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Lifeboat Situations Revisited

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DanielMuff Posted: Wed, Nov 4 2009 8:46 PM

What would be the moral answer to this situation:

A cruise ship has a fire in the hold and begins to sink rapidly. Six passengers plus a ship's officer find themselves on a lifeboat far out at sea. There are sufficient room and provisions for a total of six, not seven, people. The officer is indispensable. He has a compass and is experienced in handling the boat and the rough sea. He realizes that to save six, he must decide which of the passengers can be sacrificed. The passengers include: a star football quarterback, an unwed pregnant teenager, an elderly nun, a 24-year-old drug dealer who lifts weights and has strong arms, a 70-year-old Pulitzer Prize poet, and a terminally ill librarian given one year to live. Who should the officer sacrifice and why?

Please, no links to Rothbard's chapter of lifeboat situations. And, yes, it doesn't really make any sense that there are 7 people on a lifeboat that only fits 6, but is how the scenario was proposed.

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he should sacrifice all of them by not sacrificing any of them. anyone that wants to jump to save the others is free to do so. too bad if they all go down. nature and people who construct elaborate scenarios are a bitchWink

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I kid of agree with nir. Why does the question assume that the officer must choose someone to die in the first place?

Austrians do it a priori

Irish Liberty Forum 

 

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Is the officer deemed the owner of the lifeboat?

If so, he has the right to remove anyone he wants from his property.  I don't think it's really up to us to say who he should remove. Who he chooses is up to his value judgment.

He may want the pregnant teen to stay if he thinks they'll end up on a deserted island and wants to repopulate.

He may want the nun to stay for his own religious motives.

He may want the poet to stay because of his/her artistry.

He may want the librarian to stay because he's a bibliophile.

 

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David Z replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 9:04 PM

Daniel:
What would be the moral answer to this [literal lifeboat scenario]

Asking us to decide who ought to be sacrificed is kind of a silly exercise.

Convention dictates that the ship's officer shouldn't have been anywhere near the lifeboat :) of course your mileage may vary...

This situation, however, conveniently dictates that he is on the lifeboat, and that he must be on the lifeboat in order to avoid everyone's death.  Further, it seems to stipulate that he is unilaterally in charge of determining who will be sacrificially tossed in to the sea.

The poet and the librarian are pretty much useless in a strict utilitarian assessment.  But most people, I presume, would choose jettison the drug dealer despite his physical prowess on account of his unsavory career choice. Whether they could effect this result is another question entirely.

In the real world, I'd say odds are that the elderly nun sacrifices herself.

I want to reiterate though: I believe there is no correct answer to the question, "Who should be sacrificed?"

============================

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Sieben replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 9:16 PM

What if they formed a government on the lifeboat. That would solve all their problems. This is obviously an example of market failure.

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Le Master:
If so, he has the right to remove anyone he wants from his property.

No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Angurse replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 9:28 PM

Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.

Even at the expense of the owner (and everyone else)?

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MatthewWilliam:

I kid of agree with nir. Why does the question assume that the officer must choose someone to die in the first place?

I didn't formulate the question, but I guessing it's because there would be no other way "sacrifice" one passenger.

Le Master:

Is the officer deemed the owner of the lifeboat? ...

The people who formulate these situations usually wouldn't consider that.

David Z:

Daniel:
What would be the moral answer to this [literal lifeboat scenario]

Asking us to decide who ought to be sacrificed is kind of a silly exercise.

Hey, now! College professor don't impose silly exercises. :D

David Z:

... The poet and the librarian are pretty much useless in a strict utilitarian assessment.  But most people, I presume, would choose jettison the drug dealer despite his physical prowess on account of his unsavory career choice. Whether they could effect this result is another question entirely.

Personally, I would go for the poet. At least the drug dealer provides a good that people want. :D

 

Snowflake:

What if they formed a government on the lifeboat. That would solve all their problems. This is obviously an example of market failure.

Actually, one of my classmates suggested that the passengers vote on who gets sacrificed. 

 

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Daniel:
Who should the officer sacrifice and why?

The question assumes the officer has the right to choose one.  So did everyone on the boat agree to let the officer choose?  I will assume they did.  If so, and I were the officer, I would have everyone draw straws.  Or I would use eny meny miney mo.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Le Master:
If so, he has the right to remove anyone he wants from his property.
Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.
There's no such thing as the right to life.

 

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Angurse:

Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.

Even at the expense of the owner (and everyone else)?

Yes.  If it is that bad, he can jump off.  If the rest of them are that stupid, to let him die, then that is their problem.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Knight_of_BAAWA:

Le Master:
If so, he has the right to remove anyone he wants from his property.
Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.
There's no such thing as the right to life.

