Lifeboat Situations: Freedom in Times of Emergency

From time to time, the fundamental right of each of us to our individual liberty is challenged by the notion that such a right shouldn’t necessarily apply in emergencies. In the regular, fair weather of societal relations, it is easy enough for us to agree that we should, for instance, have no right to physically injure or steal from other people. But what if an emergency could be resolved only by a breach of the non-aggression principle (NAP)? What if that situation was so desperate that the only way to avoid almost certain loss of life (or severe bodily harm) was to violate the property rights of another person?

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