A Pathologist is suing a drug manufacturer, and the casinos that he lost his 14 million dollar fortune to, because the drug that he was given causes compulsive gambling. I think that not only the drug manufacturer, but the casinos could loose that lawsuit, despite the objections about “where is the justice in this” that I’ve heard.
The lawsuit has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with philosophy. In the dominant philosophy in the US right now (Kantian Altruism) it is accepted that “we are our brothers keeper” which means that the casinos have the responsibility to tell someone who is hurting himself by losing too much “you’ve had enough now brother, time to stop”. It doesn’t matter that this introduces a whole new mess of problems for the gambling industry. Just like the can o’ worms that bars now face (and that McDonald’s et al narrowly dodged by adding ‘healthy’ items to their menus) in having to be “brother’s keeper”, the casinos have a responsibility to do likewise.
The only way this can be corrected is to change the dominant philosophy in the world today; a daunting task. As a Capitalist/Objectivist, I’m not going to bother trying to defend the argument that the casinos should be liable; I’m just stating for the record, that based on Altruist values and reasoning, they are.
Should companies be liable for externalities, even ones that they aren’t responsible for? If you are making money off of the behavior of other people, then I would say you have to be. Otherwise, what is to stop the business from say, pumping the casino full of drugs that will turn you into a compulsive gambler? They didn’t make you gamble, they are simply enhancing the atmosphere to make the gaming more entertaining. They are already engaging in many other questionable practices in the design of casinos, adding the right drugs to stimulate betting isn’t too far out from where they are now.
Curtailing these practices is not so much being your brother’s keeper as that we have to be constantly vigilant against attempts by businesses to privatize profits and externalize costs. The health costs of eating poorly are bourn by the public whether we want them to be or not. So too the costs of drunk driving. Making the companies worry about the externalities makes them spend the time and effort to make sure that they don’t simply do the equivalent of throwing drunks out in the street to be a hazard to everyone else, but will instead make sure they get home safely because it is a liability that they cannot afford. That they can at least get a salad instead of fries, even if they don’t.
This approach will cost the businesses more but it will save society a much larger cost. Someone will eventually have to pay, it might as well be the ones making the profit from the behavior.