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Sacrificing one for the many??

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tangobob5000 Posted: Thu, Feb 11 2010 10:43 PM

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

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fakename replied on Thu, Feb 11 2010 11:07 PM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

As far as you can you shouldn't kill that person but If it must absolutely be then it should be right. However under anarchy such situations decrease -since you can get most people to agree to voluntarily sacrifice for others.

Although as a matter of heroism, you might be justified in dying with him rather than have someone's blood on your hands.

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Stranger replied on Thu, Feb 11 2010 11:08 PM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

Is that one person yourself?

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Marko replied on Thu, Feb 11 2010 11:09 PM

No it would not be alright. But that is not the same question as the question of would you do it.

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William replied on Thu, Feb 11 2010 11:24 PM

Lifeboat situations can arise in any situation with any code, law, and creed. My advice think of it as an anomoly, phenomena, and massive break in the homeostasis to whatever effects your life; make the judgement as it comes and never blame yourself for it.  All you can try to do is act within the best of your ability to the best of your reason AT THE TIME. 

Think of the code of law you go by as something that works only within range of a certain homeostasis.

"I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego: I am unique. Hence my wants too are unique, and my deeds; in short, everything about me is unique" Max Stirner
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Marko replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 12:09 AM

By the way time permitting you should watch Fail-Safe (1964). It deals with something like this.

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bloomj31 replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 12:09 AM

Who's the one person?  Who are the million people?

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Conza88 replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 1:40 AM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

I'm just going to jump straight to the gun here. This paragraph is going to appear out of context. So before anyone loses their "shit", please read the article and put it into context, and properly grasp what is meant. Smile

Regarding a similar scenario above...

Radical Privatization and other Libertarian Conundrums by Walter Block

Block, Walter. 2002. “Radical Privatization and other Libertarian Conundrums,” The International Journal of Politics and Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 165-175

On the other hand, given that libertarianism, strictly and narrowly construed, does not forbid killing the innocent, but only requires that such a person be duly punished, its claim to promote utility can still be maintained.

...

Here is Rothbard, essentially saying the same thing as Block. (Block, same as Rothbard)

It may well be objected to our theory as follows: that a theory of property rights or even of self-ownership is derivable from the conditions by which man survives and flourishes in this world, and that therefore in this kind of extreme situation, where a man is faced with the choice of either saving himself or violating the property rights of the lifeboat owner (or, in the above example, of the "homesteader" in the boat), it is then ridiculous to expect him to surrender his life on behalf of the abstract principle of property rights. Because of this kind of consideration, many libertarians who otherwise believe in property rights gravely weaken them on behalf of the "contextualist" contention that, given a choice between his life and aggressing against someone else's property or even life, it is moral for him to commit the aggression and that therefore in such a situation, these property rights cease to exist.

The error here on the part of the "contextualist" libertarians is to confuse the question of the moral course of action for the person in such a tragic situation with the totally separate question of whether or not his seizing of lifeboat or plank space by force constitutes an invasion of someone else's property right. For we are not, in constructing a theory of liberty and property, i.e., a "political" ethic, concerned with all personal moral principles. We are not here with concerned whether it is moral or immoral for someone to lie, to be a good person, to develop his faculties, or be kind or mean to his neighbors. We are concerned, in this sort of discussion, solely with such "political ethical" questions as the proper role of violence, the sphere of rights, or the definitions of criminality and aggression. Whether or not it is moral or immoral for "Smith" — the fellow excluded by the owner from the plank or the lifeboat — to force someone else out of the lifeboat, or whether he should die heroically instead, is not our concern, and not the proper concern of a theory of political ethics.[5]

The crucial point is that even if the contextualist libertarian may say that, given the tragic context, Smith should throw someone else out of the lifeboat to save his own life, he is still committing, at the very least, invasion of property rights, and probably also murder of the person thrown out. So that even if one says that he should try to save his life by forcibly grabbing a seat in the lifeboat, he is still, in our view, liable to prosecution as a criminal invader of property right, and perhaps as a murderer as well. After he is convicted, it would be the right of the lifeboat owner or the heir of the person tossed out to forgive Smith, to pardon him because of the unusual circumstances; but it would also be their right not to pardon and to proceed with the full force of their legal right to punish.

