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Everything posted by Dismuke

  1. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I completely agree that a medical emergency per se does not threaten anyone's right to life. If a person has a heart attack and is being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, it is definitely a medical emergency and his life is definitely threatened. But, as you correctly point out, there is not a threat to his right to life. The only time when an emergency, medical or otherwise, has right to life implications is in those situations when a person becomes either mentally or physically incapacitated and is, therefore, metaphysically unable to act on his own behalf. An understanding of exactly what right to life means is crucial here. A number of people in this thread have talked about the implications of right to life with regard to other people - i.e., the fact that others must not initiate force. But what does right to live mean in regard to one's own life? As a human being, I have a right to life. What does that mean? Does it mean that I have a right to continued existence? No, it does not. That would be a metaphysical impossibility. There are countless potential threats to my life, not all of which can be minimized or addressed by human intervention. Of those that can, many require the assistance of other people - and, as has been pointed out several times here, we do not have the right to unearned assistance from others. What my right to life means is nothing more than the fact that I have the right to make the decisions and act on them accordingly towards the end of preserving and enhancing my life. The ability to do this - to make decisions and act accordingly - is a precondition of human survival. All of our rights are based on our being free to act according to our own rational judgment. Consider the rights of "liberty" and "pursuit of happiness" - both basically consist of freedom to make decisions and act accordingly. "Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" are all different aspects of the same thing: the right to act according to one's judgment. Any of your other rights, such as your right to property, are merely derivatives of your right to enjoy the fruits of your specific decisions and actions. A civilized society is one which considers a human being reduced to a condition where he is unable to make decisions and take actions on his own behalf and in his own self-interest to be intolerable. The only way that a normal, sane adult human being can be reduced to such a condition is through someone else initiating force against him. And it is precisely for this reason that the initiation of force is considered intolerable. It is intolerable because man has the right to act according to his own judgment, which is the practical implementation of his right to life. People who are, in some way, incapacitated require special consideration when it comes to the right to life. By "incapacitated" I also include those who are merely legally incapacitated, such as children who are presumed to not be competent to make decisions on their own behalf. Such people deserve special consideration because their context is very unique in that their metaphysical condition is different in a very fundamental way than the conditions that the concept of "rights" presupposes. The concept of "rights" presupposes sane adults capable of making decisions and acting on their own behalf. If the cognitive condition of a small child or a severely retarded person were the metaphysically normal conditions of human existence, the concept of rights would have never arisen because such "humans" would, at best, be in the same category of other primates such as apes and monkeys. If the metaphysical condition of a comatose person or a quadriplegic was the metaphysically normal condition of human existence, the concept of rights would have never arisen because human survival would be impossible. Since one's right to life consists of the right to make decisions and act on them and since the incapacitated are metaphysically incapable of doing exactly that, does this mean that such people somehow lack the right to life? No, it does not. One has a right to life because one is a human being - and since incapacitated people are human beings, they do have a right to life. The special circumstance of incapacitated persons with regard to the issue of right to life is that, since they are metaphysically incapable of making decisions and/or acting on their own behalf, the task of doing so must fall on some other person who willingly functions as guardian. Just as the responsibility for safeguarding a metaphysically normal adult's right to life rests with his ability to make decisions and act on his own behalf, the responsibility for safeguarding an incapacitated person's right to life falls on the ability of the guardian to make decisions and act on the incapacitated person's behalf. Since the role of the government is to protect rights, in those cases where a guardian does not exist (for example, a child's parents die) or has not yet been identified, it is the proper responsibility of the government to step in and act as that guardian. Does an incapacitated person have a right to have a willing person function as his guardian? In a civilized society, the answer is, yes, on grounds that the person does have a right to life. Remember, one's right to life consists of being able to make decisions and act on them. Therefore, as a result of his metaphysical context, an incapacitated person's right to life consists of having some willing person being able to function as his agent and make decisions and take actions on his behalf. It is important to note that it is only in the context of an advanced, civilized society that an incapacitated person can enjoy such a right to