Q&A: Extreme Cases: 29 Mar 2015, Question 2
Q&A: Claims of Rights to Food and Shelter: 29 Mar 2015, Question 1
Question: Do moral principles break down in extreme cases? When faced with bizarre hypotheticals, advocates of rational egoism often assert that such scenarios would never happen. This seems to be dodging the question. It's said that conventional understandings of physics break down at microscopic and extremely grand-scale levels. Does morality follow a similar pattern? For example, what if a small society of people stranded on an island faced a shortage of clean water, and a single individual who owned all access to clean water refused to sell it? Is that really impossible? Doesn't that show that the principle of individual rights breaks down in extreme cases?
Tags: Benevolence, Capitalism, Economics, Ethics, Justice, Law, Politics, Price Gouging, 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, Rights, 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: Forcing People to Govern: 22 Feb 2015, Question 1
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: Nuisance Limits for New Technology: 15 Feb 2015, Question 2
Question: Could unwilling people be compelled to govern? Imagine a situation in which no-one – not a single person – wants to work for the government. This would create a state of anarchy by default because government requires people to govern. Since the existence of a government is necessary for the protection of individual rights via the subordination of society to objective moral law, would compelling some people to govern be necessary and proper?
Tags: Anarchism, Force, Government, Rights, Taxation
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
Q&A: Fighting Words: 30 Nov 2014, Question 2
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: The Objectivity of Manners: 30 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: Anarchism's Case Against Government: 9 Nov 2014, Question 1
Question: Are manners objective? In a recent Rapid Fire Question, I think you rather too quickly dismissed the idea that manners or etiquette can be objective. You fairly quickly threw the whole lot of them over into the socially-subjective category. However, I think there's a lot that's not at all subjective, nor even optional, about manners. I happen to live in a country, China, which is much-renowned for its lack of basic human decency, and I would argue that this is a fair claim. For example, it's quite regular for a parent to pull his child's pants down and facilitate his or her urinating or defecating all over a vehicle of transportation, up to and including an international flight. It's also quite normal to hawk in such a way as to clear every cavity in one's upper torso, admire a particular piece of ground, and splat the results of one's personal nasal expiration for all to admire and tread upon. After a home-cooked meal, a guest is expected to belch massively. A small belch is a sign of dissatisfaction. To me, the latter seems quite a matter of optional cultural choice. What you said before about manners applies quite nicely to that issue: it's fairly arbitrary whether you should or you should not belch after your meal. At my in-laws' place, please do. At my mom's place, please don't. However, when I think about other ways in which Chinese people are "rude" to an American, I can think of a thousand examples where it's not just subjective. Pissing or shitting on a public bus is not just arbitrarily unacceptable to us silly overwrought Westerners. It's objectively rude. For another example, today when I was trying to get onto a bus, hale and hearty Chinese twenty-somethings were pushing in front of me in a giant triangle of evil. Nobody cared if I was there before them, nobody cared if the signs all said to line up respectfully, they just elbowed each other out of the way in order to get on the bus. So are manners objective, at least in part?
Tags: Benevolence, Convention, Efficiency, Emotions, Ethics, Etiquette, Justice, Manners, Moral Wrongs, Rights
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: Voters' Responsibility for Politicians: 19 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: Psychics in a Free Society: 5 Oct 2014, Question 1
Question: To what extent are voters responsible for the actions of politicians? Suppose that a candidate announces his plans and actions for next term before the election. Are the people who vote for that candidate morally sanctioning and/or responsible for those actions, for better or worse? For example, you vote for a candidate who supports de-regulation and ending social welfare programs, even though he's completely against abortion in all circumstances, even when that might result in the woman's death. Since you, as a voter, knew his position when you voted for him, aren't you partially responsible for any deaths of women caused by his anti-abortion policies?
Tags: Activism, Elections, Ethics, Politics, Responsibility, Rights, Voting
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: Conning Jerks and Blowhards: 24 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: Compulsory Vaccination: 3 Aug 2014, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to con jerks and blowhards? I know that dishonesty is wrong, but conning jerks and blowhards out of their money (as seen here
) seems like justice at its best. So is it wrong?
Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Fraud, Justice, Moral Character, Moral Habits, Revenge, Rights
Q&A: The Justice of Defamation Laws: 27 Jul 2014, Question 1
Question: Should the government mandate vaccination? Advocates of free markets often disagree about whether vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary – and whether they could be justly mandated by law. One problem is that the refusal to vaccinate oneself might put others at risk. Not everyone can be vaccinated, and some people who are vaccinated don't develop immunity. However, when the vast majority of people are vaccinated, that provides "herd immunity" to people who don't have immunity. People who choose not to be vaccinated degrade that herd immunity and thereby put others at risk. Moreover, parents have to choose whether to vaccinate their children or not, and the failure to vaccinate is regarded as neglect by many people – on par with Christian Science parents refusing to give a sick child antibiotics. Given that, should vaccinations be mandated by the government? If so, under what circumstances? Or might people be held civilly liable for transmitting diseases? Or should vaccination be considered a purely private matter between individuals (and institutions)?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Health, Medicine, Negligence, Quarantine, Rights
Q&A: Limited Government: 10 Jul 2014, Question 1
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
Interview: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics: 3 Jul 2014
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: Dogs Versus Private Property: 22 Jun 2014, Question 3
Summary: How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you're talking past one another? You'll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they'll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling's concept of the "Three Languages of Politics." Paul Hsieh explained how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He discussed how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other "languages" without compromising on principles.
Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Civilization, Communication, Compromise, Conservatism, Drug War, Firearms, Free Speech, GLBT, Government, Libertarianism, Medicine, Objectivism, Objectivism, Politics, Privacy, Progressivism, Property Rights, Rights, Three Languages of Politics, Values
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
Q&A: "Stand Your Ground" Laws: 15 Jun 2014, Question 1
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: Jury Nullification: 29 May 2014, Question 1
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
Q&A: Permission Versus Forgiveness: 25 May 2014, Question 3
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
Q&A: Legal Dueling: 25 May 2014, Question 2
Question: Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules? People often say that "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can't put my finger on what's so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it's true for some organizations, doesn't that indicate that the organization's rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards?
Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Respect, Rights, Rules, Trader Principle
Q&A: Egoism and Harm to Others: 15 May 2014, Question 1
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: Responsibility for a Sibling: 4 May 2014, Question 3
Question: Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself? In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn't such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers?
Tags: Altruism, Benevolence, Conflicts of Interest, Egoism, Ethics, Justice, Meta-Ethics, Predation, Prudent Predator, Relationships, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Strangers, Trader Principle
Q&A: Licensing Parents: 4 May 2014, Question 2
Question: Is a person responsible for his incapable sibling? Imagine that your brother (or sister) is not capable of taking care of himself: he makes poor choices, he has poor work habits, and he is emotionally immature. Are you thereby responsible for him? Should you try to help as much as possible, so long as you don't drag yourself down? Or should you refuse to help on the principle of "tough love," even though that won't help him take care of himself? If you take the latter approach, doesn't that mean that you're foisting the care for your sibling on society? Wouldn't that be shirking your responsibilities as a sibling? Also, does your responsibility depend on whether your brother is incapable due to his own choices, as opposed to merely bad luck?
Tags: Benevolence, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Family, Finances, Obligation, Responsibility, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Siblings, Welfare
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: Defending Abortion Rights: 20 Apr 2014, Question 3
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: Privatizing Prisons: 23 Mar 2014, Question 2
Question: How can abortion rights be more effectively defended? Although the biblical case against abortion is weak, the religious right has gained much traction against abortion rights in the last decade or two. The "personhood" movement is growing every year, and incremental restrictions on abortion have mushroomed. Even more alarming, the demographics seem to be against abortion rights: young people are increasingly opposed to abortion. What can be done to more effectively defend abortion rights? Can any lessons be drawn from the success of the campaign for gay marriage?
Tags: Abortion, Communication, Conservatism, Ethics, Politics, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: Concern for Future Generations: 23 Mar 2014, Question 1
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 I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren't even known, let alone of value, to me?
Tags: Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Future, History, Rights, Sacrifice, Science, Technology, Values
Q&A: Liability for Injuries on the Job: 5 Jan 2014, Question 2
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: Moral Judgment of European Colonizers: 8 Dec 2013, Question 2
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: Values Destroyed by Statism: 17 Nov 2013, Question 2
Question: How should European colonizers be judged for their treatment of Native Americans? Some people, especially conservatives, give blanket praise to Columbus and European colonizers, notwithstanding their conquest and displacement of native populations. Those Native Americans are sometimes denigrated as ignorant, brutal, and/or lacking any concept of property – and hence, as unworthy of the protection of rights. Many others consider the Native Americans either noble savages or at least the rightful owners of the land. They condemn European colonization as unethical conquest or even genocide. Are either of those approaches correct? What counts as a fair judgment of European colonizers in their behavior toward Native Americans? How should European colonizers have treated native persons?
Tags: Colonization, Culture, Ethics, Government, Government, History, Homesteading, Politics, Property Rights, Rights, United States
Q&A: Government Scientists in a Free Society: 10 Nov 2013, Question 4
Question: What are the most significant values destroyed by statism? In other words, what values would be available to us – or more available – in a laissez-faire, rational society that are limited or unavailable to us today? What are some of the major (and perhaps under-appreciated) values destroyed or precluded by government overreach? To put the question another way: How would a proper government improve our lives?
Tags: Culture, Economics, Ethics, Government, Rights
Q&A: Property Owners Prohibiting Firearms: 27 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: Favoritism for the Genetically Engineered: 20 Oct 2013, Question 2
Question: Should a person respect signs prohibiting guns in certain areas? Some businesses and government offices announce that firearms are prohibited in the building, yet no screening is conducted to ensure that firearms are excluded. In such "pretend gun-free zones," law-abiding people will disarm, while criminals and other dangerous or careless people will not. Is this a violation of a person's right to self-defense? Should people refuse to disarm in face of such signs?
Tags: Firearms, Property Rights, Rights, Self-Defense
Q&A: The Social Effects of Economic Inequality: 20 Oct 2013, Question 1
Question: Once some children are genetically engineered, wouldn't discrimination against natural children be inevitable? Assume that humanity has advanced to the technological capacities of the movie "Gattaca," where the best possible genes for each child could be (and mostly would be) chosen before implantation of the embryo. In that case, how could society prevent discrimination against people who were conceived naturally? Those chosen genes would include genes for determination, the desire to learn, motivation, and more, such that engineered people would always win out based on merit. The movie "Gattaca" shows a natural child rising above his engineered counterparts because of his great determination and spirit. The movie's tagline is even "there is no gene for the human spirit." But if there is such a thing as a human spirit, then there surely must be a gene for it. So would discrimination against natural children be inevitable? If so, would it be unjust?