Once again, we are concerned in this theory with the rights of the case, not with whether or not a person chooses voluntarily to exercise his rights. In our view, the property owner or the heir of the killed would have a right to prosecute and to exact proper punishment upon the aggressor. The fallacy of the contextualists is to confuse considerations of individual, personal morality (what should Smith do?) with the question of the rights of the case. The right of property continues, then, to be absolute, even in the tragic lifeboat situation...

To sum up the application of our theory to extreme situations: if a man aggresses against another's person or property to save his own life, he may or may not be acting morally in so doing. That is none of our particular concern in this work. Regardless of whether his action is moral or immoral, by any criterion, he is still a criminal aggressor against the property of another, and the victim is within his right to repel that aggression by force, and to prosecute the aggressor afterward for his crime.

Pasted these from another thread, because I'm in a rush. If you want me to tailor the points to the OP, I can do that later if you want.

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tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

 

I think that' s a bit silly. Lets say theres a scenario where an evil mastermind tells you to kill one person or else another 1 million will be killed. Who's to say that those 1 million won't be killed anyway? Killing an innocent is always going to be wrong- there is no justice or compensation good enough for killing an innocent because there's no way to bring people back from the dead.

 

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Merlin replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 4:47 AM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

 

I thing no sensible human being (with the exception of Nozick and Kant) would think that for a second. Of course yes! Yet, recognizing such situations is very, very difficult. Thus, if the population level was over-optimal by a million people (I know it can’t be measured, but suppose), then these people are going to die anyway. That would not be the situation you describe, and killing that one additional guy would be wrong: the others are going to die any case.

 

And to generalize: whenever the actions of a person have led to a breach of the NAP, yet he has been forced to act thus to avoid some other breach, assuming no alternative was rationally conceivable at the moment, than I myself would not consider that punishable.   

 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Conza88 replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 4:59 AM

Merlin:
whenever the actions of a person have led to a breach of the NAP, yet he has been forced to act thus to avoid some other breach, assuming no alternative was rationally conceivable at the moment, than I myself would not consider that punishable.  

Forced to act to avoid some other breach? Hm? Can you put that in example form?

I gather you're talking about:

"An alien holds a gun to your head and says "kill someone or die." You obey. Are you guilty of murder? No: the guilt rests squarely with the alien, because you were not acting according to you own uncoerced free will. This is essentially the situation we have here."

"Wrong. You are guilty of murder. You have violated the NAP. Walter Block also addresses this very well. It's called negative homesteading and is contained within the Abortion lecture, in the second half I believe. As it roughly correlates with evictionism.

In that case the ONLY proper action is to try get the gun and kill / defend yourself against the individual (alien), forcing you against your will. You can't pass on the negative to someone else." ---

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Solredime replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 5:16 AM

Conza88:

Block, Walter. 2002. “Radical Privatization and other Libertarian Conundrums,” The International Journal of Politics and Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 165-175

On the other hand, given that libertarianism, strictly and narrowly construed, does not forbid killing the innocent, but only requires that such a person be duly punished, its claim to promote utility can still be maintained.

...

I think I remember Block mentioning in a lecture that such a person, should first be paraded as a hero for saving the million people, and then duly imprisoned or killed for murdering an innocent one. I'd say I agree.

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Merlin replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 5:41 AM

Conza88:

In that case the ONLY proper action is to try get the gun and kill / defend yourself against the individual (alien), forcing you against your will. You can't pass on the negative to someone else."

 

So, suppose The Joker forces Gordon to kill a girl. Now, the father of the girls murders Gordon in revenge. Would you punish the father? If Gordon was guilty of murder, than it is entirely within the offended party’s right to take revenge (although liability insurance would pay the father to forgive Gordon). So, is the father guilty of murder, or he should be free to go? Who breached who’s NAP? Moral ambiguity would allow for a never-ending blood feud here, so we must make up our mind.

 

Or suppose that you have been tied up with a gun placed in your hand, and an other guy has been tied in front of you. The bad guy sends an electric current through you, stimulating you muscles and forcing you to shoot the other guy. Now, it has been showed that in a small percentage of cases, some men have been able to control muscular spasms when electrified. It takes a very strong build and willpower. Does that make you a murder?

