The Individual or the Institution? Ethics and Behavioural Responses to Social Insurance

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Individuals tend to change their behaviour as a response to insurance. Such behavioural responses to insurance are commonly seen as ethically and morally problematic. This is especially true of effects on behaviour from social insurance. These effects have been seen as an ethical problem, associated with irresponsibility, fraud and an immoral character. This article discusses the relevance of four different types of reasons for claims that behavioural responses to social insurance are immoral. These reasons are (1) independent reasons (2) con-tract related reasons (3) reasons related to fraud and (4) reasons related to justice. I argue that reasons related to justice are most relevant, but that this type of reason does not render the individual morally blameworthy. Hence, insofar as behavioural responses to social insurance are an ethical problem it is a problem that concerns the institution, i.e. what incentives social insurance exhibits, rather than the individual, i.e. the morality of the individual responding to it. Insofar as behavioural responses to social insurance are an ethical problem it is a problem for political philosophy rather than individual ethics.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy and the History of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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