Q&A: John Galt's Motor: 24 May 2015, Question 2
Q&A: Atoning for a Past Crime: 17 May 2015, Question 1
Question: Was John Galt evil, wrong, or a jerk for not commercializing his motor? In Atlas Shrugged
, John Galt went on strike when the world seemed only a little worse off than today politically in America. Things got really bad so fast because Galt dismantled everything. If, instead of going on strike, he had quit the Twentieth Century Motor Company and started the Galt Motor Company, things seem like they would have gone a very different way. By my reading, Galt's motor was pretty much a free energy miracle – for the same price as a car engine a car could need no fuel and be nearly maintenance free. Electricity would be too cheap to meter and probably within a decade the Galt Motor Company would provide the engines for every plane, train, automobile, and power plant in America. The resulting economic boom from ultra-cheap energy would have probably improved conditions – there'd be fewer calls for controls because everything would be going so swimmingly. Galt could have gone into the other countries and demanded they liberalize their economies if they wanted him to electrify their countries. His wealth and influence would let him meet with titans of industry and convince them of his morality. He could invest in Hollywood and make movies and TV shows that showed his views. He could have met Dagny and fallen in love with her, and I'm sure over months of dating she would have come around to realize that his morality was right. Her resistance was, after all, to the strike, not really the idea that we should be selfish. People seem to get more panicky and politicians more lusting after power when the economy is doing poorly. In huge booms things seem to get better. People who are well off don't cry out for a savior and accept whatever anyone tells them will make things better, because things are going pretty well. If Galt probably could have gotten rich, liberalized the economies of the world, married Dagny, and sparked a moral revolution all without dismantling civilization, shouldn't he have? If his motor really could save everyone (and it seems like it could have), he is at least kind of a jerk to not commercialize it – and probably self-destructive too. So why go on strike at all?
Tags: Activism, Atlas Shrugged, Business, Ethics, Law, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics
Q&A: Waivers to Rights-Violating Laws: 10 May 2015, Question 1
Question: What should a person do to make up for a past unpunished crime? Suppose that a man, say when between 9 to 12 years old, committed a serious offense such as sexual assault or rape. At the time, he did not realize the effect of his actions. Now, as an adult, he is living a decent life – meaning that he's gotten a good education, he has a good job, and he's developed good sense of ethics. He's never told anyone about this incident. It was never reported, and he was never investigated for or convicted of that offense as a juvenile. Legally, he need not report this incident to anyone. But ethically, what should he do about it? Should he disclose it to someone – such as his family, friends, a therapist, or even the police? Should he do anything else?
Tags: Atonement, Charity, Crime, Emotions, Ethics, Forgiveness, Justice, Law
Q&A: The Obligation to Report a Crime: 3 May 2015, Question 2
Question: Are waivers to rights-violating laws good or bad? There are many examples of immoral laws in which the government initiates force against individuals. There are also many examples of groups of people being carved out of the application of such laws via waivers. Some waivers are based on rational motivations, such as business exemptions from Obamacare based on economic burdens. Some waivers are based on irrational motivations, such as religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws or requirements to provide insurance for birth control because compliance would conflict with a "religious conscience." If we begin by agreeing that all initiation of force is immoral, how can we proceed with analyzing whether waivers to immoral laws are good or bad? Are the exceptions good if they're based on rational reasons and bad if based on irrational reasons? Or should we think of the exceptions as either universally good or bad? Philosophically, I'm confused. On one hand, how can I not support all waivers when, in fact, they would result in less initiation of force? On the other hand, I can think of a philosophical argument against all waivers on the following basis: unequal standards for the application of political force implies a variance in the ethical standards which implies a variance in the metaphysical nature of man. If we accept the implication that there are essential differences in our nature as human beings, then we have given up the objective basis for rights and open the door to widespread destruction of freedom. Is that right? How should a person who wants to consistently support individual rights think about this issue of waivers, in principle?
Tags: Concealed Carry, Discrimination, Equality before the Law, Ethics, Firearms, Government, Law, Objectivity, Politics, Principles, Rights, Rule of Law, Separation of Church and State
Q&A: Claims of Rights to Food and Shelter: 29 Mar 2015, Question 1
Question: When is a person obliged to report a crime? About ten years ago, as a nurse, I heard a patient planning to do something illegal – particularly, to lie to an insurance company about the relationship between her injuries and the car accident so that she could keep all the settlement money. At the time, I decided to disengage but not confront or report her. I opted for that due to concerns about patient privacy, the non-violence of the planned crime, and the fact that the insurance company could detect her lie from her medical records. Recently, I've been thinking about the situation again. I'm trying to come up with a principle to apply, and I'm getting all muddled. What is my moral responsibility to intervene or report when I know that another person is planning or has done something illegal – meaning, something that would violate someone's rights? Does my responsibility change if it's a friend (assumed in confidence) or stranger (overheard in public)? Does it matter if the crime has already taken place or is merely in the works? Where is the line regarding severity of the crime? (I'd obviously report if I even heard a stranger plotting murder.) Also, what if you might be harmed if you report, such as in the case of a gang murder? Is there some basic principle that can clarify when a person is obliged to report knowledge of a crime?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Fraud, Law, Medicine, Obligation, Police, Rights
Q&A: Fractional Reserve Banking, Fraud, and Deception: 8 Mar 2015, Question 1
Question: Do people have a right to food and shelter? I recently had a conversation with a Facebook friend who stated that food and shelter are more than necessities, they are rights. I posed the question, "How does one exercise their right to food and shelter?" No one answered the question, so I would like to pose it here. Most food in this country is grown by farmers and sold fresh, or processed in a factory for sale. If food is a "right," does anyone without the means to buy these products have an inherent right to take what they need without any remuneration to the farmer or the manufacturer? The same applies to shelter. How does one exercise their "right" to shelter without a means to earn it? We have a right to free speech, and a right to vote. One is exercised by speaking your mind on a subject without fear of government reprisal, and the other is exercised by voting during elections. We have the right to practice whatever religion we want or none at all. The press has the right to print or say whatever they want. Any "right" to food or shelter would have to operate differently. So are food and shelter a "right"? What would that mean in practice?
Tags: Economics, Ethics, Government, Law, Politics, Progressivism, Rights, Three Languages of Politics, Values, Welfare
Q&A: Revenge Porn: 1 Mar 2015, Question 2
Question: Does fraud require deliberate deception? Some libertarians, most notably Walter Block, have tried to argue that fraud does not require deliberate deception. For example, argues Block, if I tried to sell you a square circle, and I believed that square circles existed, and so did you, and you agreed to the transaction, then, since square circles do not actually exist, this would still count as fraud, even though no deliberate deception has taken place. Block has used this argument to indict fractional reserve banking, by arguing that it still counts as fraud even though all parties are knowingly consenting. Is he talking rationalist nonsense?
Tags: Business, Deception, Finance, Fraud, Government, Honesty, Law, Rights
Q&A: Nuisance Limits for New Technology: 15 Feb 2015, Question 2
Question: Should revenge porn be illegal? Apparently, it is increasingly common after a break-up for a person to share sexual pictures or videos of his/her former lover that were taken while in the relationship. Some people think that sharing sexual images intended to be kept private should be illegal, while others argue that such "revenge porn" is protected speech. Which view is right? Should the consent of all parties be required for the posting of sexual imagery?
Tags: Ethics, Law, Pornography, Privacy, Relationships, Rights, Sex, Technology, Torts
Q&A: The Morality of Boycotts: 8 Feb 2015, Question 3
Question: How should nuisance limits be set for new technology? Often new technologies initially involve negative side effects, and sometimes those side effects impact even those who didn't choose to use the new technology. Here's an example: supersonic flight. Supersonic aircraft are generally noisier than slower aircraft – they lay down a sonic boom when they fly over. In the US, supersonic travel has been banned outright since the 1960s due to concerns about boom noise. There's technology to help quiet the aircraft, but no one knows how much "quiet" (and political muscle) it will take to reverse this ban – and as a result we're still trundling around at 1960s speeds. But this is only one example. Many other technologies (such as fossil fuels) initially have some physical impact even on those who choose not to adopt, until they advance sufficiently that the impact is immaterial. In a free society, how should these technologies be allowed to develop? What restrictions should be placed, and how? How does one objectively determine, for instance, how much noise pollution from aircraft or smoke from a train constitutes a rights violation?
Tags: Business, Law, Nuisance, Rights, Technology
Q&A: The Regulation of Ultrahazardous Activities: 25 Jan 2015, Question 1
Question: It is moral to advocate for the boycott of a business? Over the holidays, my brother and I discussed cases in which businesses are compelled by government to provide services against their will. For example, the Colorado courts demanded that a bakery make cakes for gay couples or face fines. We agreed that the business should be left free to operate as they see fit, absent violating anyone's actual rights, and reap the rewards or penalties from their choice. Where we diverged was on the moral status of the business owner and whether the bakery deserved to be boycotted. In my view, the decision of the owner of the Colorado bakery was immoral: they were being irrational, discriminating by non-essentials. My brother disagreed. Moreover, my brother opposed any advocacy of a boycott, seeing this as a call for force to be applied against the owner. This would be wrong, in his view, but he would be fine with suggesting that people patronize a different store. Ultimately, I found that I could not adequately explain why I think people might actively and openly oppose wrong acts by businesses, even if those acts don't violate rights. So what justifies such boycotts, if anything?
Tags: Boycotts, Business, Defamation, Ethics, Honesty, Law, Politics, Rights, Torts, Values
Q&A: The Right to Die: 18 Jan 2015, Question 1
Question: Would the government of a free society issue bans or otherwise regulate activities dangerous to bystanders? At the turn of the 20th century it was common to use cyanide gas to fumigate buildings. Although it was well-known that cyanide gas was extremely poisonous and alternatives were available, its use continued and resulted in a number of accidental deaths due to the gas traveling through cracks in walls and even in plumbing. With the development of better toxicology practices, these deaths were more frequently recognized for what they were and at the end of summer in 1825 the NYC government banned its use. In this and other situations, it was recognized that the substance in question was extremely poisonous and could only be handled with the most extreme care – care that was rarely demonstrated. The question is this: Should the government step in and ban the substance from general use or should it simply stand by and wait for people to die and prosecute the users for manslaughter? Or is there another option?
Tags: Business, Epistemology, Government, Law, Philosophy, Regulation, Rights, Risk, Science, Technology, Torts, Ultrahazardous Activities
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Six: 15 Jan 2015
Question: Should a person who does not wish to live be forcibly prevented from committing suicide? John doesn't like living. He finds no joy in life, and only lives because it would upset other people if he ended his life. He has tried counseling and medication, but he simply has no desire to continue to live. He makes no real contribution to society, nor does he wish to be a part of society. If John wants to die, he can, but the state will attempt to stop him at every turn, even to the point of incarceration. Is there a point when the law (and other people) should simply respect his wishes and allow him to end his life – or perhaps even assist him in doing so?
