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Institutional rules create difficulties for the allocation of moral responsibility. One problem is the existence of responsibility voids, i.e. situations in which an outcome results from individual interactions but for which no one is responsible. Another is that responsibility can be fragmented in the sense that responsibility-bearing individuals may be responsible for different features of the outcome. This study examines both problems together. We show that for a large class of situations the two problems are logically dependent. More precisely, non-dictatorial decision procedures can only ensure the absence of voids if they allow for the fragmentation of responsibility.
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n what sense, if any, do rights exist? If rights are in- stantiated in law but difficult to exercise in practice, do people really have those rights? Can we compare across countries to see what rights people have both materially and formally? In this paper we map out the senses in which rights can be said to have existence. We suggest a framework for analyzing how rights might be measured and compared. The framework is supposed to be relatively neutral between competing conceptions of rights, though we do argue that rights cannot form the basis of morality or a system of justice. They are not foundational since no system of rights worth the name can be "co-possible" (Nozick 1974) or, more precisely, "compossible" (Steiner 1994). A system of rights is compossible to the extent that all persons can exercise their right and there will be no conflicting duties. In other words, we suggest that there are no principles of justice that can deliver a set of rights that do not con- tain contradictory judgments about the permissibility of actions. There will always be occasions when people cannot exercise their rights simultaneously.
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Drawing on the game-theoretic analysis of rights, this paper re-examines the relation between liberal principles of decision making, on the one hand, and demands for stability and efficiency, on the other. Two possibility results are obtained. First, rights assignments in which individuals enjoy maximal freedom are shown to ensure the stability and efficiency of the decision process: there is always at least one Nash equilibrium with a Pareto-optimal outcome. Second, it is shown that a universal right to be completely passive, together with a mild condition on the social decision mechanism, also guarantees stability and efficiency. Journal of Economic Literature Classification Number: D71.
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Since Amartya Sen's contribution on the impossibility of a Paretian liberal, his formulation of libertarian rights has been under debate. In this paper, the authors highlight some important strands in this debate, and achieve some conceptual clarification of the different and often incompatible views of individual rights. They demonstrate in terms of a counterexample and general reasoning that Sen's concept can, more often than not, be inconsistent with our intuitive view of rights and fails to capture important categories of rights. An alternative formulation in terms of game form is introduced and its relative merit vis-a-vis Sen's formulation is discussed. Copyright 1992 by The London School of Economics and Political Science.