Tags: Comparative Advantage, Discrimination, Economics, Freedom of Association, Free Society, Genetic Engineering, Rights
Q&A: Fair Use of Intellectual Property: 22 Sep 2013, Question 1
Question: Is an egalitarian society a better society? In his 2009 book "The Spirit Level," Richard Wilkinson argues that income inequality has a broad range of negative effects on society. According to the summary on Wikipedia, "It claims that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries." Are these egalitarian arguments wrong? If so, what's the best approach to refuting them?
Tags: Causation, Collectivism, Culture, Egalitarianism, Equality, Ethics, John Rawls, Politics, Rights, Statistics
Interview: Robert Garmong on Censorship in China: 18 Sep 2013
Question: What is the moral line between respecting copyrights and fair use? From a moral rather than legal perspective, what are the requirements to respect someone's right to their own work? For example if you have a movie on DVD is it moral to switch it to electronic form for your own use or should you buy the other form? When is quoting from an article or making a spoof fair use versus not respecting the owner's ownership?
Tags: Copyright, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Moral Attitudes, Respect, Rights, Trader Principle
Interview: Tom Varik on Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege: 7 Aug 2013
Summary: How does censorship work in China? What can ordinary people access or not? What is the Chinese government most concerned to conceal? What are the consequences of speaking out? What do ordinary people think of the censorship? Robert Garmong, an American living and working in China, will answer these questions and more.
Tags: Academia, Censorship, China, Culture, Education, Free Speech, Government, History, Rights, Technology
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
Interview: Jonathan Hoenig on The Workings of Financial Markets: 24 Jul 2013
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
Q&A: The "Marginal Humans" Argument: 21 Jul 2013, Question 1
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: What's wrong with the "marginal humans" argument against uniquely human rights? Ayn Rand, following Aristotle, defined man as the rational animal – meaning that man's essential quality is that he possesses the faculty of reason, while other animals do not. Such is the basis for rights, in her view. Opponents of animal rights often appeal to this gap between humans and other animals to justify raising animals to be killed and eaten. They claim that animals can't have rights because they're not rational. Advocates of animal rights, however, often attempt to refute this claim via the "marginal humans" argument. They observe that human infants lack the faculty of reason, and hence, we should not use rationality as the moral criterion for rights. What is wrong with this argument? Do opponents of animal rights conflate potential with actual rationality, in that the infant seems potentially but not actually capable of reason?
Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Children, Disability, Human Nature, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Doctors Refusing to Perform Abortions: 9 Jun 2013, Question 3
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: Laws Against Marital Infidelity: 2 Jun 2013, Question 3
Question: Does a doctor violate a woman's rights by refusing to perform an abortion? Many people on the left claim that a doctor who refuses to perform an abortion – or a pharmacist who refuses to dispense Plan B – is thereby violating the rights of the woman. Those doctors and pharmacists, however, claim that they're exercising their own freedom of religion. Who is right?
Tags: Abortion, Conservatism, Ethics, Medicine, Politics, Progressivism, Religion, Rights
Q&A: Visibility of Disabled Children: 19 May 2013, Question 3
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: Individualism Versus Anti-Social Atomism: 19 May 2013, Question 1
Question: Should disabled kids be kept out of the public eye? Recently, a waiter at a restaurant refused to serve one party after hearing them make fun of a child with Down's Syndrome sitting with his family in a nearby booth. Both parties were regulars to the restaurant. Some people have praised the waiter's actions because he took offense at overhearing the first party say "special needs kids should be kept in special places." He called them on their rudeness and refused to serve them. Others think he was wrong: his catering to the party with the disabled kid is indicative of a culture that embraces mediocrity and disability. What is the proper assessment of the remark made and the waiter's response? Should people with disabilities be kept from public view?
Tags: Ayn Rand, Benevolence, Children, Disability, Egoism, Ethics, Individualism, Parenting, Respect, Rights, Self-Interest
Q&A: Infanticide After Abortion: 12 May 2013, Question 2
Question: Does individualism imply social isolation and atomism? Many critics of Ayn Rand argue that her individualism is hostile to love, concern, and respect for other people. They claim that her "atomistic individualism" doesn't permit, let alone support, groups or community. Are these criticisms true? What is the right view of human society and sociability?
Tags: Collectivism, Collectivism, Epistemology, Ethics, Individualism, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Politics, Relationships, Rights, Sacrifice, Society
Q&A: Concern for the Rights of Rights-Violators: 5 May 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
Interview: Jim Manley on Concealed Carry on Campus: 1 May 2013
Question: Is it wrong to be indifferent to the rights-violations of people who advocate rights-violations? Some celebrities actively promote the violation of rights by lending their support to political groups. For example, former American Idol contestant Krista Branch has actively campaigned against gay marriage on behalf of Focus on the Family. However, in a recent interview, Branch complained that people were pirating her songs. I know that Branch's intellectual property rights should be respected, and I would never pirate her music. Yet I can't feel any sympathy for her, given that she advocates violating other people's rights. I'm of the opinion that people who advocate for the use of force against others should not be spared from the consequences of the kind of culture that creates. Is that wrong? Am I being malevolent? Should I defend her rights, even though she advocates violating my rights?
Tags: Activism, Celebrities, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Multigenerational Space Travel: 28 Apr 2013, Question 3
Summary: Many people assume that college campuses are – and should be – gun free zones. Jim Manley explains why concealed carry permit holders should be permitted to carry on campus.