Tags: Assisted Suicide, Crime, Death, Government, Law, Rights, Suicide
Q&A: Forbidding the Sale of Dangerous Goods to Minors: 14 Dec 2014, Question 2
Can an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility solve the problem of moral luck? In particular, how does the theory of responsibility for actions handle the proposed cases of "circumstantial moral luck"? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Six of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Five: 4 Dec 2014
Question: Should minors be forbidden from buying dangerous goods? Under current law, minors are often restricted from buying goods regarded as dangerous, such as cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, or firearms. In a free society, should those restrictions be abolished or upheld? Should parents be allowed to permit their children to buy such goods?
Tags: Abortion, Business, Children, Ethics, Law, Negligence, Parenting, Risk, Torts
Q&A: Fighting Words: 30 Nov 2014, Question 2
In Chapter Three of the Nicomachean Ethics
, Aristotle develops the outlines of a theory of moral responsibility. He argues that responsibility requires (1) control and (2) knowledge. What is the meaning of those conditions for moral responsibility? What do they require in practice? Are those conditions for moral responsibility sufficient? What gaps did Aristotle leave? What is required for a full and clear defense of moral responsibility for actions? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Five of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Q&A: Anarchism's Case Against Government: 9 Nov 2014, Question 1
Question: Do verbal insults sometimes justify a response of physical violence? In a recent discussion of bullying, most people agreed that the child in question should not have hit the kids bullying him, given that those bullies were merely making awful remarks, as opposed to being violent or threatening. However, one person suggested that a physically violent response might be justified if all other avenues were exhausted – meaning that the bully was told to stop, efforts to enlist the help of the authorities failed, and a warning was given. Is that right? Is it ever right to respond to purely verbal insults with physical violence?
Tags: Bullying, Children, Communication, Crime, Crime, Education, Ethics, Free Speech, Law, Parenting, Rights, Violence
Q&A: Abortion and Rights in Pregnancy: 26 Oct 2014, Question 1
Question: Does the government monopoly on the use of force violate rights? Anarchist libertarians have long argued that a rights-respecting government is a contradiction in terms. A government, by its very nature, must have a monopoly on the use of force. That must be a coercive monopoly, since the government will not permit competition in the form of any competing defense agencies advocated by anarchists. Hence, government will always violate rights. What is wrong – if anything – with this argument? I've never gotten a good answer, despite often inquiring about it. Moreover, what assurances do we have that this government monopoly will not behave like other monopolies, such that it gets out of control, increases costs, and eventually fails?
Tags: Anarchism, Business, Government, Justice, Law, Libertarianism, Objectivism, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Psychics in a Free Society: 5 Oct 2014, Question 1
Question: When do rights begin? You – Greg Perkins and Diana Hsieh – agree on the basics of abortion rights. However, you disagree on when the fetus becomes a person with rights. Diana argues that rights don't apply until birth, when the fetus becomes a biologically separate infant. Greg argues that the fetus has rights during the later stages of pregnancy, when it becomes an "essentially formed human being." Can you flesh out and defend these views?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Ethics, Law, Parenting, Politics, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: Constitutional Carry: 21 Sep 2014, Question 2
Question: In a free society, would psychics be prosecuted for fraud? How would the government in a rational, free-market system handle people and businesses, such as the Psychic Friends Network, which claim to have psychic powers (such as being able to talk to the dead) and charge the gullible hundreds of dollars in fees for "spiritual consultations"? Would the government prosecute such people for fraud? Or would the government have a "caveat emptor" attitude and say, "If people want to waste their money on that nonsense, that's their rightful prerogative"?
Tags: Business, Crime, Fraud, Free Society, Honesty, Law, Mysticism, Rights
Q&A: Rescuing Other People's Pets: 11 Sep 2014, Question 1
Question: Should concealed carry permits be required to carry firearms concealed? In the United States today, most states have "shall-issue" concealed carry laws, whereby the sheriff of a county must issue a concealed carry permit to anyone who meets the requirements. Those requirements usually include no history of criminal activity, no history of mental illness, and some training. However, two states permit "constitutional carry," meaning that any law-abiding citizen has a right to carry a concealed firearm, without the need for a permit. Is requiring a "concealed carry" permit a violation of the right to self-defense? Or is "constitutional carry" a dangerous form of anarchy?
Tags: Crimes, Firearms, Law, Politics, Rights, Self-Defense
Q&A: Net Neutrality: 7 Sep 2014, Question 1
Question: Should a person be prosecuted for property damage when committed in order to rescue the property owner's pet from harm or death? Recently, I heard a story about a man who smashed the window of a stranger's car in order to rescue a dog left inside. It was a very hot day, and the dog would have died or suffered brain damage if it had not been rescued. Was it moral for the man to do this? Should he be charged with criminal damages for smashing the window? Should the owner of the dog be charged with leaving the dog to die in the car?
Tags: Animals, Benevolent, Ethics, Law, Property Rights, Rights, Torts
Q&A: Frivolous Lawsuits: 31 Aug 2014, Question 3
Question: Should "net neutrality" be law? Lately, many people on the left have been advocating for "net neutrality." What is it? What would its effects be? What are the arguments for and against it? If it shouldn't be law, might private "net neutrality" be a good thing?
Tags: Business, Egalitarianism, Fraud, Government, Internet, Law, Politics, Progressivism, Property Rights, Rights, Technology
Q&A: Pursuing Justice at Great Personal Cost: 27 Jul 2014, Question 2
Question: Should judges refuse to hear cases from lawyers behind frivolous suits? In your 15 May 2014 show, you expressed curiosity about possible improvements to the justice system. I came up with the following idea after sitting on a jury for a civil trial where, after the plaintiff presented his case, the judge dismissed the suit without even having the defendant present his defense. In cases where a judge thinks everyone's time and money were wasted by a pointless case, the judge should refuse to hear any future cases from the lawyer for the losing side. That would cause the lawyer to think twice about representing any frivolous cases, since he would risk being banned from the presiding judge's courtroom henceforth. In addition, judges who know each other could share lawyer blacklists, preventing the lawyer from wasting other judges' time as well. Would this be possible? Would it fix the problem of frivolous lawsuits?
Tags: Incentives, Justice, Law, Torts
Q&A: The Justice of Defamation Laws: 27 Jul 2014, Question 1
Question: Should I pursue justice against a wrongdoer at great personal expense? I am trying to decide if I should file an ethics complaint against my former property manager for a rental property. Basically, she managed the property for me for several years until I visited the property and found it in a state of disrepair that annoyed and concerned me. So, I wanted to fire her. But before she would release me from our agreement, she charged me $1,200 for repairs and maintenance that she had done to the house between tenants. She never asked me if I wanted the work done and when pressed she told me it was a matter of routine and our contract granted her the power to make decisions like that. Upon inspection, I discovered that not only were some of the prices she paid were above market rate, it was her husband's company doing the work. I've reviewed some of the past records and she did this about 50% of the time. The Association of Realtors' code of ethics in my state specifically notes that she has to disclose relationships like that, but she didn't. So, I think whether she was in violation is pretty clear cut; however, some have argued that our contract supersedes the code of ethics. (If the board agrees with that argument, then this becomes a contract dispute and not an ethics concern.) If I file the complaint and the board decides to hear the case, I will have to hire a lawyer, make trips to the area, and basically shovel out even more money. The board could take her license or fine her, but in talking to a lawyer, and a couple of officers on the board it's more likely that they will push for some sort of education rather than taking her license. And none of that would do anything to get my money back. To get my money back, I'd probably have to go through an even more costly process of mediation, then arbitration, then suing her in small claims court where I would never recoup all of my costs. I think it's pretty obvious she's in the wrong and I think I can make the case strong enough to bring some measure of justice on her, but it would be expensive and stressful. On the other hand, she was very unpleasant to me and I hate to see her get away with being a horrible person and a corrupt professional. What should I do? How do I decide whether pursuing justice is worth my time and effort?
Tags: Business, Culture, Ethics, Justice, Law
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Four: 17 Jul 2014
Question: Do libel and slander laws violate or protect rights? Every few weeks, the media reports on some notable (or absurd) defamation case – meaning a claim of "false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel." While a person's reputation as a business or person is certainly important, do people really have a "right" to their reputation? Isn't reputation the reaction of others to your own actions and character? How can a person create or own their reputation? Do defamation laws violate the right to free speech by protecting a non-right?
Tags: Defamation, Epistemology, Free Speech, Justice, Law, Reputation, Rights
Q&A: Limited Government: 10 Jul 2014, Question 1
The purpose of a theory of moral responsibility is to limit moral judgments of persons to their voluntary doings, products, and qualities. However, moral judgments are not the only – or even the most common – judgments of people we commonly make. So what are the various kinds of judgments we make of other people? What are the distinctive purposes and demands of those judgments? What is the relationship between those judgments and a person's voluntary actions, outcomes, and traits? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Four of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Common Sense, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Q&A: Dogs Versus Private Property: 22 Jun 2014, Question 3
Question: Should the government of a free society be permitted to do more than just protect rights? If the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, why shouldn't a government of a free society do other, additional things as long as it does them without violating anyone's rights? If courts, police, and military could be publicly financed without the use of force, couldn't roads and schools? Is there some reason besides reliance on taxation why these sorts of government programs would be wrong?
Tags: Business, Culture, Free Society, Government, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Drunk Driving in a Free Society: 22 Jun 2014, Question 2
Question: Do dog owners violate rights by allowing their dogs to poop on others' lawns? I live in a residential urban area along with many dog owners. On a daily basis, I observe those dog owners allowing their dogs to defecate on other peoples' lawns. I view this action as a trespass and violation of property rights, whether or not they pick up afterward. (For those who believe that picking up after your dog mitigates the trespass, would you let your child play on that spot afterward?) I don't believe that property owners should have to create fences, hedges, or other structures to prevent this trespass. On several occasions, I have asked owners not to let their dogs poop on the front lawn of our apartment. I have received various responses from polite acquiescence to incredulousness. Many dog owners seem to feel a sense of entitlement about using others' property without permission. Isn't that wrong? Would you agree that it is the sole responsibility
of the animal owners to care for their pets without violating the rights of the people around them? What, if any, recourse would property owners have in a free society against blatant repeat offenders of this principle?
Tags: Animals, Communication, Culture, Ethics, Law, Pets, Property Rights, Rights
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Three: 19 Jun 2014
Question: Should driving drunk be illegal in a free society? Should the government of a free society forbid and punish people for activities potentially harmful to others when they've impaired their judgment via drugs or alcohol? Basically, should driving or shooting a firearm while drunk be illegal? Or should such decisions be left entirely to the discretion of private property owners? Also, given that the government owns the roads today, are laws against drunk driving unjust?
Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Crime, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Negligence, Rights, Risk, Torts
Q&A: "Stand Your Ground" Laws: 15 Jun 2014, Question 1
What does Thomas Nagel's control condition for moral responsibility really mean? Does it set an impossible standard? Have others noticed and capitalized on this problem? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Three of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Common Sense, Crime, Egalitarianism, Epistemology, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Q&A: Proposals to Ban Muslim Immigration: 8 Jun 2014, Question 2
Question: Are "stand your ground" self-defense laws proper? Should a potential crime victim in reasonable fear of of his life be required to attempt to withdraw from a confrontation when possible? Or is it proper to allow him to "stand his ground" and use a firearm to kill the assailant?
Tags: Ethics, Firearms, Law, Rights, Self-Defense
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Two: 5 Jun 2014
Question: Does the lack of respect for rights among some Muslim immigrants justify banning all Muslim immigrants? Sometimes, I hear people say that immigrants from Muslim countries are so illiberal (in the classical sense) that they ought to banned from entering the United States and Western Europe. The anti-immigrationists say that when people from Muslim countries are allowed to reside in the West, such immigrants remain committed to political Islam, honor-kill their own daughters, rape native-born women, and plot to impose sharia law on the West through "stealth jihad." Is the illiberalism of some (or even many) Muslim immigrants grounds for limiting immigration from Muslim countries? What is the proper response to this problem?
Tags: Conservatism, Crime, Discrimination, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Immigration, Islam, Justice, Law, Politics, Religion, Security, Terrorism
Q&A: Jury Nullification: 29 May 2014, Question 1
What are some of the common proposed solutions to the problem of moral luck? How and why do they fail? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Two of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Compatibilism, Crime, Determinism, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Free Will, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Q&A: Legal Dueling: 25 May 2014, Question 2
Question: Should juries nullify bad laws by refusing to convict? Imagine a criminal case of drug possession, tax evasion, or prostitution – meaning, where the law is wrong because the outlawed activity doesn't violate rights. Should (or might) a juror concerned with individual rights refuse to find the defendant guilty? Does a juror exercise a rightful check on government power by refusing to convict? Or would acquitting the defendant be contrary to the rule of law and even anarchistic? Basically, should the juror use his own mind not merely to judge the evidence, but also to judge the morality of the law?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Juries, Law, Rights, Rule of Law
Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter One: 22 May 2014
Question: Should dueling and other consensual fights be legal? In your September 5th, 2012 interview with Dr. Eric Daniels, you discussed some of America's violent past traditions, including the practice of dueling. While I have no intention of challenging my rivals to mortal combat, I cannot see why this practice should be illegal. The same might be said of less lethal modern variants such as bar fights, schoolyard fights, and other situations where violence is entered into with the mutual consent of both parties. Should such consensual violence be forbidden by law in a free society – not just for children but perhaps for adults too? If so, what justifies allowing more ritualized forms of combat, such as mixed-martial arts fighting, boxing, or even football?
Tags: Consent, Contracts, Law, Politics, Rights, Sports, Suicide
Q&A: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 15 May 2014, Question 2
What is the "problem of moral luck"? Why does it matter to ethics, law, and politics? What is its connection to John Rawls' egalitarianism? Why did I choose to write my doctoral dissertation on the topic? I answered these questions and more in this live discussion of Chapter One of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame
Tags: Academia, Crime, Egalitarianism, Ethics, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck
Q&A: Licensing Parents: 4 May 2014, Question 2
Question: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn't it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?
Tags: Communication, Contracts, Crime, Epistemology, Honesty, Juries, Law, Torts
Q&A: Refusing Involvement in a Biological Child's Life: 27 Apr 2014, Question 3
Question: Should parents be licensed? Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting?
Tags: Child Abuse, Children, Crime, Government, Law, Parenting, Regulation, Rights, Rule of Law
Q&A: Animals as Property: 13 Apr 2014, Question 2
Question: It is wrong to refuse any involvement in my biological child's life? Some years back I had a contraceptive malfunction, and a child was conceived as a result. I offered to pay for an abortion but the woman refused. The child was born, and the mother and child moved away. I voluntarily pay child support, but I have no desire to be part of the child's life. I never wanted to be a father nor do I want to now. Am I right – morally and legally – to take this stance?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Child Support, Duty Ethics, Ethics, Fatherhood, Free Society, Law, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Rights
Q&A: Buying Books with Military Secrets: 6 Apr 2014, Question 3
Question: Are animals a special kind of property? On your blog NoodleFood, you claimed that "the law should recognize that beloved pets are not mere property, but rather a special kind of property. To wrongfully cause the death of a pet should carry a significantly higher penalty than merely compensating the owner for the replacement cost of that pet. Moreover, police officers and government officials who indulge in this kind of reckless killing without good cause should be disciplined severely, preferably fired." Can you explain this view – the theory and the practice – further? Would this standard be akin to that of hate crimes, on the theory that crime is wrong but a crime motivated by hate is more wrong? Would it apply to other property – like my car (because it adds so much value to my life) or family photographs (which have lots of sentimental values but not monetary value)?
Tags: Animals, Crime, Empathy, Ethics, Law, Police, Property, Torts, Values
Q&A: Giving Back an Engagement Ring: 6 Apr 2014, Question 2
Question: Is it wrong to buy a book containing sensitive military information? The Pentagon claims that the new book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Bin Laden
reveals some potentially sensitive details about the operation. I'd really like to read about the mission, but I'm worried that the Pentagon's concerns are valid, and I'd rather not contribute to a work that that puts our soldiers at risk. However, given that the book has already been released, does it matter whether I buy it or not?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Free Speech, Law, Military, Secrets
Q&A: Privatizing Prisons: 23 Mar 2014, Question 2
Question: Should a woman give back her engagement ring if the relationship goes sour? A friend of mine asked his girlfriend to marry him, and she accepted. However, they broke off the engagement – and the relationship – a few months later. Is she morally or legally obliged to give back the ring? Is the answer different if they married, then split?
Tags: Contracts, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Property, Relationships, Theft
Q&A: Sharia Finance: 28 Jan 2014, Question 3
Question: Is running prisons a legitimate function of government or should they be privatized? Private prisons are a billion dollar industry here in the United States, but should they be left to private companies or should the government handle them instead?
Tags: Business, Crime, Government, Law, Politics, Punishment, Rights
Q&A: Free Speech of Government Officials: 19 Jan 2014, Question 2
Question: Should financial companies be permitted to offer financial products consistent with sharia law? Sharia Finance – meaning, investments that specifically conform with Islamic law – are growing in popularity and have been adopted by major financial companies like Citi. Should these private businesses be legally permitted to offer whatever their clients want to buy? Or should these investments be banned due to their connection with funding terror, oppressing women, and violating rights in other ways? Morally, should companies offer these investments? Should people protest or boycott companies offering them?
Tags: Business, Ethics, Finance, Islam, Law, Religion
Q&A: The Morality of Price Gouging: 12 Jan 2014, Question 3
Question: Does freedom of speech apply to government officials? In August 2013, Rolling Stone caused a furor by putting accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. In response, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote to the publisher of Rolling Stone, telling him that doing so "rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment" – treatment the magazine should have given to the survivors. Other government officials were similarly critical of Rolling Stone. My first reaction was that these government officials had no place saying anything about a publication. But then I wondered, doesn't the First Amendment still apply to them? In other words, do government officials have freedom of speech?
Tags: Free Society, Free Speech, Government, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Justifying Punishment: 12 Jan 2014, Question 1
Question: Is it morally wrong to profit from someone else's distress? People often decry "taking advantage" of other people as cruel and wrong. For example, suppose that a person desperately needs water after a hurricane or other natural disaster. I charge him $1000 for a gallon jug, knowing that he can pay that much if he's really that desperate. Is such price gouging immoral? Is it fundamentally different from other kinds of trade – or just different in degree? Is it morally wrong to profit so handsomely by the distress and scanty options of other people in this way?
Tags: Benevolence, Capitalism, Economics, Ethics, Justice, Law, Price Gouging
Q&A: Liability for Injuries on the Job: 5 Jan 2014, Question 2
Question: What justifies punishing people for committing crimes? In your 2006 graduate paper, "The Scope Problem in Punishment," you criticize utilitarian theories of punishment that aim for deterrence of future crimes on the grounds that they don't punish all and only those who are guilty. Yet why is that a problem? Moreover, why should a criminal be punished if doing so won't have any future benefits, such as deterring future crimes? Doesn't self-interest require that actions have some future benefit – and if so, shouldn't all punishment have some positive future effect like deterrence?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Justice, Law, Objectivity, Politics, Punishment, Retributivism, Utilitarianism
Q&A: Public Shamings: 15 Dec 2013, Question 1
Question: Should employers be required to warn employees of possible harms on the job? Discovery Channel's TV show Gold Rush
depicted a South American gold miner using mercury in the mining process because mercury binds to gold and makes extraction from a "sluice." Mercury, being heavier, falls below the surface and is collected at the bottom of a "sluice box." The episode (titled "The Jungle") depicts workers using their bare hands in the sluice where I'm assuming they are in direct physical contact with the toxic mercury. In a free society, should employers be allowed to expose their employees to such dangers? Should employers be obliged to warn employees of those dangers or to take precautions? Or are workers responsible for the risks of their job?
Tags: Business, Capitalism, Capitalism, Contracts, Ethics, Law, Rights, Risk, Work
Q&A: Government Scientists in a Free Society: 10 Nov 2013, Question 4
Question: Are public shamings morally justifiable? I often read of judges handing down sentences designed to humiliate the offender, such as standing at a busy intersection wearing a sandwich board apologizing for their offense. Many people favor these kinds of punishments in lieu of jail time because they consume less resources of the penal system. They may be more effective too. Does that justify such shamings? Moreover, what's the morality of similar shamings by parents and businesses? A bodega in my neighborhood posts surveillance camera footage of shoplifters, usually with some snarky comment about their theft. I find this practice amusing, but is that moral? Is it akin to vigilantism?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Justice, Law, Moral Wrongs, Parenting, Punishment, Reputation
Q&A: The Value of the Ten Commandments: 20 Oct 2013, Question 3
Question: Would the government of a free society employ scientists? In a fully free society, would there be any scientists employed full-time by the government for police, legislative, or judicial services? If not, how would judges obtain the necessary scientific knowledge to make proper rulings in the court cases that would replace today's environmental and other regulations? Might scientists be hired by the government of a free society for the military or other purposes?
Tags: Crime, Law, Military, Politics, Rights, Science
Q&A: Free Speech for Corporations: 6 Oct 2013, Question 1
Question: Are the Ten Commandments of value to an atheist? Are the Ten Commandments a useful guide to living a good life, even for people who are not Jewish or Christian? Should a rational person look to religious scriptures for ethical guidance?