 

 

 

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Conza88 replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 8:09 AM

"So, suppose A forces B to kill C ." "Now, the guardian of C murders B in revenge." "Would you punish the guardian of C?"

Revenge is the wrong word.

"Once again, we are concerned in this theory with the rights of the case, not with whether or not a person chooses voluntarily to exercise his rights. In our view, the property owner or the heir of the killed would have a right to prosecute and to exact proper punishment upon the aggressor. The fallacy of the contextualists is to confuse considerations of individual, personal morality (what should Smith do?) with the question of the rights of the case. The right of property continues, then, to be absolute, even in the tragic lifeboat situation..."

Would I punish the guardian of C? You want my personal opinion of what I think should be done?

 

"If B was guilty of murder, than it is entirely within the offended party’s right to take revenge. So, is the guardian of C guilty of murder, or he should be free to go?"

Did B make a choice? B had three options (He can either 1 - kill the person, 2 - be killed, 3 - refuse and try to kill / defend himself against the aggressor), although coerced into them (i.e obviously making the A guilty regardless, as he is using B as his means.)

"In our case, when we ask if someone was the cause of a certain aggression, we are asking whether the actor did choose and employ means to attain the prohibited result. For there to be “cause” in this sense, obviously there has to be cause-in-fact—this is implied by the notion of the means employed “attaining” or resulting in the actor’s end. Intentionality is also a factor, because action has to be intentional to be an action (the means is chosen and employed intentionally; the actor intends to achieve a given end)."

So yes, if B is guilty - i.e 1 - chose to kill the girl, instead of 2 or 3, then the heir, agent / guardian of the girl can legitimately punish the murderer, if they choose to do so.


"(although liability insurance would pay the father to forgive B)"

I don't know about that.

Merlin:
Who breached who’s NAP?

A breached B's. B also breached C's.

Merlin:
Or suppose that you have been tied up with a gun placed in your hand, and an other guy has been tied in front of you. The bad guy sends an electric current through you, stimulating you muscles and forcing you to shoot the other guy. Now, it has been showed that in a small percentage of cases, some men have been able to control muscular spasms when electrified. It takes a very strong build and willpower. Does that make you a murder?

No, it doesn't and here is why. The difference from the above is, (in the above) B has physical control over his body. He is coerced into a position and that is unethical, he has had a threat made against him. He can either 1 - kill the person, 2 - be killed, 3 - refuse and try to kill / defend himself against the aggressor. Only 3 is the proper course of action. If he chooses 1. Then he himself can justly be killed, by heir, PDA etc. if they so choose to punish him.

In this case, the person does not. He may not want to kill the person, but A physically intervenes... it's not longer a threat (like the first case), here - the person cannot refuse, even if they wanted to. And no, I call bs on your control of muscular spasms when being electrified. Regardless however;

In the context of legal analysis, one important praxeological doctrine is the distinction between action and mere behavior. The difference between action and behavior boils down to intent. Action is an individual’s intentional intervention in the physical world, via certain selected means, with the purpose of attaining a state of affairs that is preferable to the conditions that would prevail in the absence of the action. Mere behavior, by contrast, is a person’s physical movements that are not undertaken intentionally and that do not manifest any purpose, plan, or design. Mere behavior cannot be aggression;aggression must be deliberate, it must be an action.

...

As legal theorists, therefore, we cannot accept an entirely mechanistic picture of the world. Legal theorizing is concerned with the ethical implications of action. It asks whether an actor should be held responsible for the consequences of his actions. And to hold someone responsible for the consequences of his actions is implicitly to invoke the two-fold concept of causality expressed above. For there even to be consequences in the first place, the physical world must be governed by time-invariant causal relations. And to hold an actor responsible for those consequences, we must determine that they can be traced back to his own deliberate use of means to achieve a desired result: his “action” cannot itself be a merely mechanical response to physical stimuli; he is the author, or “cause,” of the results achieved. In other words, like Austrian economics, legal theory must presuppose both time-invariant causation (an actor could not employ means to attain his goal otherwise) and agent-causation in which the actor himself is the cause of results that he intended to achieve by the use of certain means (the actor is not acting otherwise).