life. In the wilderness, if a child becomes separated from his parents and benevolent adults, he dies. If a person falls into a coma in the wilderness, he dies. If a person is retarded in a stone age society that is barely able to feed the healthy and productive, such a person is either killed early on or is shunned and left to fend for himself, i.e. to die. In an economically advanced society, however, the percentage of mentally or physically incapacitated persons and orphans and the cost of caring for them is marginal and there is almost never a shortage of benevolent people who are willing to voluntarily help such people out in terms of providing for their basic needs. It is on that basis that it is appropriate for the government to step into the picture until a suitable and willing permanent guardian can be identified. It should be emphasized that this governmental responsibility is contextual. If a society is too economically backward or the number of incapacitated persons is too large for there to be sufficient numbers of willing guardians, the government would not be in a position to undertake such a responsibility. In addition to occasionally acting as guardian, it is also the government's responsibility to ensure that guardians do, in fact, act in the best interests of those they have assumed responsibility for - i.e. to remove children from parents who abuse them, to make sure that the institution willing to take responsibility for a retarded person does not take such people in for the purpose of performing medical experiments on them, etc. Finally, it is also important to note that, beyond the right to have a willing guardian, the fact that a person is incapacitated does not grant him any special privileges or impose obligations on others. For example, if a child becomes ill and needs expensive medical care, the range of decisions and actions open to that child's guardian is identical to the range that is open to a normal adult. The fact that a child is incapacitated and has needs does not give him a right to medical care if nobody is willing to provide it. Thus we come to the situation of an accident victim. Such a victim's right to life is not threatened by the fact that his life is in danger but rather by the fact that he is incapacitated, i.e., by the fact that he is unable to make decisions and/or act on his own behalf. If a person has a serious disease, his life is threatened but his right to life is not. He still retains the ability to make any decisions and actions that might be able to address the situation - for example, pay for or locate someone else who is willing to pay for medical treatment. But if that person is unconscious or he cannot move, his right to life is threatened by virtue of the fact that he is not in a position to take such actions on his own behalf. For his right to life to be protected, he needs a guardian who is empowered to make certain decisions on his behalf - for example, to authorize the use of his assets to pay for treatment, to make his case known to charities which are willing to assist people in such situations, etc. If you encounter an incapacitated accident victim and decide to help by locating a nearby doctor or administering first aid, you have, in a de facto sort of way, voluntarily assumed a very limited and temporary role of guardian in that you assumed responsibility for making decisions and taking actions on his behalf - i.e., for protecting his right to life. If you are not willing or able to do so, however, the responsibility for doing so would default to the government in its role as the ultimate guarantor of all individuals' right to life - and, as a result, the government does have a legitimate interest in the situation. The obligation of the government in this context, as guardian, would be to summon willing medical assistance, not necessarily provide it. If, for whatever reason, rational or otherwise, you do not wish to provide medical assistance such as first aid to the victim, you are not required to do so. If you do not wish to summon a nearby doctor, you are not required to do so. But since it is an emergency situation where a person's life is in grave and immediate jeopardy and the victim's ability to take action on his own behalf, i.e., his ability to act on his right to life, is impaired, the government does have a legitimate interest in the situation and, I submit, does have legitimate authority to demand that you make a good faith, non-sacrificial effort notify it that such an emergency exists. This demand is restricted only to your providing the government with specific information that it needs in its task of protecting rights. The 911 operator might ask you to take certain steps, such as administer first aid, until the ambulance arrives - but you are not obligated to comply. The moment you pass along the information, your obligation ends. I submit that the authority of the government to make such a demand is based on the same authority it has to make similar demands with regard to police detention or to issue subpoenas even in civil cases involving mere disputes. In all of these cases, what the government has the right to demand is information relevant to its task of protecting rights of individuals. One cannot make the anarchist/libertarian claim that the government's authority to demand such information constitutes a rights violation. To do so is to drop context and evade the fact that, without a government that is fully authorized to take the specific actions that are necessary for it to protect individual rights, the protection of anybody's rights would simply be impossible.
  2. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    This is a very intelligent question. I will reply when I have a bit more time - which may or may not be today as I do have some other things going on that are a bit more pressing.