How would you rule on this case if it were brought to you as arbitration, and the officer killed someone without getting consent first?  Would you say, "there is no right to life, so, no wrong committed"?

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Spideynw:

Knight_of_BAAWA:

Le Master:
If so, he has the right to remove anyone he wants from his property.
Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.
There's no such thing as the right to life.

In a civilized society, legally speaking, yes there is.

So wouldn't the officer have the right to life as well, and therefore, be able to sacrifice someone else? If a passenger has the right to life, does that mean he has the right to sacrifice the officer?

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
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Daniel:
So wouldn't the officer have the right to life as well, and therefore, be able to sacrifice someone else? If a passenger has the right to life, does that mean he has the right to sacrifice the officer?

Right to life just means that no one has the right to take your life without your consent.  Lack of action resulting in death is not the same as killing someone.  No one has positive rights.  There is no obligation on me to keep you alive.  At least, that is what my opinion would be as an arbitrator.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Sieben replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 9:42 PM

I dont usually like to apply Justice to situations... but if they could make the decision from behind the veil of ignorance I believe the result would be satisfactory.

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z1235 replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 9:43 PM

"Survivor" template: They all are aware of the circumstances (7 people, space for 6) and agree on an anonymous poll (vote) where each member suggests a member to be "voted off". The one with most votes gets thrown out. If everyone gets a single vote, the poll is repeated with everyone suggesting their second "vote off" choice. Repeat until a single member appears with most votes. Seems the fairest way to handle this. 

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Spideynw:

Daniel:
So wouldn't the officer have the right to life as well, and therefore, be able to sacrifice someone else? If a passenger has the right to life, does that mean he has the right to sacrifice the officer?

Right to life just means that no one has the right to take your life without your consent.  Lack of action resulting in death is not the same as killing someone.  No one has positive rights.  There is no obligation on me to keep you alive.  At least, that is what my opinion would be as an arbitrator.

It's just that "right to life" sounds like a misnomer.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
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z1235 meet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow's_impossibility_theorem

 

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Angurse replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:04 PM

Spideynw:
Yes.  If it is that bad, he can jump off.  If the rest of them are that stupid, to let him die, then that is their problem.

That doesn't make any sense. Why would he, the owner, jump off (to die) when hes going to die because of other passengers on his boat? And its hardly stupid to let the seventh person die when only six can survive.

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Stephen replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:04 PM

This is a hard one. The star quarterback is definitely in. His earning potential is higher than everybody else's so he's worth more to society than any of the other candidates. The drug dealer is probably the second greatest contributor to society. He's probably really good at his trade given that he's above ground and out of jail at 24. Besides who else will supply the quarterback with steroids? The pregnant teenager is probably going to be the greatest drain on society. She's likely irresponsible and a very likely welfare candidate. And her child doesn't stand much chance of becoming a success. You might even be doing the kid a favour. That said, you can save two lives with one seat. Probably better to keep her. If you save the preg. teen, you will need the good will of the nun to help make sure the kid has a real chance at a life. The poet? His life expectancy is probably lower than the librarian's. They're both pretty useless and haven't got much time. Coin toss.

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z1235 replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:08 PM

nirgrahamUK:

 

From the link:

"Arrow's theorem says that if the decision-making body has at least two members and at least three options to decide among, then it is impossible to design a social welfare function that satisfies all these conditions at once."

 

Sorry but can't see how this relevant for the situation. They ALL know that all conditions cannot be satisfied (i.e. one of them must go). I'm only saying that if I were on that boat I'd recommend this scheme (or agree to it) if someone else suggested it. If voting is what bothered you then I'd also agree to a good old "short straw" draw. I have a feeling that there's no theorem that proves the ineffectiveness of that one, but I could be wrong. Smile

Z.

 

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Spideynw replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:18 PM

Angurse:

Spideynw:
Yes.  If it is that bad, he can jump off.  If the rest of them are that stupid, to let him die, then that is their problem.

That doesn't make any sense. Why would he, the owner, jump off (to die) when hes going to die because of other passengers on his boat? And its hardly stupid to let the seventh person die when only six can survive.

He would jump off, because he has no right to kill another person.  Again, rights to life trump rights to property.  No one has an obligation to keep another person alive.  None of the other six are obligated to jump off just so the rest can survive.  And I was saying if they let the officer die, who is obviously important for their survival, then that is their problem.

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Stephen replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:36 PM

The captain really should go down with the ship. His suicide pact is by and large a guarantor of competent performance.