...

Hitting someone without permission is an example of the kind of aggression libertarians oppose. If it is illegal to hit someone, however, this means that it is illegal to cause another person to be hit; that is to say, it is illegal to use physical objects, including one’s fist, in a way that will cause unwanted physical contact with another person. Therefore, if A does intentionally (and uninvitedly) hit B, he can be held responsible for the action—the aggression can be imputed to him and he can be lawfully punished for it—because A’s decision to hit his victim was not itself conditioned by strictly physical laws. It was volitional. A—not some impersonal force of nature, and not some other person— was the cause of the aggression against B. A’s aggression is an action.

The general question facing libertarians, then, is whether a particular actor, by his action, intentionally caused the prohibited result—an uninvited border-crossing. Implicitly, the libertarian prohibition on the initiation of force is a prohibition on willfully causing an unwanted intrusion. --- Causation and Aggression by Stephan Kinsella & Patrick Tinsley.

Clearly the individual who is being physically coerced, did not intend to achieve those results.

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Marko replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 8:35 AM

BTW, suppose you are instead in a situation where you either have to kill seventeen people or else eighteen people will be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice the seventeen people for the eighteen people??? Or should you not kill the seventeen and have eighteen killed?

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to the OP:  logical fallacy of isolation

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Marko replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 8:51 AM

Fred Furash:

Conza88:

Block, Walter. 2002. “Radical Privatization and other Libertarian Conundrums,” The International Journal of Politics and Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 165-175

On the other hand, given that libertarianism, strictly and narrowly construed, does not forbid killing the innocent, but only requires that such a person be duly punished, its claim to promote utility can still be maintained.

...

I think I remember Block mentioning in a lecture that such a person, should first be paraded as a hero for saving the million people, and then duly imprisoned or killed for murdering an innocent one. I'd say I agree.

Potentially he would also need to be boiled alive or some such.

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nhaag replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 9:27 AM

No

In the begining there was nothing, and it exploded.

Terry Pratchett (on the big bang theory)

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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 9:54 AM

tangobob5000:
Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

I would acquit the killer in a heartbeat. The killer is a hero if ever there was one.

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Marko replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 10:18 AM

AJ:

tangobob5000:
Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

I would acquit the killer in a heartbeat. The killer is a hero if ever there was one.

Not up to you to acquit him. You ain't his victim.

 

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z1235 replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 10:30 AM

tangobob5000:
Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

If, instead, the potential "sacrificed" person killed you first, in self-defense -- thus stopping you in your courageous act and resulting in the death of the one-million -- would he be guilty of: (1) murdering you, (2) murdering you and the one  million, (3) nothing. Would it matter whether the "sacrificed" knew that his survival would've meant the death of one million?

Z.

 

 

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AJ:

tangobob5000:
Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

I would acquit the killer in a heartbeat. The killer is a hero if ever there was one.

But this hypothetical is just absolutely ridiculous. What type of scenario could possibly take place where one innocent has to be KILLED to save one million? It doesn't make sense. Maybe I have a terrible imaginiation so perhaps the OP can help me out, but  I can't envision anything where if there is a possibility of 1 million people being killed by something- that the death of one man could prevent it.  Its never ever ok to kill anyone innocent, period.  That type of thinking always leads to a more dangerous path.

 

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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 6:38 PM

auctionguy10:
Its never ever ok to kill anyone innocent, period.  That type of thinking always leads to a more dangerous path.

When thinking in terms of collective action, or absolutism, yes it leads to a more dangerous path. When thinking subjectively for one's own self it leads, in this case, to doing something I find quite reasonable, even though the context in which the act occurs is tragic. So it seems to me the danger is in collectivism and the like, and that utilitarianism would only be a proximate cause.

So in the current Statist context, if we were having a public policy debate, I would argue against any utilitarian "greatest happiness" legislation or judgment. Again, utilitarianism is only the proximate cause; the State is the root cause.