  3. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Actually, I will be ignoring you altogether so far as the rest of this thread is concerned. First, I see scant evidence that you have a sufficient grasp of the Objectivist position on contextual absolutism to make the discussion productive. Perhaps I am wrong about that and you and I merely have problems communicating. Regardless, my suggestion is that you (and perhaps others) might benefit from reread the OPAR sections I referenced. Furthermore, I have zero interest in getting into a pointless argument over what I did and did not say and did and did not mean. I know what I said and what I meant and, unless someone has an intelligent observation to make about ambiguities in my formulations, there is no selfish value for me to obtain from such pointless back and forth. Moreover, a continuation of it is utterly pointless so far as the context of the broader issue is concerned. The primary purpose of my remarks regarding context and emergencies was to establish the context of an incapacitated victim - not that of bystanders. Nobody can deny that being incapacitated in an accident is an emergency and constitutes a radically different context than the normal metaphysical conditions that rational moral principles, by default, presuppose. Regardless as to what bystanders should or should not do, nobody can deny that the metaphysical ability of such a victim to act selfishly - i.e. the range of moral choices and behaviors that are open to him - is significantly reduced and impacted in a very fundamental way. That this is the case is simply not debatable - thus it is a colossal waste of my time to squabble over parsings and nitpicks of my attempt to explicitly establish this fact. Like I said, I am not here to "win" an argument
  4. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Case closed? Huhhh? I am not sure what you are after here. Do you find the positon I am putting forth to be so intrinsically repulsive that it must be "defeated" ? I enjoy winning debates and arguments just as much as anyone else - maybe even more. But my primary concern is being right. The other day my friend Vladimir Berkov pointed some stuff out both here and in a private email that gave me a "reality check" and made me realize that I needed to seriously reconsider my position on the matter and might possibly have to concede that certain people's arguments here were correct. I am very grateful that he provided me with that information because it forced me to give the issue much more thought than I would have otherwise given it and, as a result, I have a much better understanding of it than before and, incidentally, I am even more convinced that my position is valid. If you or anyone here can demonstrate to me where I have made a mistake in my thinking, I will be extremely grateful to that person because I will enjoy far more benefits from that knowledge than I could ever possibly enjoy from "winning" some silly argument on a message board.
  5. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Well, I am afraid not because that alleged fundamental premise upon which the rest of my principles are allegedly based consists of assertions that are not even close to anything I have said."
  6. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Sure. If I have a million dollars, you do not have a right to it. But if I give it to you, you do have a right to it. If I announce that I will give $5 per posting to anyone who posts here and you put up 6 postings, I have given you a right to $30. If someone comes up to me and claims to be you and I give him the $30, he has not just defrauded me, he has also violated the rights I conferred on you. In the case of willing assistance, if I were to open up an ambulance company and advertise for business, I am basically announcing to the entire world that I am willing to provide emergency assistance to people who ring my phone number. The same is true with the fire department and with paramedics paid for by the government. These institutions, by the nature of what they do, make it known to the world that they are willing providers of emergency assistance. As to the process of conferring rights - actually what is conferred is not rights but assistance. If you were a provider of willing assistance in this context and I used physical force to block your access to the injured victim, I would not be merely guilty of a crime against your rights but also of the victim's. I would be guilty of violating his right to receive the help that you willingly chose to provide him.
  7. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    That is entirely consistent with what I am saying. If some other agency, public or private, was in a better position to put up the barricades, it would not make sense for the police to do so. In this case, the police, upon notification that a bridge was out, would do as you said - or more likely, refer the situation to the proper place themselves instead of relying on you to do so. Here in the USA, one usually does not call the police but rather a three digit emergency phone number that dispatches the assistance most appropriate for the type of emergency. Thus for a fire, they send a fire truck, not a police car. If someone is injured and there is no crime, they send an ambulance and nothing else. What would be insane is for the police, upon hearing that a bridge is washed out and posing a danger to approaching motorists is for them to say "so what?" and do nothing and allow unsuspecting motorists to plunge to their deaths on grounds that the bridge washed out by an act of nature and not because of the deliberate intent of a criminal. And even if the police were not the ones responsible for the barricades being set up, until the people who are responsible arrive, the police still have a responsibility to protect and set up some sort of temporary barricade - as they regularly do when they use their patrol cars to close down lanes and exits to prevent access to traffic accidents. The basic point is that the metaphysical nature of the emergency conditions I described do make the situation a legitimate concern of government and necessitate that it react in some fashion to it. The specific nature of the response can vary depending on context, local preferences and the resources available. That is really a matter of detail of implementation, and not essential to my basic point.