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Spideynw:

rights to life trump rights to property. 

Where does this right to life come from..?  Burden of proof is on you to provide logical, empirical evidence of such a right.

You observe, but you do not see.

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Angurse replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:40 PM

Spideynw:

He would jump off, because he has no right to kill another person.  Again, rights to life trump rights to property.  No one has an obligation to keep another person alive.  None of the other six are obligated to jump off just so the rest can survive.  And I was saying if they let the officer die, who is obviously important for their survival, then that is their problem.

This is a contradiction. Obligations correspond with rights. To say you have a right to life, which in this case is a right to continue using my boat, is an obligation. As I (the owner) am obliged to let you stay. And If you believe people have a right to life then someone has to go, as my (the owners) life depends on you (anyone else) exiting my property. You're "rights" are killing me!

(Thankfully, there isn't such a right, and therefore no obligations)

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 10:53 PM

Daniel:
A cruise ship has a fire in the hold and begins to sink rapidly.

Did someone start the fire? Is there anyone who started the fire, in the life boat trying to be saved?

Daniel:
Six passengers plus a ship's officer find themselves on a lifeboat far out at sea.

Was there anything in the contract the passengers signed that dealt with such an emergency situation?

Daniel:
There are sufficient room and provisions for a total of six, not seven, people.

Rationing is not possible? There is suddenly no room for the extra person, who is already in the boat, that is impossible, is illogical, invalid and does not make any sense.

If you are to add the corollary that there is someone who is in the water, who the six come across - then it is simple, those who homesteaded the seats first, that is their property (if there was no owner, or instructions left by owner). They can choose to let anyone in their space, sit on their lap, or what not.

Alternatively, if the officer has been designated the agent of the owner (person who owns the boat) and has been given authority to determine who can, or cannot join, it is up to him. *

Daniel:
The passengers include: a star football quarterback, an unwed pregnant teenager, an elderly nun, a 24-year-old drug dealer who lifts weights and has strong arms, a 70-year-old Pulitzer Prize poet, and a terminally ill librarian given one year to live.

It is irrelevant as to who, or what they do. That is utilitarian, they all have natural rights.

Daniel:
Who should the officer sacrifice and why?

* Why must someone be sacrificed? How will this person be sacrificed? Who will murder this person? How will the family react, when and if these people are saved? Will they be sympathetic, or will they call their DRO and PDA to take the murderer to trial? Was the person [murderer] within their rights to defend their property against the initiation of force? Or did they themselves initiate force?

So it ends up being a calculation of risk in the moment.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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Conza88 replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 11:08 PM

Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.

There is no right to life. Life is property. You own yourself. You do not have a right to live, in the sense of positive rights.

"Oh, I need food otherwise I will die... [demands bread from baker]."

Spideynw:
How would you rule on this case if it were brought to you as arbitration, and the officer killed someone without getting consent first?  Would you say, "there is no right to life, so, no wrong committed"?

Did the officer iniate violence, or was it defensive. What his ownership / control of the property legitimate or not. Simple.

If the officer has been deemed to unjustly killed the person, i.e initiated violence. Then he is a murder.

It is then for the victims of the family to decide what to do with you. You have violated someones rights (property), to the extent they lose their life - that means you lose the same.

Now they may see the situation as what it is, a life boat situation - and demand monetary payment, or they may be extremely bitter and wish to see you punished by death. Now, remember - methodological individualism... if it later comes to light that the information used to condemn the 'murder' was false or wrong, and he was unjustly killed.. then whoever put to death the murder, is they themselves - a murderer. So there would be considerable efforts made, to not screw it up - to be certain. As opposed to the current situation with the state.

The officer may convince them, that he was only doing what he thought was right for the other 6 people. They may decide not to punish him at all, and instead forgive him.

Reputation and the local reaction could also play a factor. If it was deemed extenuating circumstances, public outcry might push for the victims family to be lenient. Alternatively, it may push them towards choosing to end the murderers life. This is a factor, because their own reputations may be affected by the decision they make. They too potentially could be ostracized etc.

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Conza88 replied on Wed, Nov 4 2009 11:20 PM

Stephen:
This is a hard one.

It is when you use utilitarianism as your guide.
Stephen:
The star quarterback is definitely in. His earning potential is higher than everybody else's so he's worth more to society than any of the other candidates.

He is injured in trying to escape the fire and can never play football again.
Stephen:
The drug dealer is probably the second greatest contributor to society. He's probably really good at his trade given that he's above ground and out of jail at 24.