Tags: Bible, Christianity, Duty Ethics, Ethics, Law, Religion
Interview: Timothy Sandefur on Occupational Licensing Versus the Right to Earn a Living: 2 Oct 2013
Question: Do corporations have free speech rights? Many leftists (including left-libertarians) are vehemently opposed to the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision, which recognized that corporations have the right to speak in elections. Do corporations have rights? What would it mean for corporations not to have rights? Should corporations be considered "persons" under the law?
Tags: Business, Corporations, Law, Politics
Q&A: Hate Crime Laws: 8 Sep 2013, Question 4
Summary: Many states require licenses to practice certain professions – from medicine to styling hair. What are the practical effects of such licensing requirements? Do they protect the public from quacks, as their defenders claim? Or do they violate a person's right to earn a living, discourage entrepreneurs, promote poverty? How have the courts ruled on cases challenging licensing requirements?
Tags: Business, Constitution, History, Law, Politics, Regulations, Work
Interview: Tom Varik on Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege: 7 Aug 2013
Question: Are hate crime laws just? Hate crime laws impose additional penalties for crimes motivated by hatred for or bias against the victim for his group membership, such as religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or ethnic background. Do such laws protect or violate individual rights? Should such laws be maintained, modified, or repealed?
Tags: Crime, Discrimination, GLBT, Hate Crimes, Justice, Law, Racism, Sexism
Interview: Eric Daniels on Why Small Government Isn't the Answer: 31 Jul 2013
Summary: As the cause of gay marriage gains ever-more traction, many have wondered whether marriage really matters. Attorney Tom Varik argues that it does. In this interview, he discussed the legal status and importance of gay marriage, including the recent Supreme Court cases, as well as the history and limits of spousal privilege.
Tags: Crime, Culture, GLBT, Law, Marriage, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Social Contract Theory: 28 Jul 2013, Question 1
Summary: Is "big government" the fundamental problem of American politics? Historian Eric Daniels will explain why this common formulation is misleading, wrong, and even dangerous to liberty.
Tags: Activism, America, Anarchism, Crime, Culture, Epistemology, Government, History, Law, Libertarianism, Politics, Racism, Rights, Self-Defense, Sexism
Interview: Jonathan Hoenig on The Workings of Financial Markets: 24 Jul 2013
Question: Is a "social contract" the proper basis for government? The idea of a "social contract" is often used to justify all kinds of government interventions for the so-called "greater good." What does it mean to say that society is founded on a social contract? What are the practical implications of that approach to politics? Was John Locke a proponent of this view?
Tags: Government, John Rawls, Law, Meta-Politics, Politics, Social Contract Theory, Thomas Hobbes
Q&A: The Morality of Jailbreaking: 14 Jul 2013, Question 2
Summary: Financial markets are often vilified – and misunderstood. How do financial markets work? What impact do they have on the economy? Are they dangerous – or beneficial? What is the government's current versus proper role in financial markets?
Tags: Economics, Economy, Finance, Law, Politics, Productivity, Rights, Trade
Q&A: Today's Feminist Movement: 14 Jul 2013, Question 1
Question: Is it morally wrong to 'root' or 'jailbreak' your own electronic devices? Maybe I'm just too stupid or lazy to read through all the legal-ese that comes with these devices, so I don't know whether technically a customer is contractually obligated not to do it. But I know that companies try to design their products so that people can't easily "root" or "jailbreak" them, and clever people find ways to do it. Is doing so a theft of intellectual property?
Tags: Character, Contracts, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Technology
Q&A: Marital Infidelity in the Military: 7 Jul 2013, Question 4
Question: How should the feminist movement be judged? Do today's feminist causes have any merit? Or is the feminist movement merely seeking special favors for women at the expense of men – perhaps even via violations of the rights of men? If the movement is mixed, how should it be judged, overall? Should better feminists eschew the movement due to its flaws – or attempt to change it from within? Can advocates of reason, egoism, and capitalism ally themselves with selected feminist causes without promoting the worse elements thereof?
Tags: Activism, Culture, Feminism, History, Law, Politics, Politics, Rights, Sexism
Q&A: The Legality of DDoS Attacks: 30 Jun 2013, Question 4
Question: Should the military ban marital infidelity? On your June 2nd, 2013 radio show, you explained why marital infidelity should not be illegal. I agree with you, but I wonder about other contexts. Might some government groups legitimately ban and even criminalize infidelity for its members? According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, infidelity is against the law for military members. Might that be proper, particularly given that we have a volunteer army? More generally, might the military want to enforce strict rules of moral conduct on their members, even for seemingly private matters?
Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Justice, Law, Military, Prostitution, Rules, Sex
Interview: Trey Peden on Online Marketing and Privacy: 12 Jun 2013
Question: Should Distributed Denial of Service (a.k.a. DDoS) attacks be illegal? DDoS computer attacks are illegal in the United Kingdom. Are such attacks analogous to convincing people to send many letters to an organization or to calling on the phone repeatedly, thereby crippling its infrastructure? Or are they more like trespassing on property? How should the law deal with them?
Tags: Crime, Law, Technology, Torts
Q&A: Laws Against Marital Infidelity: 2 Jun 2013, Question 3
Summary: What do online marketing companies know about you? How do they gather data? Should you be alarmed by that? If so, what tools can help you protect your privacy online?
Tags: Business, Crime, Government, Law, Marketing, Privacy, Technology
Q&A: Abortion Rights and the Violinist Argument: 2 Jun 2013, Question 1
Question: Should marital infidelity be illegal? Many states, including Colorado, have laws against marital infidelity on the books. These laws are rarely if ever enforced. Politicians often attempt to repeal them, but those attempts are often unsuccessful. Many people think that the government ought to "take a moral stand" even if the law isn't enforced. Does that view have any merit? Should these laws be repealed? Why or why not?
Tags: Adultery, Colorado, Conservatism, Crime, Divorce, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Politics, Rights
Q&A: The Justice of Alimony Payments: 26 May 2013, Question 4
Question: Can abortion rights be justified based on Judith Thomson's "violinist" argument? Even if we accept that an embryo is a person with a right to life, can't abortion rights be justified on the basis of Judith Thomson's famous "violinist" thought experiment – meaning, on the grounds that one person does not have the right to use another person for life support?
Tags: Abortion, Academia, Ethics, Intuitions, Judith Thomson, Law, Personhood, Philosophy, Politics, Trolley Problem
Q&A: Emergency Medical Care: 12 May 2013, Question 3
Question: Should alimony payments upon divorce be abolished? Traditionally, a man was obliged to financially support his ex-wife upon divorce. Recent reforms have decreased the amount and duration of alimony in some states, as well as made it gender neutral (in theory). But are such payments ever justifiable? If so, under what conditions?
Tags: Alimony, Divorce, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Romance
Q&A: Infanticide After Abortion: 12 May 2013, Question 2
Question: Do people have a right to emergency medical care? EMTALA (a.k.a. the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) is a federal law that requires emergency rooms to stabilize any patient with an emergency medical condition, regardless of the patient's ability to pay. Is that proper? Is that the same as a right to medical care?
Tags: Altruism, Charity, Egalitarianism, Emergencies, Ethics, Free Society, Justice, Law, Law, Medicine, Politics, Poverty
Q&A: Resisting Illegitimate Police Action: 21 Apr 2013, Question 3
Question: Is killing a baby born after an abortion a form of murder? Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial for murder, due to accusations that he killed infants who were delivered in abortions at his clinic. If the facts are as reported, should he be convicted of murder? What should be done when a baby is born alive during an abortion? What are the likely cultural and political implications of this trial?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Crime, Ethics, Infanticide, Law, Politics, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: The State's Role in Caring for Children of Unfit Parents: 21 Apr 2013, Question 2
Question: When is it moral to resist police action? Last year, the governor of Indiana signed a bill into law granting protection to citizens that resist the unlawful actions of a public servant. If a police officer enters your home without your knowledge or consent – legally or illegally – and you have no way of knowing whether he is an unlawful intruder, are you morally justified in taking violent action against him? When is it moral to forcibly resist police actions?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Firearms, Justice, Law, Police, Self-Defense
Q&A: Parental Consent for Abortion: 14 Apr 2013, Question 2
Question: What should the state's role be in dealing with abused children? The state needs to remove children from homes where they're being abused--where their rights are being violated. But what should it then do with them? Should the state care for them until it can find a new home for them? How should it provide that care? If it cannot find a new home for a child, what happens to that child? Should the state raise the child to adulthood?
Tags: Children, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Obligation, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: The Validity of Gay Marriage: 7 Apr 2013, Question 1
Question: Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion? Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will?
Tags: Abortion, Ethics, Health, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Religion, Rights, Sex, Young Adults
Interview: Robert Garmong on Should We Fear or Embrace China?: 27 Mar 2013
Question: Is "gay marriage" a valid form of marriage? Many people oppose gay marriage on the grounds that marriage is essentially religious, that procreation is central to marriage, or "traditional marriage" should be respected. Should gay unions be considered a valid form of marriage, legally or socially? Might civil unions be an acceptable alternative?
Tags: Bible, Christianity, Culture, GLBT, Law, Marriage, Politics, Religion, Romance, Tradition
Interview: Stephen Bailey on Limiting Government by Constitutional Amendment: 20 Mar 2013
Summary: Is China the next capitalist paradise? Or is it a dangerous military threat? Perhaps it's neither. Robert Garmong explained the current state of Chinese politics, its military, and its economy in this fascinating interview.
Tags: Business, China, Corruption, Culture, Economics, Foreign Policy, Japan, Law, Politics
Interview: Ryan Moore on How Guns Save Lives: 6 Mar 2013
Summary: Could an amendment to the US Contitution provide an effective check on government power? Stephen Bailey, a Republican congressional candidate in 2010, has a proposal for a constitutional amendment that deserves consideration.
Tags: Activism, Free Society, Government, Juries, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Privacy from Government Intrusion: 3 Mar 2013, Question 3
Summary: What does the right to self-defense mean – not just in theory but in practice too? What does that require of a person?
Tags: Firearms, Law, Politics, Self-Defense
Q&A: Welfare Reform Versus Immigration Reform: 24 Feb 2013, Question 3
Question: If a person isn't doing anything wrong, should he care to protect his privacy? Defenders of intrusive government programs (and other forms of meddling) often assume that only guilty people would object to granting others access to their private information. What, after all, does an honest and decent person have to hide? Or these people assume that everyone is guilty, and that's what justifies monitoring everyone. What's wrong with these arguments? Should an honest and innocent person object to government inquiries into his private life?