  8. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I have done the premise checking I said I would do. The very first thing one must do in order to check one's premises is to identify what they are. I have given quite a lot of thought as to exactly what my premises are on this issue. I still am still convinced that my position that it is appropriate to demand people to render a certain minimal amount of non-sacrificial aid to victims of life or death emergencies is valid. I am going to now post and explain the relevant premises upon which my view is based. If anyone can challenge and demonstrate to me why any of these premises are invalid, I would very much appreciate the enlightenment. I apologize if the posting is a bit long. But, since the application of the relevant principles does involve certain subtleties, there is only so much that I can do to condense it. To make it more readable, I will use bold faced type to differentiate the main issues. First things first, however. Phil Oliver has posted some Ayn Rand quotes that identify the basic principles that are a common theme in most people's objections to my position: "Remember that rights are moral principles which define and protect a man's freedom of action, but impose no obligations on other men." And "Accepting no mystic "duties" or unchosen obligations, he is the man who honors scrupulously the obligations which he chooses. " And "A personal promise or agreement is the only valid, binding obligation, without which none of the others can or do stand. " It needs to be stated that I completely agree with these principles. I also think my position is fully consistent with them. So let's dig into why I believe that to be the case. Principles are contextual. - I consider the above quoted principles to be fully valid. But, like all principles, they are valid based on the specific and relevant facts of reality that give rise to them. If the context that gives rise to a principle changes in a fundamental way, the principle may need to be modified in a way appropriate to the new context and, in some cases, it may no longer even be applicable. The context of moral principles. - Ayn Rand was very clear that ethical principles can only be formulated on the premise of what she called "metaphysically normal" conditions - as opposed to conditions of emergency (See "The Ethics Of Emergencies" in VOS). This implies that conditions of emergency constitute a context that is different than the one from which Ayn Rand formulated the above quoted principles. As a result, it is entirely proper and, indeed, necessary, to reconsider those principles in light of the new context. And if a principle is found to no longer be applicable or must be modified to according to the new context, it does not, in any way, mean that the principle is somehow not valid. The principle remains fully valid in the context in which it was formulated. The relevant question at hand is, since moral principles cannot be formulated in the context of emergency conditions, are they applicable in emergencies? I would say yes, to the degree that the context of the situation permits. Emergency conditions differ in severity, i.e. there is a range in how far removed from metaphysically normal conditions a specific emergency situation might be. To the degree that metaphysically normal conditions still exist, the appropriate moral principles are still applicable. An emergency situation does not grant license for one to say "anything goes." For example, I have a moral obligation to respect property rights and a legal obligation to obey laws against trespassing. However, if I am trapped in a blizzard and stumble across a locked and empty hunting cottage in the wilderness, it is entirely appropriate for me to break into the house, help myself to blankets, food and firewood in order to save my life. One cannot expect a person to acquiesce to certain death in a blizzard on grounds that he does not have any means of contacting the owner of the house and asking for permission to enter. But once I am inside the house, I am morally obliged to treat the property respectfully and minimize as much as possible any adverse impact on the property owner. It is ok to take enough food to keep one's self alive and healthy - but it is not ok to eat the very expensive caviar when there are plenty of cans of bargain basement tuna along side them which are more than adequate. And, of course, at my earliest opportunity, I must contact the police and property owner to explain what happened and take responsibility for paying for any damage I caused and supplies I consumed. In other words, to the degree that it was metaphysically possible for the principles of morality to be practiced, they remained fully in effect and valid. To the degree that a moral principle was metaphysically impossible to practice, the principle was not invalid but merely inapplicable to the context at hand. Law and context - Because politics and law are ultimately based on moral principles, and because moral principles presuppose metaphysically normal conditions, political and legal principles also presuppose metaphysically normal conditions. And, as with the case of moral principles, if the context that gives rise to political and legal principles is somehow changed in a fundamental way, those political and legal principles might need to be appropriately modified according to the new context and, in some instances, might even be rendered inapplicable. For example, the government is required to respect property rights. But, during a time of war, it is entirely appropriate for the military to run tanks across Cindy Sheehan's pasture in order to go after an invading army no matter how strongly Sheehan might object to it. And, if Cindy Sheehan blocks their way or tries to prevent the tanks from moving forward, it is entirely appropriate for the troops to arrest her or even run a tank over her. Such actions are fully consistent with Cindy Sheehan's property rights which are merely inapplicable to the context at hand. It is also fully consistent with her right to life - she simply