Tags: Activism, Colorado, Democrats, Firearms, Government, Rights, Self-Defense
Q&A: The State's Role in Caring for Children of Unfit Parents: 21 Apr 2013, Question 2
Question: Is multigenerational space travel immoral? According to a panel at SETICon 2012, the designs for multi-generational space ships are already in the works. Are there ethical problems with people bearing children who will never see Earth, and likely never set foot on a planet? Would they be robbed of any ability to determine their own fate? Or is it a moot point since had the circumstances been different, they might not have ever been born at all?
Tags: Children, Ethics, Free Society, Parenting, Rights
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
Interview: John P. McCaskey on Libertarianism's Moral Shift: 10 Apr 2013
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
Q&A: Epistemic Effects of Government Controls: 24 Mar 2013, Question 2
Summary: As the libertarian movement has become more mainstream in recent decades, its justification for liberty has changed. How so – and is that change for the better? Is the libertarian movement today capable of offering a vigorous and compelling defense of liberty?
Tags: America, Conflicts of Interest, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Friedrich Hayek, History, John Rawls, Libertarianism, Objectivism, Politics, Rights
Interview: Stephen Bailey on Limiting Government by Constitutional Amendment: 20 Mar 2013
Question: How do government controls encourage short-range thinking in business? In your discussion of the principle of sustainability in December 2011, you said that government controls encourage people to think short-range – to grab what they can and run with it – including in business. Why is that? What are some examples?
Tags: Ethics, Government, Psycho-Epistemology, Regulations, Rights
Q&A: Disruptive Kids in Public School: 10 Mar 2013, Question 4
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: Online Privacy: 10 Mar 2013, Question 3
Question: How should a public school teacher discipline unruly students? Since school attendance is mandatory, what is the proper and moral way to handle discipline in class? I'm a Spanish teacher in public school, and I hate to threaten or punish the few unruly kids. But for the sake of students who are truly interested to learn Spanish, I have to resort to methods like assigning detention and taking away phones for students who are not interested in Spanish. They are in my class only because they are pressured by their counselors. How can I deal with disruptive students in a way that respects their rights?
Tags: Children, Education, Ethics, Government, Rights
Q&A: Regretful Parents: 10 Mar 2013, Question 2
Question: What kinds of privacy can people reasonably expect online? Online privacy is an increasing concern in the media and the culture. The FTC is working on redefining what companies are and are not allowed to do with data they collect online. But given that the internet functions by sending your data through lots and lots of different systems, what rights and/or reasonable expectations should people have concerning their privacy online?
Tags: Ethics, Internet, Privacy, Responsibility, Rights, Social Media
Q&A: Privacy from Government Intrusion: 3 Mar 2013, Question 3
Question: What should parents do if they regret ever having children? In 2008, Nebraska permitted parents to abandon children of any age without penalty. As a result, quite a few older children were abandoned before the state changed the law. That shows that some parents deeply regret ever having children, and surely many more parents have major regrets, even though they'd never abandon their children. What should a parent do if he or she realizes that having kids was a mistake? What should prospective parents do to ensure that they'll not regret having kids?
Tags: Children, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Obligation, Parenting, Rights
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: Semi-Automatic Handguns Versus Revolvers: 17 Feb 2013, Question 4
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: Antibiotic Resistance in a Free Society: 17 Feb 2013, Question 2
Question: Are semi-automatic handguns more dangerous than revolvers? In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, many of my friends claimed that semi-automatic firearms should be banned. They think that people should only be permitted to own revolvers. What are the differences between these two kinds of handguns? Do those differences matter to public policy debates about gun rights and gun control?
Tags: Firearms, Politics, Rights, Self-Defense
Interview: Michelle Minton on Your Freedom to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: 13 Feb 2013
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: William E. Perry on What It's Really Like to Be a Prosecutor: 30 Jan 2013
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
Q&A: Unions for Government Employees: 27 Jan 2013, Question 2
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: Veto Power over Abortion: 20 Jan 2013, Question 3
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 a man be able to prevent his pregnant girlfriend from aborting his baby? Sometimes, a man will get his girlfriend pregnant accidentally, and they disagree about what should be done. If the man wants the woman to carry the pregnancy to term, whether to give up the baby for adoption or him take sole custody, while the woman wants to get an abortion, should he be able to prevent her? It's his baby, shouldn't he have some say?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Child Support, Ethics, Fatherhood, Pregnancy, Rights
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: The Good in American Culture: 30 Dec 2012, 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: How is American culture better today better than people think? I've heard lots of depressing claims about the abysmal state of American culture lately, particularly since Obama won the election. You've disputed that, arguing that America is better in its fundamentals that many people think. What are some of those overlooked but positive American values? How can they be leveraged for cultural and political change?
Tags: Activism, America, Apocalypticism, Business, Culture, Ethics, Politics, Rights, Technology
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: Sexual Harassment Laws: 25 Nov 2012, Question 1
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
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
Q&A: The 2012 Election Results: 11 Nov 2012, Question 1
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
Interview: Dr. Sasha Volokh on Taking Stock of Tort Law: 7 Nov 2012
Question: What should we think of the results of the 2012 election? Many free-market advocates are despairing over the election results, particularly the re-election of President Obama. They claim that America has sunk to a new low in re-electing an openly socialistic and egalitarian hater of America. Do you think that such despair is warranted? Also, how can intellectuals, activists, and others effectively promote individual rights over the next four years?
Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, America, Apocalypticism, Democratic Party, Elections, Gay Marriage, Immigration, Politics, Progress, Republican Party, 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: Circumcision Versus Female Genital Mutilation: 28 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: Federal Versus State and Local Government: 21 Oct 2012, Question 1
Question: Is circumcision on par with female genital mutilation? Many people decry female genital mutilation, but they regard circumcision as the right of parents. Is that wrong?
Tags: Children, Circumcision, Ethics, Medicine, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: Passing Genetic Diseases to Kids: 23 Sep 2012, Question 2
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: The Morality of Nuclear Weapons: 23 Sep 2012, Question 1
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: Blue Laws: 16 Sep 2012, Question 4
Question: When should nuclear weapons be used, if ever? Under what circumstances would a free society use nuclear weapons – or chemical or biological weapons? Are they so destructive that their use would never be acceptable? Or might they be used in self-defense to win a war or win a war more quickly?
Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Firearms, Foreign Policy, Free Society, Military, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Defense, Self-Interest, War
Interview: Alex Epstein on How Coal and Oil Improve Our Lives: 12 Sep 2012
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
Q&A: Bans on Smoking: 9 Sep 2012, Question 4
Summary: Does the energy industry – particularly coal and oil – harm humans and destroy the environment? Are they necessary evils? Or are they positive goods?
Tags: Activism, Business, Energy, Environmentalism, Ethics, History, Philosophy, Pollution, Progress, Rights
Q&A: Fear of Rape: 9 Sep 2012, Question 1
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
Interview: Dr. Eric Daniels on Progress in American History: 5 Sep 2012
Question: Should men be sensitive to women's fears of being raped? Recently, I became aware of an ongoing debate among the online atheist community regarding proper conduct of men toward women they do not know. In a June 2011 video reporting on a conference, "Skepchik" Rebecca Watson talked about her experience of being asked to the room of a strange man in an elevator at 4 am. That invitation made her very uncomfortable, and she thought it was very wrong to so sexualize her. Her comments created a firestorm of controversy. Do you think that men need to be sensitive to women's fears about being raped? Should women have such fears around unknown men?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Crime, Dating, Ethics, Feminism, Harassment, Rape, Respect, Rights, Sexism, Violence
Q&A: Voting for Third-Party Candidates: 26 Aug 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
Q&A: Sex-Selective Abortions: 19 Aug 2012, Question 2
Question: Is it moral or practical to vote for third-party candidates? The Founders created a two-party political system. With features like geographic representation, first-past-the-post voting for Congress, and the Electoral College for voting for President, the Founders clearly wanted parties consisting of large umbrella groups of wide geographic and ideological interests. As a result, the United States has always had two and only two dominant political parties. Corrupt election laws, passed by these parties, now guarantee that except in rare instances (such as Jesse Ventura, of all people) only members of these two parties can be elected to office. Given these facts, what is the purpose of voting for third party candidates? Unlike the two major umbrella parties, all third parties are composed of ideological kooks of many persuasions. Isn't a vote for a third party candidate thus immoral (for supporting kookdom) and impractical (since they can't win)? Wouldn't it be better to try to improve the two existing parties, or not vote at all?
Tags: Elections, Politics, Rights, Voting
Q&A: The Role of Government in Adoption: 19 Aug 2012, Question 1
Question: Are sex-selective abortions wrong? In Canada, some hospitals refuse to tell prospective parents the sex of their fetus when discovered in a second-trimester ultrasound, because the members of many immigrant groups will selectively abort girls. Apparently, such sex-selective abortions are common enough that the birth demographics in some areas are clearly skewed. Are such abortions wrong? Should doctors withhold information about the sex of a fetus in an effort to stop the practice? Could a doctor legitimately choose to perform abortions for any reason at 8 weeks, but refuse to do so at 21 weeks simply because the parents don't want a girl? If so, what's the moral difference between those two situations?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Culture, Discrimination, Ethics, Medicine, Parenting, Pregnancy, Rights, Sexism
Q&A: Medicine in a Free Society: 12 Aug 2012, Question 4
Question: What is the proper role of government in adoption, if any? Many religious people recoil at the notion of gay marriage due to its implications for adoption. They fear that the government will then allow gay couples to adopt on a broader scale. I suspect that the government is taking too great a role in adoption, and that's what causes this particular controversy. So what role should the government play in adoption? Should it screen parents and forbid some people from adopting? More broadly, what would adoption look like in a free society?
Tags: Adoption, Children, Free Society, GLBT, Government, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: Advertising to Children: 12 Aug 2012, Question 3
Question: What would the practice of medicine look like in a free society? Today, the practice of medicine is highly regulated and controlled by the government, including in its business aspects. How would medicine change if the government fully respected rights? What would remain the same?
Tags: Business, Free Society, Medicine, Rights
Q&A: Contributing to Animal Welfare Groups: 5 Aug 2012, Question 1
Question: Should the government regulate advertising to children? Most people think that advertising products to children is morally wrong, if not coercive. They say that the government should regulate or even ban such advertising to protect children and parents from pushy advertisers. In the case of junk food, for example, people claim that children are not old enough to understand the damage that junk food does to their health. Therefore, they claim, children must be protected. While I can understand forbidding advertising drugs or liquor to children, to forbid food advertisements seems like a violation of individual rights. So should the government have any role in regulating advertisements directed at children?