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AnonLLF replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 8:18 PM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

 

 

I've heard and read alot of such like supposed problems.Often they seem to be an attempt to throw off objective ethics or make you throw out your principles.They're pretty devious.Usually they involve a false dilemma in that they offer choice A or choice B with no alternatives.

who is this one person? are they innocent or gulity of crime?

who are the one million?

why must I make this choice?

What if I choose to kill myself rather than kill anyone?

what if I choose to kill those who I assume are forcing me to choose?

another tact would be to say well if I'm being forced doesn't that mean that since the act would not be voluntary it can be neither moral nor immoral and as such is amoral.I am not guilty .

My first inclination to this question is  "no" .kill no one and if others die it's not directly your fault since you killed no one.

I would probably either do that or kill myself or those forcing me rather than follow through the orders.You might say this sounds idealistic or stupid.Well,I just don't have the heart to do anything otherwise.

 

I don't really want to comment or read anything here.I have near zero in common with many of you.I may return periodically when there's something you need to know.

Near Mutualist/Libertarian Socialist.

 

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Marko replied on Fri, Feb 12 2010 11:21 PM

auctionguy10:

But this hypothetical is just absolutely ridiculous. What type of scenario could possibly take place where one innocent has to be KILLED to save one million? It doesn't make sense. Maybe I have a terrible imaginiation so perhaps the OP can help me out, but  I can't envision anything where if there is a possibility of 1 million people being killed by something- that the death of one man could prevent it.  Its never ever ok to kill anyone innocent, period.  That type of thinking always leads to a more dangerous path.

Then you have to watch Fail-Safe (1964).

 

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Merlin replied on Sat, Feb 13 2010 7:19 AM

OK, Helen H. is tree days old. We know that the kid holds an incredibly powerful mutated flu virus (innocuous to her) which shall make the Spanish flu seem a joke in comparison. It can become active any moment. It is estimated (no 100% security here) that up to 5 goddamn billion people will die. Would you wack the kid? Isolate her?

 

What if it is discovered that such a mutation is present in Helen’s mitochondrial DNA, i.e. every matrilineal relative holds it too, in a dormant form. Only some of them can be indentified. Do you wack them? Even if you do there still is a chance than the epidemics will begin anyways, as there are other matrilineal relatives which you can’t possibly identity. Does the probability of the dormant virus awaking influence the decision? What if it is almost certain (suppose that a major solar flare is excepted to activate it)? What if the chances of activation are one in a billion?

 

More extremely, what if it was discovered that every redhead holds that mutation? Every blonde? Every European? Half of humans? What if 99% of people alive hold viruses that kill the rest of us? Did the Mayans had the right to wack the Spanish if they had known that they would hold viruses that would kill of 90% of the natives? (the mayas iddn’t know that: are they still right when killing Spaniards?) How do we interfere with evolution here? Is it wise?

 

But most importantly: does anyone here believe that a universal answer can be given? Anything but the individual arbitrators answer to a single case?

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Wibee replied on Mon, Feb 15 2010 1:46 PM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

Yes, as long as the threat was direct and imminent, like a man running toward the nuke firing button.  You are free to kill the man in any other situation, but you are responsible for murder if he was innocent.  Killing a guy just because he may look threatening is wrong.  

 

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See attached.

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Zavoi replied on Tue, Feb 16 2010 12:24 AM

Conza88:

Merlin:
whenever the actions of a person have led to a breach of the NAP, yet he has been forced to act thus to avoid some other breach, assuming no alternative was rationally conceivable at the moment, than I myself would not consider that punishable.  

Forced to act to avoid some other breach? Hm? Can you put that in example form?

I gather you're talking about:

"An alien holds a gun to your head and says "kill someone or die." You obey. Are you guilty of murder? No: the guilt rests squarely with the alien, because you were not acting according to you own uncoerced free will. This is essentially the situation we have here."

"Wrong. You are guilty of murder. You have violated the NAP. Walter Block also addresses this very well. It's called negative homesteading and is contained within the Abortion lecture, in the second half I believe. As it roughly correlates with evictionism.