created a context in which it was rendered irrelevant. Anticipating emergencies - Because many potential emergency conditions can be anticipated in advance, it is entirely proper and beneficial to formulate moral and legal rules for people to follow in the event that they find themselves in such an emergency. So much for context and emergencies for now. Let's talk about rights. Rights and help - Many here have asserted that a person does NOT have a right to another person's effort or assistance - and I agree completely. But, if that other person is willing to provide that assistance, then the recipient DOES have a right to receive that willingly provided assistance. That right is given to him by the person willing to provide the assistance. Therefore, if a person starts to choke and, while you are rushing over to save him, I knock you down and pin you on the ground until the other person has died, can it be said that the only person's rights I violated were yours and that the most I can be prosecuted for is assault and battery? Or am I also guilty of some form of homicide and should I be prosecuted accordingly? I say the latter. The victim may not have had a right to your help - but your willingness to give it to him gave him a right to receive it and by violating that right in this context I would be guilty of murder. Rights imposing obligations and requiring positive actions of others - A number of people have argued that the only obligations that one's rights impose on other individuals is that they abstain from certain coercive actions. They argue that one's rights do not impose any sort of obligation of positive action on the part of other people under any circumstances whatsoever. I disagree. And I am in very good company with my disagreement in that, over the years, I have heard a number of highly respected Objectivist scholars very clearly state, in response to objections from libertarian/anarchist types, that it is entirely appropriate for the police to detain witnesses and bystanders for questioning and for such bystanders to be subpoena to appear before a court of law. It is appropriate on grounds that the police, the victims of crime and the parties in a dispute have a right to any and all information that is relevant to the government's task of protecting individual rights. This is clearly an instance where the individual rights of one person do impose certain positive demands on another person's time and action. Government as guardian of rights - The responsibility of looking out for one's self-interest and making decisions as to how one's rights should be exercised rests, of course, entirely with each individual. There does, however, exist a context in which it is entirely appropriate for the government to step in and assume that role on the individual's behalf: when it metaphysically impossible for a person to exercise that responsibility for himself. An orphaned child without living relatives is considered, by virtue of his age, to be metaphysically incapable of exercising his rights and looking after his interests. So is a person who is mentally incapacitated. In both cases, the government takes an active role in protecting such people's rights - for example, by appointing a guardian. Role of government in an emergency - Some have argued here and elsewhere that the only proper function of government is to protect individuals from the coercion of others. In fact, a legitimate government does do other things. It mediates disputes which do not necessarily involve coercion by either party. And, as I just mentioned, it assumes the role of guardian for those who cannot protect their own rights. What I would say is this: The proper role of government is to protect individual rights. The recent hurricanes have sparked lots of debate about whether the function of government is to protect life and property. I would say yes and no. It is terribly incorrect to say that the purpose of government is to protect life and property. It is YOUR responsibility, not the government's, to make sure your house is not in a flood plain, that you bring along adequate amounts of food with you when you evacuate, that you abstain from substances and behavior which endanger your health, etc. The valid principle, which others here have referenced, is this: the only responsibility of the government to protect life and property is when it is threatened by the coercive actions of others. The question, however, is this: is that principle an absolute that is valid in all instances whatsoever regardless of context? An Objectivist would, of course, say no. A principle is valid ONLY in the context of the facts of reality that gave rise to it. What was the context from which the principle that government should protect life and property only when it is threatened by coercion formed? What conditions of reality does the principle assume to exist? The two assumptions that are relevant here are: 1) That individual human beings are metaphysically capable of undertaking their responsibility of looking out for their own interests and protecting their life and property from non-coercive threats. 2) That the existential conditions in which such individuals act are metaphysically normal. Therefore, individuals can look after themselves and, of course, they should. It is not the role of the government to do it for them. However, when the context changes so that the second assumption is no longer true - i.e. existential conditions are suddenly not metaphysically normal - the first assumption may, as a result, no longer be applicable either. In an emergency situation, it is entirely possible that individuals may not be metaphysically capable of undertaking responsibility for their own interests and they may not be metaphysically capable of protecting their own lives and property from non-coercive threats. And it is ONLY on this basis and ONLY in this context that it is entirely appropriate for the government to step in and assume the responsibility of protecting life and property from non-coercive threats. Thus we come to a premise that is crucial to my