Tags: Ethics, Free Society, Law, Politics, Privacy, Rights
Q&A: Antibiotic Resistance in a Free Society: 17 Feb 2013, Question 2
Question: Is the welfare state a good reason to restrict immigration? Conservatives – and even some Objectivists – claim that immigrants are flocking to the United States for our welfare benefits. They claim that immigration must be restricted until the welfare state is curtailed. Doesn't this view amount to punishing would-be immigrants for our own welfare state?
Tags: Activism, Conservatism, Immigration, Justice, Law, Politics, Rights, Welfare
Q&A: The Value of Marriage: 17 Feb 2013, Question 1
Question: How would antibiotic resistance be handled in a free society? Bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics by exposure to low doses of antibiotics. Such low doses may come from misuse of antibiotics, for example when taken to combat a cold or flu (which are viral infection against which antibiotics do nothing) or by not completing the full course as prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics are indeed awesome drugs which have saved millions of lives. But resistant bacteria pose a serious health problem, often causing serious and difficult-to-treat illness in third parties. What would be the proper way to address this problem in a free society?
Tags: Business, Capitalism, Charity, Free Society, Government, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Rights, Torts
Interview: Michelle Minton on Your Freedom to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: 13 Feb 2013
Question: What is the value of marriage? How is it different from living with a romantic partner in a committed relationship? Is marriage only a legal matter? Or does it have some personal or social benefit?
Tags: Dating, Family, Law, Marriage, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: The Wrong of Anti-Discrimination Laws: 10 Feb 2013, Question 1
Summary: The government heavily regulates food and drinks commonly regarded as dangerous or unhealthy. What motivates such regulations? Why are they so widespread? How can they be fought?
Tags: Activism, Alcohol/Drugs, Free Society, Government, Health, Integrity, Law, Nutrition, Politics, Regulations, Rights, Science
Interview: William E. Perry on What It's Really Like to Be a Prosecutor: 30 Jan 2013
Question: What's wrong with anti-discrimination laws? Most people support anti-discrimination laws, even though such laws violate the freedom of association. Have such laws done genuine good by making racism, sexism, and homophobia unacceptable in the culture? Have such laws had negative side-effects? Should they be abolished – and if so, why?
Tags: Culture, Discrimination, Ethics, Freedom of Association, Free Society, Law, Race, Racism
Q&A: Mandatory Child Support: 27 Jan 2013, Question 4
Summary: What is the work of a prosecutor really like? In this interview, former Arizona prosecutor William E. Perry discussed the cases he prosecuted and various issues in criminal law – including the role of juries, standards of evidence, the drug war, confessions, and plea bargaining.
Tags: Career, Crime, Government, Law, Police, Punishment, Rights
Q&A: Unions for Government Employees: 27 Jan 2013, Question 2
Question: Isn't mandated child support basically just welfare for needy children? What is the moral difference between compelling parents to support their children and compelling all people to support the needy in society? Many critics of the welfare state believe that parents should be compelled to support their children with basic levels of physical sustenance and education, such that failing to provide these constitutes violating children's rights. But how is that different from compelling people to support other needy or vulnerable people? Is the blood relationship what creates the obligation to support the child – and if so, how?
Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Child Support, Ethics, Fatherhood, Free Society, Government, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Welfare
Q&A: Solutions to Widespread Racism: 20 Jan 2013, Question 1
Question: Should government employees be permitted to unionize? In your 16 December 2012 discussion of "right to work" laws, you said that business owners should have the right to refuse to hire union members (or to fire them). How would that work for government employees? In a free society, could legislators (or departments) forbid government workers from being union members? Could they require union membership?
Tags: Free Society, Government, Law, Politics, Rights, Unions, Work
Interview: Paul Sherman on Free Speech in Elections: 9 Jan 2013
Question: Should the government intervene when widespread racism makes life impossible for some people? Given that the effect of strictly respecting the rights of private property owners in the South was that blacks could not find accommodations, health care, transportation, food, and other basic necessities of life, shouldn't the government have intervened? Didn't civil rights legislation help eliminate racism – and wasn't that a good thing – even if that meant violating the right to property of racists?
Tags: Activism, Capitalism, Culture, Discrimination, Economics, Ethics, Free Society, History, Law, Race, Racism
Q&A: Gay "Conversion" Therapy: 6 Jan 2013, Question 4
Summary: Many people support restrictions on spending in elections, particularly by corporations, in the name of "transparency" and "accountability." Institute for Justice attorney Paul Sherman takes a very different view. He argues persuasively that any restrictions on campaign spending are violations of freedom of speech. He has successfully argued that view in courts across the country.
Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Elections, Free Speech, Government, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Manipulating Finances to Qualify for Welfare: 6 Jan 2013, Question 1
Question: Was California right or wrong to ban "gay cure" therapy for minors? Recently, California banned "reparative" or "conversion" therapy – meaning, therapy that aims to make gay teenagers straight. Such therapy is widely regarded as dangerous pseudo-science by mental health professionals. The ban only applies to patients under 18. So adults can still choose such therapy for themselves, but parents cannot foist it on their minor children. Is such therapy a form of child abuse? Or should parents have the power to compel such therapy on their children, even if they're morally wrong to do so?
Tags: Ethics, GLBT, Law, Parenting, Psychology, Rights, Science, Torts
Q&A: Right to Work Laws: 16 Dec 2012, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to manipulate your finances to qualify for welfare? An acquaintance of mine – who is moderately wealthy – feels justified in manipulating her finances to get government aid whenever possible on the grounds that it is "getting back" some of what she has paid. For example, she had her elderly mother buy a new car for her own use, in order to have her mother deplete her savings faster and qualify for Medicaid. However, while she had paid much in tax, her mother collects more in social security every month than she ever paid in taxes. Is it rational to view this as "getting back" money that was taken inappropriately, or is it actually immoral and self-destructive?
Tags: Ethics, Government, Honesty, Integrity, Law, Welfare
Q&A: Right to Die: 2 Dec 2012, Question 4
Question: Do right-to-work laws violate or protect rights? Some states are attempting to pass "right to work" laws, despite massive union opposition. Under such laws, employers cannot require employees to be a member of a union – as often happens due to federal law. These laws aim to empower employees against unwelcome unions. Are these laws legitimate – perhaps as defense against unjust federal law or a step toward freedom of contract? Or are they indefensible because they violate the rights of employers to dictate the terms of employment?
Tags: Activism, Business, Contracts, Ethics, Free Society, Government, History, Law, Rights, Unions, Work
Q&A: Guaranteed Pensions for Government Employees: 2 Dec 2012, Question 3
Question: Is there a right to die and/or a right to be killed? Does a person have a right to die? If so, under what conditions? Moreover, does a person unable to kill himself (due to illness) have a right to be killed by a willing person?
Tags: Death, Ethics, Government, Law, Rights, Suicide
Interview: Dr. William Dale on End-Of-Life Medical Choices: 28 Nov 2012
Question: Should pensions to government employees be guaranteed? Many cities and states are running into fiscal trouble and are reneging on promises to pay pensions to retired government employees, such as policemen. Should those promised payments be guaranteed, even if that means raising taxes or cutting back elsewhere? After all, those payments are part of a contract made between the employer and the employee. Or if money is tight for the city/state government, should the retirees have to share the same risk of default as anyone else the government owes money to?
Tags: Contracts, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Pensions, Retirement, Welfare
Q&A: Sexual Harassment Laws: 25 Nov 2012, Question 1
Summary: Many people struggle with difficult decisions about complex medical problems as they near the end of their lives. That time is wrenching for family too. How can people make good decisions about medical care? What mistakes should they try to avoid? How can people prepare for that future now?
Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Conflict, Death, Emotions, Family, Health, Introspection, Law, Medicine, Rationality, Values
Q&A: Veganism as Child Abuse: 18 Nov 2012, Question 3
Question: Are laws against sexual harassment proper? We already have laws against sexual assault and sexual battery, so do sexual harassment laws protect or violate rights? Also, what kind of sexual harassment policies should private companies have, if any? Should people be more skeptical of sexual harassment claims of the kind levelled against Herman Cain during the Republican primary?
Tags: Bullying, Contracts, Free Society, Law, Rights, Sex, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, Work
Interview: Dr. Sasha Volokh on Taking Stock of Tort Law: 7 Nov 2012
Question: Should it be considered child abuse to feed a child a vegan diet? Most experts agree that children need some of the nutrients found in meat and dairy products to develop properly. I've read lots of stories about children whose development is impaired or stunted due to being fed a vegan diet. Should it be considered child abuse to feed a child a strict vegan diet? If so, at which point should the state intervene and take legal recourse against the parents?
Tags: Child Abuse, Children, Free Society, Health, Law, Nutrition, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: Duties to the Government: 28 Oct 2012, Question 3
Summary: What is tort law? What are its basic principles? What are some of the most interesting debates in tort law? Do some torts conflict with freedom of speech? What, if any, proposals for tort reform are worthy of support? In this interview, law professor Sasha Volokh discussed the nature, value, and limitations of tort law.
Tags: Defamation, History, Law, Rights, Torts
Q&A: Why Anarcho-Capitalism Is Wrong: 28 Oct 2012, Question 2
Question: In a free society, would people be obliged to support or obey the government? Ayn Rand defined government as "an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." She said that a government has – and must have – "a monopoly on the legal use of physical force." Given that, must a person support the government – morally or financially – in order for his rights to be protected? Would a person have to swear loyalty, pay taxes, vote in elections, or serve in the military? What would be the status of an anarchist – meaning someone who regards all government as illegitimate – in such a society?
Tags: Anarchism, Free Society, Government, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Federal Versus State and Local Government: 21 Oct 2012, Question 1
Question: What's wrong with anarcho-capitalism? Libertarian anarchists – such as Murray Rothbard, Roy Childs, and Stefan Molyneux – claim that anarcho-capitalism is the only political system compatible with the "non-aggression principle." Is that right? Must any government initiate force by excluding competing defense agencies, as anarchists claim? Should governments be abolished in favor of private markets in force?
Tags: Anarchism, Free Society, Government, Law, Politics, Rights, Vigilantism
Q&A: Food Safety in a Free Society: 30 Sep 2012, Question 4
Question: Is it proper for state or local government to enact laws that a federal government should not? A proper government is one that fulfills and is limited to the role of protecting citizens from initiations of force by other individuals or other nations. However, in a free and proper society, is it proper for local and state governments to enact laws that go beyond the proper functions of a federal government? For example, in a properly-governed United States, could states enact certain laws that regulate behavior beyond what the federal government could enact, perhaps based on the religious or other values held by most people in that community – on the assumption that any person who disagreed could leave the area?
Tags: Crime, Free Society, Government, Induction, Law, Politics, Rights, State's Rights
Q&A: Calling the Police on Marijuana Smokers: 23 Sep 2012, Question 3
Question: How would the government protect the safety of food and drugs in a free society? Would the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) exist in free society? If so, would food or drugs have to gain FDA approval to be sold? Would it have the power to remove food or drugs deemed unsafe from the market? If not, what would protect consumers from harm due to adulterated or otherwise unsafe food or drugs?
