From our friend the law and economics scholar in response to my request: "I wonder, could you give a quick summary of the Posner argument for not hurting people to post on the blog?":
I would be more than happy to provide a summary of Posner's arguments on why harming others is wrong. But I'd like to take a look over his text book again, so as not to misrepresent the Genius himself. Just as a taster I can tell you why rape is 'MOSTLY' wrong :). (God damn I wish it wasn't haha, that'd save a shitload of effort). In some ways I believe an explanation of why rape is "sometimes" wrong is more interesting than harm in general.
Basically, rape bypasses the market in sexual relations in the same way that theft bypasses markets in ordinary goods and services, and therefore should be forbidden. Something that bypasses the market is wrong. Here's the clinch. Sometimes rape is right. I'm going to paraphrase Posner here. Sometimes rapists derive extra pleasure from the fact that a woman has not consented. For these rapists, there is NO MARKET SUBSTITUTE - market transaction costs are prohibitive- and it can be argued, therefore, that for them rape is NOT A PURE COERCIVE TRANSFER and should NOT BE PUNISHED if the sum of satisfactions to the rapist (as measured by what he would be willing to pay - though not to the victim - for the right to rape) exceeds the victim's pain and distress.
The PRACTICAL OBJECTION is that rapists are hard to distinguish empirically from mere THIEVES OF SEX and that giving them free rein would induce women to invest heavily in self-protection. Posner goes on...and states "the fact that any sort of RAPE LICENSE is even thinkable within the framework of the wealth-maximisation theory that guides so much of the analysis in this book is a limitation on the usefulness of that theory". I believe Posner is probably not a sociopath. But I mean... writing about the difficulties of giving a 'license to rape' because it's hard to distinguish between genuine rapists and those who are 'thieves of sex': haha :). I recall long conversations with some girls at university on the "license to rape"...I fucked them all in the end without the license. :). To be honest I think I would have to think long and hard to give an explanation of why "rape is generally wrong" in terms that a person of average intelligence and experience would understand. It rests on the idea that the market is supreme...until that is understood it's just empty words.