Block gave the example of Person A, who, being struck by a lightning bolt, can choose either to endure the pain or to pass it on to Person B. In that case, we have a conflict between A and B that can only be resolved by deciding whether A or B "should" take the pain. I'm in full agreement with you and Block here. Block quite reasonably applies the idea of negative homesteading - for any justification that A could use for passing the pain to B, B could use the same justification to pass it back to A, and the conflict would not be resolved.

But we should distinguish the case of a lightning bolt (which is not an agent capable of action) from the case of a third person (Person C) who is initiating coercion:

tangobob5000:
Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???

In both cases I think we would agree that B (here, the one person) has the right to defend him-/herself - to say otherwise is to say that someone (A in the first case, C in the second) should be able to outright murder B without resistance. The question is: does B's right of self-defense imply that A is obligated to refrain from hurting B? In the first case, yes: because otherwise our ethical theory would fail to resolve the conflict. But in the second case, our ethical theory already resolves the conflict by saying that Person C should not have set up the scenario in the first place. If we stipulate from the outset that ethical rules are being violated by C, then there is nothing inherently contradictory about saying that, between A and B, they are both in the right and there is no way to resolve their conflict by ethics; hence the need to apply the rule of negative homesteading does not arise.

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Merlin replied on Tue, Feb 16 2010 1:19 AM

Zavoi:

Block gave the example of Person A, who, being struck by a lightning bolt, can choose either to endure the pain or to pass it on to Person B. In that case, we have a conflict between A and B that can only be resolved by deciding whether A or B "should" take the pain. I'm in full agreement with you and Block here. Block quite reasonably applies the idea of negative homesteading - for any justification that A could use for passing the pain to B, B could use the same justification to pass it back to A, and the conflict would not be resolved.

 

But I'm at a loss to provide full answers to the questions in my previous post. Can you?

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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Stephen replied on Tue, Feb 16 2010 9:48 PM

bloomj31:

Who's the one person?  Who are the million people?

I think this is the right question to ask.

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Zavoi replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 12:15 AM

Sorry for the late reply; these issues are complicated and take a lot of thinking. And though I don't claim to have presented rock-solid unassailable arguments here, I can still try, rather than simply say that the questions are unanswerable.

Merlin:
But I'm at a loss to provide full answers to the questions in my previous post. Can you?

As Block says, apply the rule of homesteading (i.e., first come first served). If I'm driving on a busy highway, and suddenly I'm struck blind, I no longer have the right to keep driving and crash - the other drivers "homesteaded" their rights to life from before my blindness. So with your examples, it's ethical to quarantine the person who is a newly-become threat to others. Note, however, that the opposite is true if it's the other way around: if I suddenly change such that carbon dioxide is deadly to me, I don't have the right to stop everyone else from breathing - I have the first claim to the misery that nature has sent me.

Practically speaking, for one, it's exceedingly unlikely that 99% of the population would suddenly become dangerous - it's much more likely that 1% would become vulnerable. Also, if human immune systems are so ill-prepared that a naturally-evolved virus has the potential to kill 5 billion people, then I'd say you're pretty much screwed no matter what you do.

Merlin:
Did the Mayans had the right to wack the Spanish if they had known that they would hold viruses that would kill of 90% of the natives? (the mayas iddn’t know that: are they still right when killing Spaniards?) How do we interfere with evolution here? Is it wise?

This scenario is very non-specific, so I'll have to add a lot of qualifiers.

First of all, we would have to know the extent to which the Spaniards were causally responsible for the epidemics. For example, suppose that after a 3-week drought in a fire-prone area, there is a forest fire that causes millions of dollars' worth of damage. Suppose then it's discovered that the fire was started by someone who carelessly threw a cigarette off the side of the road. Is this person liable for all the damage? I would say, no, because forest fires are a part of nature, and at most the cigarette-thrower could be held liable for the fact that the fire occurred slightly earlier than it otherwise would have. However, assuming that the pathogenic ecosystem of the Americas was long-term stable, then yes, the natives have a good enough reason to compel the Spaniards to leave (or quarantine themselves, etc.). On the other hand, if neither the natives nor the Spaniards at all knew that the Spaniards were spreading viruses (which would be a little hard not to notice, granted), and the Spaniards have not been negligent in gathering this information (again a big if), then I think there is no basis for a liability claim by the natives against the Spaniards, even if the viruses are discovered in retrospect. In any case, killing the Spaniards is excessive, since whatever this could accomplish could also be accomplished by making them leave (assuming that the virus hasn't spread yet). I have assumed throughout that the Spaniards were not trespassing on the natives' property, which makes it easy to decide who's right.