Who determines it is a contribution? His customers get high and become unproductive, you could argue that crime increases. That is if you are assuming a state, which seems to be the case given you commented drug dealing is currently deemed as criminal.
Stephen:
Besides who else will supply the quarterback with steroids?

Doctors.
Stephen:
The pregnant teenager is probably going to be the greatest drain on society. She's likely irresponsible and a very likely welfare candidate.

The pregnant teenager found love and has met the man of her dreams, she was on the boat going to meet her fiance to start a new life together in Austria.
Stephen:
And her child doesn't stand much chance of becoming a success. You might even be doing the kid a favour.

Who determines success? She is carrying the next Murray Rothbard. A free society is set back several generations.
Stephen:
Coin toss.

That's what you get when you have utilitarianism. The point is, you can argue anything - it's all bs.

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Conza88:
Spideynw:
How would you rule on this case if it were brought to you as arbitration, and the officer killed someone without getting consent first?  Would you say, "there is no right to life, so, no wrong committed"?

Did the officer iniate violence, or was it defensive. What his ownership / control of the property legitimate or not. Simple.

If the officer has been deemed to unjustly killed the person, i.e initiated violence. Then he is a murder.

It is then for the victims of the family to decide what to do with you. You have violated someones rights (property), to the extent they lose their life - that means you lose the same.

Now they may see the situation as what it is, a life boat situation - and demand monetary payment, or they may be extremely bitter and wish to see you punished by death. Now, remember - methodological individualism... if it later comes to light that the information used to condemn the 'murder' was false or wrong, and he was unjustly killed.. then whoever put to death the murder, is they themselves - a murderer. So there would be considerable efforts made, to not screw it up - to be certain. As opposed to the current situation with the state.

The officer may convince them, that he was only doing what he thought was right for the other 6 people. They may decide not to punish him at all, and instead forgive him.

Reputation and the local reaction could also play a factor. If it was deemed extenuating circumstances, public outcry might push for the victims family to be lenient. Alternatively, it may push them towards choosing to end the murderers life. This is a factor, because their own reputations may be affected by the decision they make. They too potentially could be ostracized etc.

This.

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Spideynw replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:05 AM

Justin Laws:

Spideynw:

rights to life trump rights to property. 

Where does this right to life come from..?  Burden of proof is on you to provide logical, empirical evidence of such a right.

No I don't.  I just have to satisfy the customers, as an arbitrator.  A "right" is just a legal claim. 

Let me ask you, how would you rule on this case if you were the arbitrator?  What would be your justification for the ruling, given that the officer killed one of the six?

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Spideynw replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:06 AM

Angurse:

Spideynw:

He would jump off, because he has no right to kill another person.  Again, rights to life trump rights to property.  No one has an obligation to keep another person alive.  None of the other six are obligated to jump off just so the rest can survive.  And I was saying if they let the officer die, who is obviously important for their survival, then that is their problem.

This is a contradiction. Obligations correspond with rights. To say you have a right to life, which in this case is a right to continue using my boat, is an obligation. As I (the owner) am obliged to let you stay. And If you believe people have a right to life then someone has to go, as my (the owners) life depends on you (anyone else) exiting my property. You're "rights" are killing me!

(Thankfully, there isn't such a right, and therefore no obligations)

OK, so, given the scenario, if you were an arbitrator, and the situation is that the officer killed one of the six, how would you rule on the case?

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Angurse replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:11 AM

Spideynw:
OK, so, given the scenario, if you were an arbitrator, and the situation is that the officer killed one of the six, how would you rule on the case?

He's a tragic hero.  I'm not going to condemn him nor praise him.

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Spideynw replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:19 AM

Conza88:

Spideynw:
No, one does not have the right to throw someone off of his or her property if it means the death of the person.  Rights to life trump rights to property.

There is no right to life.

Again, when I say a right to life I mean that no one can kill you without your consent.  I don't know where this whole confusion about a right to life meaning a positive right came from.  I have never heard anyone ever make this claim.

Conza88:

Spideynw:
How would you rule on this case if it were brought to you as arbitration, and the officer killed someone without getting consent first?  Would you say, "there is no right to life, so, no wrong committed"?

Did the officer iniate violence, or was it defensive.

Well, given the scenario, he chose someone and killed him, to save the other six of them..  So, would you consider that self-defense?

Conza88:
What his ownership / control of the property legitimate or not. Simple.

So someone can own another person?  If not, then how is he justified in killing someone else?

Conza88:
If the officer has been deemed to unjustly killed the person, i.e initiated violence. Then he is a murder.

How do you deem it?  Was it just or not?  Where do you stand?  What are your morals?