Tags: Ethics, Food, Free Society, Health, Law, Medicine, Torts
Q&A: Passing Genetic Diseases to Kids: 23 Sep 2012, Question 2
Question: Is it moral to use the law to force someone to stop doing something that shouldn't be illegal? Is it moral to make use of a law that shouldn't exist? For example, suppose you live in a condo and your next-door neighbor smokes marijuana. You're annoyed by the smell. On the one hand, it shouldn't be illegal for him to smoke up; on the other, the law's existence precludes your finding a condo association with a voluntary agreement not to use pot. Is it morally proper to call the cops or should you let him be?
Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Ethics, Law, Nuisances
Q&A: Blue Laws: 16 Sep 2012, Question 4
Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?
Tags: Adult Children, Character, Children, Ethics, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Non-identity Problem, Parenting, Rights, Torts
Q&A: Bans on Smoking: 9 Sep 2012, Question 4
Question: Do "blue laws" violate rights? Many communities have "blue laws" – such as prohibitions on selling liquor, or even cars or other goods, on Sundays. Are these laws violations of the separation of church and state?
Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Business, Law, Politics, Religion, Rights
Interview: Dr. Eric Daniels on Progress in American History: 5 Sep 2012
Question: Do smoking bans violate rights? Cities are banning smoking in private businesses like bars and even smoke shops. Are these bans immoral – meaning, do they violate rights? Does second-hand smoke violate the rights of non-smoking patrons or employees? What should be the policy for government-owned property like parks, court houses, sidewalks, etc?
Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Law, Politics, Rights, Smoking, Torts
Q&A: Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports: 2 Sep 2012, Question 1
Summary: Many people on the political right regard America as steadily decaying since the founding era. Yet in fact, America has improved in many ways – not just in technology, but also in its culture, economy, and laws.
Tags: America, Culture, Elections, Ethics, History, Honor Ethics, Law, Politics, Progress, Regulations, Rights
Chat: Anything Under the Sun: 29 Aug 2012
Question: It is wrong for athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs? Lance Armstrong was recently stripped of his record seven Tour De France titles after allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs – particularly EPO, human growth hormone, and steroids. These drugs act to enhance vitality and endurance by increasing red blood cell count, stimulating new cell growth, and helping to regulate metabolism and immune function, respectively. Although I don't have a medical background, I can't find a moral difference between a competitive athlete taking such medications for peak performance and a regular person taking vitamins, herbs, and supplements for increased performance. Professional athletes are encouraged and expected to adopt other modern technologies such as lighter bicycle frames, carbon nanotube rackets, aerodynamic helmets, and expertly designed running shoes. So isn't it proper to embrace advances in medicine as well, so long as athletes are aware of the risks? Should we vilify such athletes on the grounds that they create an unfair advantage – or applaud them for maximizing performance via technology? Should sports leagues regulate or ban performance-enhancing drugs?
Tags: Contracts, Ethics, Law, Medicine, Sports
Q&A: Second-hand Smoke: 1 Jul 2012, Question 2
Summary: Questions on any and all topics were welcome!
Tags: Activism, Anthem, Conservatism, Corporations, Elections, Epistemology, Ethics, Existentialism, Foreign Policy, Law, Parenting, Pets, Politics, Responsibility, Skepticism, Sports, Young Adults
Q&A: Child Labor Laws: 17 Jun 2012, Question 4
Question: It is wrong to inflict second-hand smoke on other people? Although smoking is detrimental to a person's health, whether or not someone smokes is (or should be) a matter of his personal choice. However, what is the proper moral and legal status of "second-hand smoke"? If second-hand smoke contributes to the development of respiratory diseases or if others simply find it noxious, shouldn't people refrain from smoking in public or smoking around people who haven't consented to it? In a free society, would and should most workplaces ban smoking? Could second-hand smoke be considered a tort, such that the state should forbid smoking around people who object to it?
Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Law, Politics, Rights, Smoking, Torts
Q&A: United States as a Christian Nation: 3 Jun 2012, Question 4
Question: Should children be protected by child labor laws? Currently, federal and state governments restricts "child labor" in various ways. The US Department of Labor "restricts the hours that youth under 16 years of age can work and lists hazardous occupations too dangerous for young workers to perform." The goal is to "protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety." Is this a proper function of government? Does it violate the rights of parents, children, and/or employers? If so, what's the harm done?
Tags: Business, Children, Free Society, Law, Parenting, Politics, Regulations, Work, Young Adults
Q&A: Downloading Music After Hard Drive Failure: 20 May 2012, Question 4
Question: Is the United States a Christian nation? People often claim that the United States is "a Christian nation." What do people mean by that? Why does it matter? Is it true or not?
Tags: Bible, Capitalism, Christianity, Culture, History, Law, Politics, Religion, Separation of Church and State, United States
Q&A: Responding to an Unjust Firing: 20 May 2012, Question 2
Question: Does respecting intellectual property require me to re-purchase my music collection lost due to hard drive failure? Over the years I have purchased quite a bit of digital music and have built quite a large library. Recently, due to a computer crash and lack of backup, a large segment of that library was erased. Since I paid for all of the music that was lost, I would like to restore it, whether by copying from my friends or by downloading illegal copies from the internet. But I am not entirely sure what I have the right to do based on my original purchases. What do you think?
Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Rights, Technology
Q&A: Privacy in a High-Tech Society: 13 May 2012, Question 2
Question: Should an employer have to explain and justify his firing of an employee? Should an employer be able to fire an employee for some alleged misconduct, even though the employer never bothered to verify the misconduct, nor asked the employee for his side of the story? For example, suppose that when the employee shows up for work he is simply told that he's been fired because someone made a complaint about him. The employee could easily prove the complaint to be false but the employer isn't concerned with proof or lack thereof. The employee's reputation in the eyes of possible future employers is damaged, even if the employer never discusses the firing with anyone else. In such a case, should the employee be able to sue for having been fired without proper cause?
Tags: Business, Career, Defamation, Free Society, Justice, Law, Proof, Reputation, Responsibility, Rights, Torts, Work
Q&A: Respecting Intellectual Property Online: 6 May 2012, Question 4
Question: Do you have the right to privacy with respect to information that I can gather about you from observation of you while I'm on my own property? For instance, if I have technology that allows me to gather photons or sound waves that you emit from your property while I'm sitting on my property next door, can I post that information on YouTube or Facebook? For example, imagine that I have an infrared video of your activities emitted through your bedroom wall or the audio of your personal phone conversation that can be detected by sensitive microphones from 100 yards away. Have I violated your rights by gathering and publicizing information you've chosen to allow to be broadcast to anyone who can detect it with the right equipment?
Tags: Law, Privacy, Rights, Technology
Q&A: Stealing Valor: 15 Apr 2012, Question 3
Question: Is downloading music from YouTube a violation of intellectual property rights? Given that content creators can remove YouTube videos that violate their intellectual property rights, is it wrong to assume that they consent to the posting if they've not asked to remove it? It is wrong to watch or share clips that seem to be uploaded without permission? It is wrong to download music from YouTube for my own personal use, whether uploaded by the creator or someone else?
Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Internet, Law, Rights
Q&A: The Morality of Vigilantism: 15 Apr 2012, Question 2
Question: Should "stealing valor" be a crime? Rencently, a man was arrested by the FBI in Houston and charged with "stolen valor."
This is the charge made against someone who falsely poses as a decorated soldier. Is it proper to make this a crime? Why or why not?
Tags: Constitution, Ethics, Fraud, Free Speech, Government, Law, Rights
Q&A: The Morality of Breaking the Law: 15 Apr 2012, Question 1
Question: Where is the line between justice and vigilantism? When is it moral to take the law into your own hands – meaning pursuing, detaining, and/or punishing criminals as a private citizen? Suppose that you know – without a shadow of a doubt – that some person committed a serious crime against you or a loved one. If the justice system cannot punish the person due to some technicality, is it wrong for you to do so? If you're caught, should a judge or jury punish you, as if you'd committed a crime against an innocent person?
Tags: Anarchism, Crime, Ethics, Government, Law, Rights
Q&A: National Identification Card: 8 Apr 2012, Question 3
Question: When is it moral to break the law? Laws should be written to protect individual rights. Unfortunately, many laws today violate rights. When should I abide by a rights-violating law, and when is it proper to break it?
Tags: Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Rights
Q&A: Potential Employers Demanding Facebook Logins: 1 Apr 2012, Question 3
Question: Should the government institute a national id card? Periodically, politicians speak of instituting a national identification card in order to protect identify and track potential terrorists, prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants, stop welfare fraud, and more. Would such a national id card violate rights – or be unwise for other reasons? Are state-level identification cards sufficient? Are they proper?
Tags: Crime, Free Society, Immigration, Law, Politics, Security
Q&A: Statutory Rape Laws: 1 Apr 2012, Question 1
Question: Should employers ask applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords? More employers are asking job applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords as part of a background check. Of course, applicants can decline, in which case they might not be considered for the job. Should employers be asking for this information? Is it proper to want to check on the online activities of potential employees? Is that an invasion of privacy? How should someone respond if asked by a potential employer?
Tags: Career, Contracts, Law, Law, Privacy, Work
Q&A: Selling Yourself into Slavery: 4 Mar 2012, Question 3
Question: Are statutory rape laws proper? Statutory rape laws criminalize seemingly consensual sex when at least one party is below the age of consent, but sexually mature, e.g. when an 18 year old has sex with a 15 year old. Are such laws proper? Should the over-age person be convicted if he or she didn't know (or couldn't reasonably know) that the under-age person was under-age? What if the under-age person lied about his or her age? What, if anything, should happen legally when both parties are under-age, e.g. when two 15 year olds have sex?
Tags: Consent, Crime, Law, Proof, Rape, Relationships, Sex
Q&A: Compensating the Victims of Your Negligence: 26 Feb 2012, Question 3
Question: Why can't a person sell himself into slavery? People often decry indentured servitude, whereby people paid for their travel to America with several years of service. But this seems like a perfectly sound trade given certain assumptions about the terms of that service, e.g. you can't starve or abuse the servant. Is that right? If so, why can't a person sell himself into slavery? For instance, suppose that my family is poor, so I arrange with someone to give my family money in exchange for me becoming their slave, i.e. literally becoming their property. Is that possible? Should the law forbid that?
Tags: Contracts, Law
Q&A: Consent in Sex: 26 Feb 2012, Question 1
Question: What should you do for a person that you injured in a car accident that was your fault? Does a person have moral obligations – over and above any legal obligations – to the victim, since the accident was due to your own carelessness or mistake?