Tags: Children, Food, Free Speech, Government, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: The Morality of Cloning: 29 Jul 2012, Question 1
Question: Should a person contribute to animal welfare organizations? Animal shelters find good homes for abandoned and abused pets. They also offer assistance to pet owners during emergencies, such as the recent wildfires in Colorado. That work seems laudable to me – and something that a rational person might support and even contribute to. Yet such groups often advocate wrong views (such as veganism) and support rights-violations (such as animal welfare laws). So are such groups worthy of support or not?
Tags: Activism, Animal Rights, Animals, Charity, Ethics, Politics, Rights
Q&A: The Importance of a Candidate's Views on Abortion: 22 Jul 2012, Question 4
Question: If cloning humans were possible, would it be wrong? Most people think that cloning humans, if possible, would be terribly immoral and creepy. What are their arguments? Are those arguments right or wrong? Also, would cloning a person without his or her consent be some kind of rights violation?
Tags: Children, Cloning, Ethics, Family, Genetic Engineering, Parenting, Personal Identity, Psychology, Rights
Q&A: The Cost of Freedom: 8 Jul 2012, Question 4
Question: How important are a political candidate's views on abortion? Why should we be worried about a political candidate's bad views on abortion if their views on other issues like economics are generally good? After all, as US President, Mitt Romney couldn't outlaw abortion even if he wanted to. But a good or bad President could have a tremendous good or bad effect on our economic liberties. Conversely, President Obama wants to keep abortion legal but that positive pales in significance to his terrible negative views on economics. Shouldn't a candidate's views on economics be more important at present than their views on abortion?
Tags: Abortion, Elections, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Second-hand Smoke: 1 Jul 2012, Question 2
Question: Shouldn't freedom be "free"? I often hear the bromide "freedom isn't free," or some variation of it, such as, "there's a price for freedom." But isn't freedom actually free? A person acts by right in pursuing his own life and happiness, and criminals do not have any right to coerce or threaten others. If freedom is the political expression of rights in a social or political context, it follows that there should be no "cost" to exercising one's rights. It isn't a sacrifice to not violate others rights, since respect for them is a selfish virtue, nor would it be a sacrifice to voluntarily fund a proper government that protects one's rights, since the benefit outweighs the cost. Am I correct in thinking freedom, properly understood and protected, is indeed free, or not? If I am, what do people mean when they say, "freedom isn't free," and what's the proper response?
Tags: Free Society, Government, Military, Politics, Rights, Sacrifice, Taxes
Q&A: Corporal Punishment of Kids: 24 Jun 2012, Question 1
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: Downloading Music After Hard Drive Failure: 20 May 2012, Question 4
Question: Is corporal punishment of children ever proper? The 2011 video of Judge William Adams beating his daughter
raises the question of whether it's ever necessary or proper to physically discipline children. Does the age of the child matter, particularly given that you can't reason with younger children? Does the amount of force used matter? When does physical punishment violate the child's rights?
Tags: Adult Children, Children, Corporal Punishment, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Parenting, Punishment, Rights, Violence
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: Unforgivable Acts: 6 May 2012, Question 2
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: Stealing Valor: 15 Apr 2012, Question 3
Question: Can an ordinary person do something unforgivable? Could a friend act in a way that would make rational forgiveness impossible? Might a person do something so hurtful or unfair that you couldn't ever trust them again? In such cases, how should the person wronged acted towards the unforgivable person?
Tags: Conflict, Ethics, Forgiveness, Friendship, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Relationships, 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: Consent in Sex: 26 Feb 2012, Question 1
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: Overfeeding a Child as Abuse: 19 Feb 2012, Question 3
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: Patriotism as a Virtue: 12 Feb 2012, Question 2
Question: Is overfeeding a child a form of abuse? In November, county officials in Ohio placed a third-grade child into foster care on the grounds that he's over 200 pounds and his mother isn't doing enough to control his weight. (See the news story
.) The boy does not currently have any serious medical problems: he's merely at risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, etc. The county worked with the mother for a year before removing the child, and it claims that her actions constitute medical neglect. Now his mother is only permitted to see him once per week for two hours. Did the state overreach its proper authority in removing the child from his home?
Tags: Child Abuse, Children, Food, Free Society, Government, Health, Nutrition, Parenting, Rights
Q&A: The Morality of the Death Penalty: 22 Jan 2012, Question 2
Question: Is patriotism a virtue? Is patriotism towards America a virtue? Should a person "love America" – or is that just jingoistic nationalism?
Tags: Free Society, Government, Loyalty, Patriotism, Rights, Virtue
Podcast: December 2011 Testimony on Campaign Finance: 20 Dec 2011
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: Gary Johnson for US President: 11 Dec 2011, Question 5
Summary: On December 15th, 2011, Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, and I testified at the Secretary of State's hearing on the proposed changes to Colorado's campaign finance rules. This podcast includes all our testimony.
Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Coalition for Secular Government, Free Speech, Government, Politics, Rights
Q&A: Ron Paul for US President: 11 Dec 2011, Question 4
Question: Should I support Gary Johnson for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Johnson deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election? Also, should supporters of Gary Johnson vote for him on a Libertarian Party ticket?
Tags: Abortion, Drug War, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gay Marriage, Government, Immigration, Medicine, Politics, Republican Party, Rights
Q&A: Newt Gingrich for US President: 11 Dec 2011, Question 3
Question: Should I support Ron Paul for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Paul deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Tags: Abortion, Drug War, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gay Marriage, Government, Immigration, Medicine, Politics, Republican Party, Rights
Q&A: Mitt Romney for US President: 11 Dec 2011, Question 2
Question: Should I support Newt Gingrinch for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Gingrinch deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Tags: Abortion, Drug War, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gay Marriage, Government, Immigration, Medicine, Politics, Republican Party, Rights
Q&A: An Early Look at the 2012 Election: 11 Dec 2011, Question 1
Question: Should I support Mitt Romney for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Romney deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Tags: Abortion, Drug War, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gay Marriage, Government, Immigration, Medicine, Politics, Republican Party, Rights
Q&A: The Legal Status of Automatic Weapons: 20 Nov 2011, Question 2
Question: What's your view of the upcoming 2012 election? By what standards do you judge the presidential candidates?