Conza88:
It is then for the victims of the family to decide what to do with you. You have violated someones rights (property), to the extent they lose their life - that means you lose the same.

I thought the topic of this thread was whether or not the action was moral, not what the punishment should be.  Am I wrong?  If not, aren't we supposed to start a new thread instead of hijacking this one?

 

 

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Spideynw replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:23 AM

Angurse:

Spideynw:
OK, so, given the scenario, if you were an arbitrator, and the situation is that the officer killed one of the six, how would you rule on the case?

He's a tragic hero.  I'm not going to condemn him nor praise him.

So you think it is OK to kill someone, as long as one believes that it will be better for others, even if he or she has not harmed anyone?

At most, I think only 5% of the adult population would need to stop cooperating to have real change.

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Angurse replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 12:31 AM

Spideynw:
So you think it is OK to kill someone, as long as one believes that it will be better for others, even if he or she has not harmed anyone?

I don't know how you jumped to that. Stick to the scenario at hand. I think its OK to kill someone when your life depends on it.

"I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality."
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Conza88 replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 2:06 AM

Spideynw:
Again, when I say a right to life I mean that no one can kill you without your consent. 

No-one would ever consent to being killed; especially criminals and murders, people who initiate violence against others.
Spideynw:
Conza88:
Spideynw:
How would you rule on this case if it were brought to you as arbitration, and the officer killed someone without getting consent first?  Would you say, "there is no right to life, so, no wrong committed"?

Did the officer initiate violence, or was it defensive.
Well, given the scenario, he chose someone and killed him, to save the other six of them..  So, would you consider that self-defense?

Was his ownership / control of the property legitimate or not?


I anticipated these objections... The scenario is bogus without further information. In a real life situation, if we are to assume what you want - i.e how would I decide on the case if brought to arbitration, I'd need those questions answered! So I asked, but they have instead been ignored.

You want a definitive answer to a hypothetical question. I outlined the potential scenarios, to different potential answers and what would possibly result.

Spideynw:
Conza88:
What his ownership / control of the property legitimate or not. Simple.
So someone can own another person?  If not, then how is he justified in killing someone else?

No, you cannot own another person. Why does that even need to be asked? I thought that would be clear from what had been written.

Are you justified in defending your property (yourself included) from the initiation of violence?

Of course you are.

Spideynw:
Conza88:
If the officer has been deemed to unjustly killed the person, i.e initiated violence. Then he is a murder.

How do you deem it?  Was it just or not?  Where do you stand?  What are your morals?

How on earth is it not obvious from what I have previously written? Tongue Tied

How do I deem it? - The officer initiated violence against someone and killed them. Assuming his ownership / control of the boat was not legitimate. And the person killed, the victim was justified in their seat - that they homesteaded. He initiated violence against them and their property, trying to kick them out when he had no right.

Again, you have asked me about specifically this scenario, should the officer had legitimate ownership / control of the boat and they come across someone in the water, they cannot afford to let in the boat, and that person tries to get in, that person is initiating violence against their justly acquired property (boat), thus they have the right to defend their property. What is so hard to understand?

Was it just? - Did he initiate violence or not? Is his ownership / control of the property (boat) legitimate?

Where do you stand? - You're not serious are you? The initiation of violence is unethical.

Spideynw:
Conza88:
It is then for the victims of the family to decide what to do with you. You have violated someones rights (property), to the extent they lose their life - that means you lose the same.

I thought the topic of this thread was whether or not the action was moral, not what the punishment should be.

And every single thing I have written addressed the OP's scenario. Or do you contend the consequences would never, or should never come into the minds of those who are on board the boat?

Spideynw:
Am I wrong?  If not, aren't we supposed to start a new thread instead of hijacking this one?

You are wrong. And who should determine if a thread is hijacked, surely the OP, no?

What's he think?

Daniel:
This.


Cool

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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AJ replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 2:25 AM

Assuming we want a free market to decide the law, why would each of our opinions on the morality of the situation matter?

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AJ:

Assuming we want a free market to decide the law, why would each of our opinions on the morality of the situation matter?

**shrugs shoulders**

It's the type of question posed to college students.

To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."

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Conza88 replied on Thu, Nov 5 2009 3:46 AM

AJ:

Assuming we want a free market to decide the law, why would each of our opinions on the morality of the situation matter?

Reason determines Natural law, which flows to natural rights & natural justice. DRO's would be engaged in determining who is right or wrong, that is what they have been hired to do.

I did not comment on the morality of the situation.

And yes I know your position on natural rights.. so let's not get side tracked.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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