Tags: Ethics, Law, Negligence
Q&A: The Morality of the Death Penalty: 22 Jan 2012, Question 2
Question: What constitutes consent in sex? Can a person give tacit consent by his or her actions? Is explicit consent required for some sex acts? Once consent has been given, when and how can a person withdraw that consent? Does the legal perspective on these questions differ from the moral perspective?
Tags: Consent, Crime, Dating, Ethics, Law, Relationships, Rights, Romance, Sex
Q&A: Acquittals of the Guilty Versus Convictions of the Innocent: 22 Jan 2012, Question 1
Question: Is the death penalty moral? I understand why people are opposed to the death penalty when there might be genuine doubt as to whether the accused person really committed the crime. Certainly, we've seen cases where DNA evidence has exonerated someone who was convicted several years ago for a crime they didn't actually commit. But if someone confesses to first degree murder and if there's incontrovertible physical evidence to confirm their guilt, is the death penalty then appropriate?
Tags: Certainty, Crime, Death Penality, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Punishment, Rights
Q&A: SOPA and Online Piracy: 15 Jan 2012, Question 1
Question: Why is punishing an innocent man worse than failing to punish a guilty man? English jurist William Blackstone said that "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." What does this mean, and is it true? Is some higher ratio of wrongly-punished to wrongly-released acceptable?
Tags: Crime, Death Penality, Justice, Law, Punishment
Q&A: The Legal Status of Automatic Weapons: 20 Nov 2011, Question 2
Question: Should SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) be supported or opposed? SOPA was recently introduced to the US House of Representatives, then shelved temporarily, and many people are urging businesses and their representatives to oppose it. Would the bill promote prosperity and creativity by protecting copyright? Or does it justify internet censorship and cripple free access of information through online media?
Tags: Ethics, Free Speech, Internet, Law, Politics, Technology
Q&A: The Meaning of Citizenship in a Free Society: 20 Nov 2011, Question 1
Question: Should it be legal for civilians to own fully automatic weapons? At present, civilians can only own full-auto firearms by special permission of the US Treasury. In a free society, would such weapons be banned or regulated, such that only members of the police and military could access them? As a law-abiding civilian, am I somehow violating someone else's rights by owning an M-16 fully automatic rifle – as opposed to the virtually identical (and currently legal) semi-automatic AR-15 rifle?
Tags: Firearms, Law, Politics, Rights, Self-Defense
Q&A: Private Versus State Prisons: 30 Oct 2011, Question 3
Question: What should it mean for a person to be a citizen of country? Suppose that America were a free country, with open borders. What would be the difference between a long-term resident and a citizen? How would that affect a person's relationship to the government? How would a person (including someone born in the US) become a citizen? Could a person be a citizen of two countries?
Tags: Citizenship, Free Society, Government, Immigration, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: The Purpose of Bankruptcy Law: 30 Oct 2011, Question 1
Question: Should prisons be run by the state or private companies? After reading this Huffington Post article
, I wonder whether prisons should be run by private companies or the state. I tend to think private is almost always better than anything state-run, but the current system of private prisons seems to be corrupt at best. More generally, what would a prison system look like in a free society?
Tags: Crime, Government, Law, Politics
Q&A: Marrying Someone for a Green Card: 23 Oct 2011, Question 3
Question: What is the proper purpose of bankruptcy laws? When should a person renegotiate his debt with lenders, if ever? Should a person be able to wipe his debt clean by going into bankruptcy? In your 10 July 2011 webcast discussion of strategic default on mortgages
, you suggested that a person shouldn't be able to do that, but shouldn't lenders be responsible for who they lend money to?
Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Law, Politics, Responsibility
Q&A: State Involvement in Marriage: 23 Oct 2011, Question 1
Question: Is it moral to marry someone just to obtain a green card? Given the difficulties of immigrating to the United States, is it immoral to circumvent those bad laws by marrying someone solely to obtain a green card? Would it matter if the person were a good friend?
Tags: Ethics, Immigration, Law, Marriage, Politics, Romance
Q&A: The Morality of Armed Rebellion: 16 Oct 2011, Question 4
Question: Should the state be involved in marriage contracts? Many people say that gay marriage shouldn't be a political issue, because the state shouldn't be involved in defining marriage at all. Is that right? Why or why not?
Tags: Free Society, Gay Marriage, GLBT, Government, Law, Marriage, Politics, Polygamy, Romance
Q&A: Using the Do Not Call Registry: 2 Oct 2011, Question 2
Question: When is a person (or group) justified in taking up arms against the government? In other words, how despotic must a government be for violent revolution to be morally justified? Before that point, is a person just engaged in "terrorism"?
Tags: Ethics, Law, Politics, Statism, War
Q&A: Public Nudity and Rights: 25 Sep 2011, Question 2
Question: Should the "Do Not Call" Registry exist? The National Do Not Call Registry was established in 2003, and it's run by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Is this legitimate? Does a person have a right not to be called by solicitors and other unwanted persons? Given that there was no real attempt to come up with a private, market-based solution for the issue of unwanted solicitations, was this a legitimate case of "market failure"? Should advocates of free markets put themselves on the "Do Not Call" list and/or report violators thereof? Why shouldn't a person just hang up?
Tags: Business, Law, Politics, Property, Rights, Technology
Q&A: Photocopying Essays for Study: 18 Sep 2011, Question 3
Question: Do restrictions on nudity and sex visible to others violate rights? While having a zestful online debate, someone claimed that Ayn Rand contradicts herself in claiming that public nudity should be censored. (See "Thought Control" in The Ayn Rand Letter
.) Since sex is a beautiful act, why should people be protected from it? Could a ban on visible pornography or sex be a slippery slope to other intrusions by government?
Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Free Speech, Law, Nudity, Nuisances, Pornography, Rights, Sex
Q&A: The Morality of Torturing Terrorists and Criminals: 18 Sep 2011, Question 1
Question: Is it moral to photocopy an essay for a class or discussion group? My friend and I are starting a reading group at our university focused on philosophy, and the group will meet each week to discuss an essay or article related to philosophy. I want to use one of Ayn Rand's essays from The Virtue of Selfishness
. I have purchased and own a copy the book. Is it moral for me to make photocopies of the essay for the purpose of the reading group – or would that violate copyright?
Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law
Q&A: The Morality of Extreme Couponing: 11 Sep 2011, Question 2
Question: Is it moral to torture criminals and/or terrorists? We supposedly were able to track down Osama Bin Laden with information obtained by torturing captured Al Qaeda prisoners. Is it moral to torture criminals, terrorists or other evildoers to gain useful information to fight crime or help win a war? If so, should there be any limits on when and how torture should be used by the government?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Free Society, Law, Military, Politics, War
Q&A: Filial Responsibility Laws: 4 Sep 2011, Question 4
Question: Is "extreme couponing" moral? Earlier this year, the Boston Globe
wrote about people who engage in "extreme couponing."
Basically, they find ways to redeem store coupons in a fashion that still abides by the rules, but they get free stuff out of the deal. Are these people moral, or are they parasites because they don't actually live by trading value for value? Are they violating rights?
Tags: Business, Ethics, Finances, Law
Q&A: Proper Immigration Policy: 14 Aug 2011, Question 1
Question: How should a person deal with filial responsibility laws? In your April 10th webcast
, you discussed the morality of taking care of elderly parents. Some states have filial responsibility laws, which would force people to take care of indigent elderly parents. How should a person would cope with such laws in practice?
Tags: Adult Children, Ethics, Family, Family, Finances, Law, Responsibility, Welfare
Q&A: Police Lying to Suspects: 31 Jul 2011, Question 4
Question: Why should a free country have open borders? In your July 24th webcast
, you agreed with the questioner that the current laws restricting immigration are wrong. Why? Shouldn't Americans be able to restrict immigration, if they so choose? What, if any, limits should be set on immigration?
Tags: Conservatism, Economics, Ethics, Free Society, Immigration, Law, Politics
Q&A: The Morality of Reverse Engineering: 31 Jul 2011, Question 1
Question: Should the police lie to suspects in the course of an investigation? Police routinely do this, usually in order to trick people into admitting something or revealing information they would normally not reveal. Note that the people they lie to may not have been convicted of any crime, and are merely "persons of interest" or suspects. Is this routine constant lying moral? What do you think it does to the policeman's character after many years?
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Honesty, Justice, Law, Psychology
Q&A: The Reasons for Carrying a Concealed Weapon: 24 Jul 2011, Question 3
Question: Is it immoral to reverse-engineer a product? Is it wrong to take apart a product, improve it, and then sell this new product to others (or use it for yourself)? Is this considered theft or just productive work?
Tags: Business, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Politics, Property, Rights, Technology
Q&A: The Morality of Hiring Illegal Immigrants: 24 Jul 2011, Question 2
Question: Why would an ordinary person wish to carry a gun? In your July 3rd webcast
, you mentioned that you have a concealed carry permit. Why? Even if a person should be allowed to carry a firearm, shouldn't we rely on the experts – namely the police – to protect us from criminals?
Tags: Ethics, Firearms, Law, Politics, Self-Defense
Q&A: The Morality of Strategic Default: 10 Jul 2011, Question 2
Question: Is it immoral to hire illegal immigrants? While laws restricting immigration seem terribly irrational – both in terms of intent and effects – they are still technically the law. Illegal immigrants often make themselves available for day-to-day work, and hiring them for a day has an almost zero chance of legal punishment for myself for having hired them. Is it moral to disobey an irrational law if I'm unlikely to be punished for it?
Tags: Business, Ethics, Immigration, Law, Politics
Q&A: The Boundaries of Proper Self-Defense: 3 Jul 2011, Question 2
Question: Is it moral to strategically default on your mortgage? Suppose that you could continue to pay your mortgage, but you're underwater: you owe more than the house is worth. You realize that you'd save tens of thousands of dollars by defaulting. Would it be morally wrong to default, assuming that you don't engage in any fraud or other dishonesty in doing so? Would it make a difference if you do that in today's highly regulated market versus in a fully free market?
Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Integrity, Law, Responsibility
Q&A: Child Support from Unwilling Fathers: 19 Jun 2011, Question 3
Question: Is it moral to not defend yourself if you will get into legal trouble for doing so? As I understand laws on self-defense, you must be "in immediate danger of death or grievously bodily harm" in order to use lethal force. How is this reconciled with the morality of "shooting before he shoots you" or "hitting before you get hit"? In other words, preemptive attack may be seen as assault, but there might also be a threat of force. Is it moral to not defend yourself to avoid assault charges? In the case of using a gun to defend yourself, this could mean the difference between you dying at the hands of your attacker or living, but going to jail for murder. What should you do?