Merlin:
But most importantly: does anyone here believe that a universal answer can be given? Anything but the individual arbitrators answer to a single case?

What would qualify as a "universal" answer? Do you think that arguing about these cases is completely superfluous? After all, even an arbitrator needs some basis on which to make a decision. If parties have brought a conflict to an arbitrator, then they already believe that there is some answer to their dispute, or else they would have just agreed to disagree. And since both parties are agreed on this point, the arbitrator may assume as much when making a decision.

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Valject replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 12:20 AM

It's a subjective situation.  There are many ways to view it.  If you are against killing people, you could look at it from the perspective that you are not the one committing the deed of killing one million people, so you are not at fault.  You would not kill the one person.  However, if you are against killing people, but believe that the one million would be on your hands, you might weigh it out numerically and decide that you are more righteous by killing the one.  You could have complete contempt for people, or you could just not care, and you could let the million die.  Or you could have complete contempt for people, but also be murderous, and you could kill the one.  That's without even judging the characteristics of the one or the million in question.  Once that enters the arena, there are even more moral quandaries to deal with.

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Merlin replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 5:53 AM

Zavoi,

I found your answers interesting, still what preoccupies me is the effect that this principle would have on evolution. For if the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica happened nowadays, and both Spaniard and Mayans whet evolved enough to understand that the Mayan immune system is ill-prepared to deal with the ordinary European flu, according to Block the Mayans would have the right to ask the Spaniards to not even set foot on the continent (although they cannot possibly homestead it all given their already meager numbers). Is such a decision wise in the long-term? I’m afraid it would precipitate a typical Misesian scenario: an overpopulated Europe and the massively under populated rest of the world, and still the Europeans cannot emigrate as it is ‘unfair’. It is easy to see that a massive war will begin, and the non-Europeans will be killed anyways.

 

So, applying the Block principle in real life it doesn’t give us a satisfactory answer all times. And that’s what I meant with “there ate no universal answers”. Arbiters will of course decide by whatever standard they hold to be ethical, and it shall only be the market that will set which of these standards will do for the issue at hand. We cannot pretend to already know what principle will apply to each and every case, not even the NAP; all we can say is what we would chose in the case at hand.

PS: even I do not know how I would deal with the scenario above. But I agree with you, that would depend much on the specific data of the case at hand.   

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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scineram replied on Wed, Feb 24 2010 5:37 AM

Conza88:
On the other hand, given that libertarianism, strictly and narrowly construed, does not forbid killing the innocent, but only requires that such a person be duly punished, its claim to promote utility can still be maintained.

This makes no sense whatsoever. How is something punishable if not forbidden?

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Feb 24 2010 9:42 AM

scineram:
This makes no sense whatsoever.

It makes complete sense. If you can't comprehend it, then I can't help you. Sorry.

If you can convince me that you actually read the article, then I might have bothered. But since you've been referred to previously as a troll, and I generally agree with the analysis - I don't think I will.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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Omega replied on Wed, Feb 24 2010 1:15 PM

tangobob5000:

I know this is an unlikely situation, but it's been bothering me a lot lately...

Alright, suppose you are in a situation where you either have to kill one person or else one million people would be killed - would it be alright to sacrifice this one person for one million???  Or should you not kill that one person and have one million people killed?

  The exact circumstances involved need to be clarified for an appropriate answer to be given. In morals and ethics there is what's known as "The Rule of Absolutes" so, one must know the details.

 

  For example, the question does not make the distinction between killing and murder. It also does not say whether the the one person to be killed agrees to be sacrificed, etc., etc.

  As a Christian I would need to know the specifics involved. Some Eskimo tribes sacrificed a diseased person within their tribe; otherwise the entire tribe would have perished. As a Christian I would not disagree with the morality involved in this particular case and I don't know many others who would.

  Can you present a more specific example?

 

 

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