position: When a person is metaphysically incapable of acting on behalf of his life and property, it is the proper function of government to step in and act as an agent on his behalf towards that end. The government already does exactly that with regard to orphaned children and the mentally incapacitated because they are metaphysically incapable of assuming responsibility for their own lives - and certain emergency situations can and do put others in exactly the same metaphysical condition. For example, if a flood washes out a bridge in an unlit rural area in the middle of the night, it is entirely appropriate for the police department to expend the resources necessary to put up barricades to protect the lives of approaching motorists. It is not valid to argue: Well, gee - the bridge was taken out by a flood and not by coercion so the government shouldn't use taxpayer dollars to protect people because the threat to their lives was not caused by an initiation of force. That would be insane. The barricades are valid because a bridge washing out constitutes an emergency. Certain aspects of the circumstances - the fact that it is dark and that the road has a high speed limit make it metaphysically impossible for approaching motorists to realize that the bridge is out before it is too late and, therefore, to exercise their responsibility to protect their lives and autos by not driving over a drop-off into a raging stream. In putting up the barricades, the government is temporarily stepping in as an agent behalf of the rights of innocent, unwary motorists to protect their rights of life and property because circumstances make it metaphysically impossible for them to do so on their own. Same holds true if people are buried under an avalanche. It is entirely proper for the local police to organize a search and rescue team to locate those trapped underneath. Those trapped are metaphysically incapable of protecting their rights, in this case, their right to life, so the government assumes that role on their behalf until the existential conditions return to normal and they, once again, become capable of and solely responsible for protecting themselves. Same for a large scale evacuation where thousands of people are required to quickly flee a coastal area because of a hurricane or tsunami and the roads leading out of the area are inadequate to handle the flood of people. People are responsible for their own lives and for taking the required rational measures to protect them - but, in such an emergency context, people are metaphysically incapable of coordinating their own actions with those of thousands of panicked strangers so the government properly steps in and attempts to ensure an organized and orderly evacuation. In doing so, the government is acting on behalf of its citizens in order to protect their rights in ways that they are metaphysically not able to do on their own. As soon as such people are out of harm's way, they are assumed to again be metaphysically responsible for their own lives and they are once again on their own and have no basis to claim governmental assistance. Now, finally let's tie all of the above together and apply it to the situation of an innocent, wounded accident victim. Let's assume that are out in your front yard and you watch your next door neighbor who lives by himself fall off of a ladder and onto an upturned garden rake. Your neighbor is unconscious and the rake is stuck in his arm. He is alive but the arm is bleeding badly. All that is needed to save his life is for the administration of some relatively basic first aid. You have a cell phone as well as a LAN line phone in your house. There are a number of neighbors who are at home nearby who can be easily summoned. But they are not aware of the situation and your neighbor's bush makes it difficult for anyone who is not on your property to see him. You never did like the fact that someone of his skin color was living next door to you. It occurs to you that if he bleeds to death, his house might be sold and someone of your own skin color might move in instead. You decide to go back into your house, smoke some weed and listen to rock and roll music. What is the context in this situation that gives rise the relevant principles of morality? Is it a metaphysically normal situation? No it is not. It is an emergency. One might argue that, while the situation constitutes an emergency for your neighbor, it does not constitute and emergency for you. Maybe so. But that is irrelevant because moral, political and legal principles on how we should and should not conduct ourselves amongst fellow human beings are formulated under the premise of metaphysically normal conditions where each individual is assumed to be metaphysically capable of assuming responsibility for his own life. Clearly that is not the case here. In this case, your neighbor, by virtue of being unconscious, is not metaphysically capable of assuming responsibility for his own life, which, at the moment, happens to be in grave danger. It would be a different story if he merely broke his leg. He could call for help or hobble in pain to his own phone. It would be different if he told you that he had a disease and needed an expensive operation he could not afford or lacked food. He is fully capable of asking additional people besides you for financial assistance or perhaps selling his house to raise the needed money. In this case, however, he cannot act in his own self interest and take the steps necessary to protect his rights or his life any more than can an infant or someone who is severely retarded. To live, your neighbor needs the help of others - specifically someone to bandage and stop the bleeding so he doesn't die before he resumes consciousness. Does your neighbor have a right to bandages and first aid? No, he does not. But he does have a right to whatever assistance others are willing to provide him. Are people willing to provide him with such assistance? The answer is YES. The police department, the fire department and the paramedics all would be more than happy to drop whatever they are doing