Tags: Elections, Politics, Republican Party, Rights
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: Voting for Horrible Politicians: 6 Nov 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: Restrooms for the Transgendered in Transition: 30 Oct 2011, Question 2
Question: All the candidates are nearly perfectly horrid, just in different ways. Why should I even bother to vote?
Tags: Abortion, Elections, Politics, Republican Party, Rights, Rights, Voting
Q&A: Using the Do Not Call Registry: 2 Oct 2011, Question 2
Question: Which bathroom should a pre-operative transgendered person use? The brutal attack at McDonald's
on a transgendered person in April 2011 was apparently started
because that person used the ladies restroom, which was already occupied by a 14 year old. Was the transgendered person wrong to use that restroom?
Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, GLBT, Medicine, Personal Identity, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Rights, Science
Q&A: Addressing Problems with Neighbors: 25 Sep 2011, Question 4
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: Public Nudity and Rights: 25 Sep 2011, Question 2
Question: How do I ask my neighbor not to take liberties with my driveway? I work out of my office on the ground floor of our home overlooking the street with partial view of our driveway. Every day, several times a day, a neighbor uses our driveway as a turnaround instead of using the intersection one house down, or her own driveway. My big problem with this is that she is using our private property for public use. I also find this distracting when I'm working as every time she pulls into the driveway I think someone is visiting. I'm having a difficult time deciding how to approach this as I want to remain friendly with my neighbor, and don't want to come off as an unbearable jerk for just asking her not to use my property. How would you approach this situation?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Neighbors, Property, Relationships, Rights
Q&A: Appropriate Contexts for Nudity: 25 Sep 2011, Question 1
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: Friendships with Intellectual Property Pirates: 21 Aug 2011, Question 3
Question: What's the proper approach to nudity? Should we all be nude all the time? Should nudity be saved for your lover only? Should children see their parents naked? Should we have clothing-optional get-togethers with friends? Basically, what is your view of the proper contexts for nudity?
Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Family, Family, Nudity, Parenting, Rights, Sex
Q&A: Returning Lost Money: 14 Aug 2011, Question 3
Question: Should I terminate friendships with people who steal music and other intellectual property from the internet? I don't know a single person who doesn't steal something off the internet. I used to do this myself, but stopped when I realized it was wrong and why. Normally, I would cut off contact with anyone who violates rights, because that's worse than just holding wrong ideas, but the activity is so prevalent now that doing so would end my social life. Even now, my clear moral position strains my friendships. So what should I do?
Tags: Conflict, Ethics, Friendship, Intellectual Property, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Politics, Relationships, Rights, Sanction
Q&A: The Morality of Reverse Engineering: 31 Jul 2011, Question 1
Question: If you find money in a house that you've purchased should you return it? A man recently found about $45,000 hidden in the house that he'd recently bought. (See this article
.) It was saved up by the prior owner, now dead. He returned it to the man's children. Should the buyer of the house have returned the money? Was he morally or legally obligated to do so? If not, was doing so foolish or altruistic?
Tags: Benevolence, Ethics, Honesty, Justice, Property, Property, Rights
Q&A: Staying in an Abusive Marriage for the Kids: 26 Jun 2011, Question 4
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: Child Support from Unwilling Fathers: 19 Jun 2011, Question 3
Question: Is it moral to stay in an abusive marriage for the sake of the children? Should a woman stay in a marriage where the husband is abusive toward her because she has kids with the husband and wants her kids to have some sort of future? Does it matter if the man in question has some – or even all – the financial capability?
Tags: Children, Ethics, Marriage, Parenting, Rights, Romance
Q&A: Francisco's Slap of Dagny: 29 May 2011, Question 3
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: Was Francisco justified in slapping Dagny? In their teenage years, when Dagny asked Francisco whether she should try to get D's in order to gain popularity in school, Francisco slapped her. I understand what he meant by the "unspeakable" thing that she said. But couldn't have he talked it over with her instead of slapping her – and shouldn't he have done so? Why does he use physical violence – and why does Dagny not just accept but relish in it?
Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ethics, Literature, Relationships, Rights, Romance
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: The Morality of Spreading Germs: 15 May 2011, Question 1
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
Podcast: May 2011 Testimony on Campaign Finance: 9 May 2011
Question: If you have a mild to moderate contagious disease, is it immoral to go about your ordinary business knowing that this will expose other people to the disease? I'm not talking about life-threatening illness here, nor am I talking about intentionally trying to get someone sick (like spitting in their food). I'm just talking about going to work, school, entertainment events, or scheduled appointments while you have an ordinary disease like a cold, flu, or strep throat. Is that moral?
Tags: Ethics, Health, Relationships, Rights, Work
Q&A: Building Codes: 8 May 2011, Question 4
Summary: On May 3rd, 2011, I testified in a hearing before Colorado's Secretary of State about the burdens of Colorado's campaign finance regulations. This podcast contains the full audio from my testimony, plus my answers to questions from the panel.
Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Coalition for Secular Government, Free Speech, Government, Politics, Rights
Q&A: The Morality and Limits of Revenge: 8 May 2011, Question 3
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: Government Medical Insurance: 24 Apr 2011, Question 4
Question: Is revenge ever moral? In a famous song, singer Carrie Underwood describes trashing her boyfriend's truck after she finds out that he cheated on her. Is it ever moral to seek out revenge like this on someone who has lied to you or has done something for which there are no real legal repercussions? What are the limits of moral revenge, if any?
Tags: Ethics, Justice, Revenge, Rights
Q&A: Right to Legal Counsel: 24 Apr 2011, Question 3
Question: Should a person with a pre-existing medical condition that disqualifies him from most major medical insurance plans sign up for a state-sponsored high-risk insurance pool? I'm a 1099 independent software contractor, and I'm responsible for my own health insurance. I have a pre-existing condition that disqualifies me from most of the major medical insurers. My current insurer offers few benefits, and the company is notorious for trying to deny claims. I was also diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my cheek. That's being treated, but I'll be all the more uninsurable in the future. However, the state where I live has a high-risk insurance pool available. Financially, this plan would be a much better deal than I have with my current insurance company. I would have to pay premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance, so this plan is not complete welfare. However, I'm obviously wary of becoming dependent on the government for such a plan, and I don't want to contribute to the continued socialization of the health-care system. I have some other options, like trying to find a job that offers benefits, but I love my current job. Am I trying to eat my cake and have it too by signing up for the state plan, which would allow me to stay in my current job without the worry of a major medical issue ruining me and my family financially?
Tags: Ethics, Government, Medicine, Rights
Podcast: Two More Tidbits from Liberty on the Rocks: 20 Apr 2011
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
Summary: This podcasts consists of two impromptu tidbits from my April 6th, 2011 appearance at Liberty on the Rocks
in Denver. The first is on the factual basis for rights, and the second concerns the Rawlsian argument from luck against capitalism.
Tags: Capitalism, Desert, John Rawls, Justice, Luck, Moral Luck, Rights
Q&A: Animal Rights: 3 Apr 2011, Question 1
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: 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: Bribing Government Officials: 20 Feb 2011, Question 6
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: Government Secrets: 20 Feb 2011, Question 5
Question: Is it immoral to bribe a government official? There are many approvals and licenses that are required to be taken by individual and/or companies for doing anything. But they are not granted unless you bribe the concerned government official. (They are not ashamed of asking you directly.) In that case, is it immoral on your part to bribe them as you have no way out?
Tags: Corruption, Ethics, Government, 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: Returning Lost Property: 9 Jan 2011, Question 6
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
Podcast: Preview of Eric Daniels Webcast on Free Speech: 3 Jan 2011
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: Eating Pets: 26 Dec 2010, Question 4
Summary: This is the teaser for Eric Daniels' webcast on the foundations of free speech. (That webcast is no longer available for sale.)
Tags: Free Speech, Politics, Rights
Q&A: What To Do about Wikileaks: 26 Dec 2010, Question 3
Question: Would you kill your pets for food? Why and why not?
Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Ethics, Pets, Rights
Q&A: Criminal Death of a Fetus: 19 Dec 2010, Question 4
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
Q&A: Sanctioning the TSA: 5 Dec 2010, Question 6
Question: Should a criminal who kills a pregnant woman (and her unborn child) be charged for two murders or one? Does it matter if she's obviously pregnant or not? (Perhaps it should only matter in the sentencing phase of the trial?) I've read your paper on the "personhood" movement and I agree that a person does not have rights until they're born, but it seems different in this situation. Where is my thinking flawed, or is it?
Tags: Abortion, Crime, Ethics, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: Hitting Kids in Public: 21 Nov 2010, Question 3
Question: Given the TSA's policies, is choosing to fly giving the sanction of the victim?
Tags: Ethics, Government, Rights, Sanction
Interview: Stephen Bailey on Politics Based on Principle: 23 Sep 2010
Question: What (if any) is the appropriate response to a parent hitting his or her child in public? Generally, I remove my own children as quickly as I can so they don't have to witness it, and have shot my share of shocked and disgusted looks toward the parents in question. (For the record, I'm opposed to physical punishment of children, but I even know parents who do spank who are similarly shocked and uncomfortable when others do this in public.)
Tags: Children, Corporal Punishment, Ethics, Parenting, Punishment, Rights, Violence
Podcast: The Rules of Property Owners: 29 Sep 2009
Summary: What does a principled political candidate say and do? Stephen Bailey
– the Republican candidate for US House of Representatives for Colorado's Second District in 2010 – gives us a good example in this discussion of his principles and prospects.
Tags: Abortion, Alcohol/Drugs, Campaign Finance, Economy, Elections, Environmentalism, Government, Immigration, Personhood, Politics, Religion, Rights, Taxes
Interview: Craig Biddle on Egoism and Altruism in American Culture: 23 Sep 2009
Summary: I answer two questions on whether people are obliged to respect the rules of property owners to the letter.
Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Paternalism, Principles, Property Rights, Rationality, Rationalization, Respect, Rights, Rules
Podcast: Accepting an Inheritance and Objectionable Work: 15 Sep 2009
Summary: I interview Craig Biddle about egoism and altruism in American culture and politics, based on his new article "The Creed of Sacrifice vs. The Land of Liberty
Tags: Altruism, Charity, Christianity, Conservatism, Culture, Egoism, Ethics, Government, Politics, Rights, Self-Interest
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