Tags: Ethics, Firearms, Law, Self-Defense
Q&A: Buying Votes in Elections: 29 May 2011, Question 6
Question: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? Suppose that a man and a woman have sex, and the woman becomes pregnant – even though the couple used contraception based on a shared and expressed desire not to have children. If the woman decides to raise the baby, should she be able to collect child support from the man? What if they'd never discussed the possibility of pregnancy? What if they didn't use any form of birth control?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Child Support, Fatherhood, Finances, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: The Rights of the Severely Mentally Disabled: 29 May 2011, Question 1
Question: Should it be legal in a free society to buy votes? It doesn't seem that the practice would violate anyone's rights, so shouldn't it be legal for a person who wants to hold office to pay willing voters to cast their vote for him?
Tags: Corruption, Elections, Free Society, Law, Politics, Voting
Q&A: The Morality of Lending Books: 22 May 2011, Question 3
Question: What rights do severely mentally disabled people have? If someone is mentally disabled to the extent that he or she will never be able to be rational and/or live independently, does that person have rights? Who should be financially responsible for the care of such people?
Tags: Disability, Ethics, Law, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Subpoenas in a Free Society: 22 May 2011, Question 1
Question: Is it moral to lend a book to a friend? Given the intellectual property issues regarding downloading music, movies etc. would lending a book, say Atlas Shrugged
, to a friend or relative be considered a violation of the rights of the intellectual property holder?
Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Property, Rights
Q&A: Compulsory Juries: 15 May 2011, Question 4
Question: Why are subpoenas justified but not compulsory juries? In your 15 May 2011 webcast
, you contrasted your position on jury duty with that of Dr. Peikoff's, saying that compulsory jury duty constituted the initiation of force. My understanding is that Ayn Rand's position was that subpoenas and the jury selection process are entirely consistent with justice, as Peikoff mentions in this podcast
. Juries are selected using subpoenas. How would you reconcile being for subpoenas but against compulsory jury duty? And, does this also mean that you disagree with Ayn Rand's view of justice?
Tags: Free Society, Juries, Justice, Law, Objectivism, Objectivism, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Building Codes: 8 May 2011, Question 4
Question: Are compulsory juries moral? Is it necessary and/or proper to compel citizens to serve on a jury? If not, what is the best way to ensure the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, rather than trial by government agents? Should a free society have professional volunteer juries like the military?
Tags: Free Society, Government, Juries, Law, Military, Objectivism, Politics, Rights, Taxes
Q&A: The Morality of Sadism and Masochism: 24 Apr 2011, Question 6
Question: Are building codes ethical? In light of the building earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a lot of people are crediting the strict building codes and urban planning for reducing the damage. Is it proper to support building codes, which limit property rights, if the goal is to prevent damage and destruction in the event of an inevitable natural disaster, such as an earthquake?
Tags: Business, Capitalism, Law, Regulations, Rights
Q&A: Right to Legal Counsel: 24 Apr 2011, Question 3
Question: Objectivism regards harming yourself or allowing others to harm you is immoral, but how does that apply to sex, particularly sadism and masochism? Should S&M acts be illegal?
Tags: Ethics, Law, Love, Psychology, Sex
Q&A: Spousal Consent for Sterilization: 3 Apr 2011, Question 4
Question: Why is receiving the counsel of an attorney a right while receiving health care is not? In both cases, you would receive something that you need for free from the state. So what's the difference, if any? Why should a repeat offender have access to free legal counsel at taxpayer expense while an innocent, law-abiding sick person shouldn't receive life-saving medication or treatment at taxpayer expense? In the former case, the criminal might lose his liberty, but in the latter case the sick person might die. So what I am missing?
Tags: Government, Justice, Law, Medicine, Rights
Q&A: Global Warming: 3 Apr 2011, Question 3
Question: Should spousal consent be required for sterilization procedures? A fairly well-known mommy blogger recently revealed that she was required to sign a consent form for her husband's vasectomy. Reading through some of the remarks on her blog, many of her commenters seem to support such a practice, believing that a person has a right to be involved in the reproductive decisions of his/her spouse. I think it's a violation of individual rights, and having had a sterilization procedure myself, I'd have been BEYOND upset if my spouse had been required to give his consent. He was in agreement with my decision, but I can't help but wonder what happens in situations where a person does not want his/her spouse to have a vasectomy, tubal ligation, etc. Any thoughts?
Tags: Business, Ethics, Law, Medicine, Parenting, Sex
Q&A: Treating Animals Humanely: 3 Apr 2011, Question 2
Question: How should I deal with the idea of man-made global warming? What is the proper approach to the whole idea? I can't decide on my own whether it's true or false without educating myself in climatology. And how should I treat others who believe in it just because many university professors do?
Tags: Business, Capitalism, Environmentalism, Government, Law, Rights, Science, Technology
Q&A: Animal Rights: 3 Apr 2011, Question 1
Question: What does it mean to treat an animal humanely? The term "humanely" when applied to animals is confusing to me. More generally, what is the proper moral treatment of animals?
Tags: Animals, Ethics, Law
Q&A: Laws and Regulations: 27 Mar 2011, Question 6
Question: Do animals have rights? If not, why not? Given that we don't need to eat animals to survive, shouldn't we be vegetarians or vegans? Also, if animals don't have rights, are people then entitled to do whatever they please with animals that they own?
Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Ethics, Law, Rights
Q&A: Government Secrets: 20 Feb 2011, Question 5
Question: Are regulations necessarily different from laws? Regulations do not violate the presumption of innocence – they are jurisprudential signals. A law against murder does not violate the presumption of innocence; rather, it is a signal that denotes a consequence that will be levied upon the violator of the law. This is the same standard that regulations follow. A law is a "regulation" on behavior in the way that legislative regulations are, in fact, "regulations" on business behavior. Is this a correct assessment of laws and regulations?
Tags: Government, Law, Politics, Regulations, Rights
Q&A: Cheating on Taxes: 20 Feb 2011, Question 4
Question: Should private citizens be legally obliged to keep government secrets? Should it be a crime for private citizens to divulge "top secret" information? That is, if I have no specific security agreement or contract with the government to keep information confidential if I come to possess it through no fault of my own? What if lives are at stake?
Tags: Foreign Policy, Government, Law, Rights, Secrets
Q&A: Abandonment of Property: 13 Feb 2011, Question 4
Question: Is it immoral to cheat on your taxes? It's essentially a lie to protect the products of your labor. So is it wrong just because it's illegal?
Tags: Ethics, Government, Honesty, Law, Rights, Taxes
Q&A: Long-Ago Stolen Property: 13 Feb 2011, Question 3
Question: What constitutes abandonment of property? Can you forfeit your property by not using it for a certain period of time? Suppose your father cultivated a certain stretch of land and left it to you after his death. After some time, you stop cultivating it and move away. Many years pass. Would someone else be justified to claim the land as his if he starts cultivating it again? Would you have abandoned and forfeited your property rights to it? If so, would it make a difference if you did not move away but continued living in the vicinity, but without using the property at all, not even for a walk?
Tags: Ethics, Law, Property
Q&A: The Morality of Pirating Music: 6 Feb 2011, Question 4
Question: I have an object in my possession that I stole almost 20 years ago. Finding the rightful owner and returning it is impossible. What should I do? I once lived in a large, very old apartment building, with a bike room in the basement, where residents were supposed to keep their bicycles. The room was virtually unused, as residents tended to keep theirs in their apartments. There were many dusty old unused bikes in there. I cut the lock off one, got new tires for it (the old ones were flat and brittle) and used it frequently while I lived there. I rationalized that a) it was probably abandoned (although I didn't know that, really) and b) the owner was always free to call security, have my lock cut off, and reclaim his bike. When I moved away, a couple years later, I kept the bike. Clearly I shouldn't have done so, and I would never do such a thing today. Should I just donate the bike to charity and move on? This is really bothering me.
Tags: Ethics, Justice, Law, Moral Wrongs, Property
Q&A: Stealing from a Thief: 30 Jan 2011, Question 4
Question: Is pirating music immoral? Why or why not? In one way I think it must be immoral because it involves gaining the unearned, but there have been (granted I know little of the music industry) many claims that illegal file sharing has actually been good for the music industry in a number of ways. There have also been arguments that it is not technically theft because it involves copying information instead of physically taking it from the owner i.e. the original owner (and creator) has not lost the music even after you have copied it, but this argument seems shoddy by its concrete bound concept of theft and ownership. Simply put, to me, it feels immoral, but I have trouble conceptualizing exactly why.
Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Music
Q&A: Discrimination and Rights: 23 Jan 2011, Question 6
Question: Would it be wrong to steal from a thief? If an individual were placed in a position where they could steal from a con-man or a common burglar, and they did, would their decision to steal from a thief be moral or immoral and why?
Tags: Justice, Law, Rights, Theft
Q&A: Returning Lost Property: 9 Jan 2011, Question 6
Question: In the essay "Racism" in The Virtue of Selfishness
, Ayn Rand mentions that public institutions and government agencies should not discriminate against or on behalf of individuals. In her talk of private property, however, she says that government should not attempt to prevent private racism in private establishments and that a man's rights are not violated by a private individual's refusal to deal with him. My question is: How are his rights not violated if the owner discriminates against him?
Tags: Business, Discrimination, Gender, Justice, Law, Property, Race
Q&A: What To Do about Wikileaks: 26 Dec 2010, Question 3
Question: Is there a proper policy on keeping lost property? If one were to find property that had been lost, is there a proper policy which would allow the finder to keep it? The most common example is finding an envelope full of money. Is one even morally obligated to report that he has found it? (Suppose that the owner cannot be immediately located, even with a decent amount of effort.)
Tags: Ethics, Law, Property, Rights
Q&A: Punishment of Government Officials: 12 Dec 2010, Question 5
Question: What should the US government do about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? In particular, can and should the US government go after him, given that he is not an American citizen and he apparently committed his bad acts outside of US territory?
Tags: Crime, Foreign Policy, Law, Rights
Podcast: Accepting an Inheritance and Objectionable Work: 15 Sep 2009
Question: Should government officials be punished for rights violations committed via their office? Should the constitution of a rational government in a capitalist society mandate punishment of those in positions of governance who use the power of government to violate individual rights? For instance, McCain-Feingold represents a massive individual rights' violation; that of free speech and association. McCain and Feingold violated their oath to defend the Constitution as did all those who voted for it; George W. Bush explicitly abdicated his oath in his signing statement. Should such people be punished for legalizing such an encroachment? Currently, only Treason is specifically mentioned in the Constitution as a criminal act requiring punishment
Tags: Crime, Free Society, Government, Law
Summary: I answer two questions – one on the morality of accepting an inheritance and another on a moral conflict about doing agreed-upon work when that promotes Islam on the anniversary of 9/11.
Tags: 9/11, Character, Ethics, Evil, Family, Inheritance, Introspection, Islam, Justice, Law, Money, Productiveness, Promises, Rights, Sanction, Terrorism, Wealth