leaving the dog to die in the car?
Question: Should judges refuse to hear cases from lawyers behind frivolous suits? In your 15 May 2014 show, you expressed curiosity about possible improvements to the justice system. I came up with the following idea after sitting on a jury for a civil trial where, after the plaintiff presented his case, the judge dismissed the suit without even having the defendant present his defense. In cases where a judge thinks everyone's time and money were wasted by a pointless case, the judge should refuse to hear any future cases from the lawyer for the losing side. That would cause the lawyer to think twice about representing any frivolous cases, since he would risk being banned from the presiding judge's courtroom henceforth. In addition, judges who know each other could share lawyer blacklists, preventing the lawyer from wasting other judges' time as well. Would this be possible? Would it fix the problem of frivolous lawsuits?
Question: Should driving drunk be illegal in a free society? Should the government of a free society forbid and punish people for activities potentially harmful to others when they've impaired their judgment via drugs or alcohol? Basically, should driving or shooting a firearm while drunk be illegal? Or should such decisions be left entirely to the discretion of private property owners? Also, given that the government owns the roads today, are laws against drunk driving unjust?
Question: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn't it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?
Question: Are animals a special kind of property? On your blog NoodleFood, you claimed that "the law should recognize that beloved pets are not mere property, but rather a special kind of property. To wrongfully cause the death of a pet should carry a significantly higher penalty than merely compensating the owner for the replacement cost of that pet. Moreover, police officers and government officials who indulge in this kind of reckless killing without good cause should be disciplined severely, preferably fired." Can you explain this view – the theory and the practice – further? Would this standard be akin to that of hate crimes, on the theory that crime is wrong but a crime motivated by hate is more wrong? Would it apply to other property – like my car (because it adds so much value to my life) or family photographs (which have lots of sentimental values but not monetary value)?
Question: Should Distributed Denial of Service (a.k.a. DDoS) attacks be illegal? DDoS computer attacks are illegal in the United Kingdom. Are such attacks analogous to convincing people to send many letters to an organization or to calling on the phone repeatedly, thereby crippling its infrastructure? Or are they more like trespassing on property? How should the law deal with them?
Question: How would antibiotic resistance be handled in a free society? Bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics by exposure to low doses of antibiotics. Such low doses may come from misuse of antibiotics, for example when taken to combat a cold or flu (which are viral infection against which antibiotics do nothing) or by not completing the full course as prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics are indeed awesome drugs which have saved millions of lives. But resistant bacteria pose a serious health problem, often causing serious and difficult-to-treat illness in third parties. What would be the proper way to address this problem in a free society?
Question: Was California right or wrong to ban "gay cure" therapy for minors? Recently, California banned "reparative" or "conversion" therapy – meaning, therapy that aims to make gay teenagers straight. Such therapy is widely regarded as dangerous pseudo-science by mental health professionals. The ban only applies to patients under 18. So adults can still choose such therapy for themselves, but parents cannot foist it on their minor children. Is such therapy a form of child abuse? Or should parents have the power to compel such therapy on their children, even if they're morally wrong to do so?
Summary: What is tort law? What are its basic principles? What are some of the most interesting debates in tort law? Do some torts conflict with freedom of speech? What, if any, proposals for tort reform are worthy of support? In this interview, law professor Sasha Volokh discussed the nature, value, and limitations of tort law.
Question: How would the government protect the safety of food and drugs in a free society? Would the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) exist in free society? If so, would food or drugs have to gain FDA approval to be sold? Would it have the power to remove food or drugs deemed unsafe from the market? If not, what would protect consumers from harm due to adulterated or otherwise unsafe food or drugs?
Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?
Question: Do smoking bans violate rights? Cities are banning smoking in private businesses like bars and even smoke shops. Are these bans immoral – meaning, do they violate rights? Does second-hand smoke violate the rights of non-smoking patrons or employees? What should be the policy for government-owned property like parks, court houses, sidewalks, etc?
Question: It is wrong to inflict second-hand smoke on other people? Although smoking is detrimental to a person's health, whether or not someone smokes is (or should be) a matter of his personal choice. However, what is the proper moral and legal status of "second-hand smoke"? If second-hand smoke contributes to the development of respiratory diseases or if others simply find it noxious, shouldn't people refrain from smoking in public or smoking around people who haven't consented to it? In a free society, would and should most workplaces ban smoking? Could second-hand smoke be considered a tort, such that the state should forbid smoking around people who object to it?
Question: Should an employer have to explain and justify his firing of an employee? Should an employer be able to fire an employee for some alleged misconduct, even though the employer never bothered to verify the misconduct, nor asked the employee for his side of the story? For example, suppose that when the employee shows up for work he is simply told that he's been fired because someone made a complaint about him. The employee could easily prove the complaint to be false but the employer isn't concerned with proof or lack thereof. The employee's reputation in the eyes of possible future employers is damaged, even if the employer never discusses the firing with anyone else. In such a case, should the employee be able to sue for having been fired without proper cause?