and rush to his aid and save his life. Since most people are not sociopaths, it is a near certainty that most, and probably all, of the nearby neighbors who are at home would be more than willing to rush to the man's aid. Your neighbor would have every right in the world to that aid because such people are willing to give it to him. The only person who is not willing to give him the first aid he needs is YOU. Do you have a right to refuse to give him first aid? As much as it sickens me, I would have to say, yes. You do have the right to refuse. But that doesn't let you off the hook as far as I am concerned. I submit that you SHOULD be under a legal obligation to at least call 911 or notify official authorities as quickly as the context of the situation allows you to without undue risk towards your personal safety. You see, the government now has a legitimate interest in the situation because, so long as your neighbor is metaphysically incapable of acting on his own behalf, it is now the active and acting agent on behalf of his rights. In this case, the government, upon learning about his plight, will act as his agent by notifying the paramedics who are willing to assist him - assistance that he has a right to because they want to provide it to him. The reason that you should be required to, at the very least, call 911 even if you do not want to and would prefer to see your neighbor dead is because the government does have the right to compel people to cooperate in its task of protecting people's rights. If you argue that you don't want to expend two minutes of your cell phone quota to assist the government in protecting the rights of your neighbor - well tough. You might not want to spend the gas money on driving down to the courthouse to testify either. But if you are issued a subpoena, you ARE obligated to do so because you do not have the right to refuse to cooperate with the court's task of protecting people's rights. Likewise, you might not be willing to be late for work so that you can answer questions the police have regarding a crime you witnessed. But if the police have a valid need to, they can detain you and cause you to miss an entire day's worth of work in order to ask you certain questions. You do not have a right to refuse to cooperate with the police department's task of protecting people's rights. And, in the case of your neighbor, you do not have the right to refuse to cooperate with the government's task of protecting his rights in an emergency situation - rights which he is, by virtue of that emergency, metaphysically incapable of protecting on his own. Now, as to the particular implementation of what I advocate - well, I am sure that is very debatable and, more importantly, it is not a philosophical issue. Obviously, any such situation would be highly contextual - so any law would have to be able to take into consideration a wide variety of circumstances and reasons why a person might not notify authorities. For instance, if the bystander feared for his life - obviously that is a valid reason and the law would need to account for things like that. Off hand, I would have to say that the government must prove some form of malicious intent before one could be convicted of such an offense - and that is not always easy to do. My basic point is that moral and legal principles presuppose individuals who are metaphysically capable of assuming responsibility for their own lives and acting in their own self-interest. When people, for whatever reason, become metaphysically unable to act in their own self interest, the context changes and it falls to the government to step in and make sure that person's rights are adequately protected. A dying accident victim who is unable to summon help is such a metaphysically incapacitated person who is unable to act in his own self interest. If it is moral and proper for the government to compel you to spend hours or days waiting in a courthouse or police office so that it can do its job of protecting the rights of crime victims and those involved in civil disputes, then I see no reason why it is not equally moral and proper for the government to compel you to spend two minutes calling 911 in the event of an emergency so that it can do its job of protecting the rights of those who are metaphysically incapacitated. If any of my premises are invalid, I welcome any feedback - though I DO ask that you at least have read what I wrote all the way through as some of my premises obviously depend on others.
  9. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    mala - your points in your last two postings make perfect sense. Thanks for taking the time to clarify.
  10. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I find this to be shocking and thoroughly disgusting. That woman is evil beyond words. Quite frankly, I consider it to be disturbing and frightening that such a monster, once identified, is able to continue roaming the streets and conceivably have children of her own. All I can say is that I hope that the rest of that woman's life is the miserable hell that it deserves to be.
  11. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I find the above to be quite disturbing. First off - I do not know you mala and I am making zero judgments about you or your character. I fully recognize that people may write things that come across differently than was intended. I recognize that the tone of one's writing can sometimes obscure the intended point. So what follows is directed strictly at the specific words and thoughts that you posted. My default assumption is that you are a fully rational and moral person. That said, if you actually mean what you wrote, then that would make you quite vicious. A person who would regard the expenditure of a few phone minutes and the minimal amount of energy it takes to place a phone call which would save the life of an innocent human being as a mere inconvenience, let along a sacrifice.... well, such a person would be a monster. A person who considers the life of an innocent human being who is dying before his eyes to be a lower value than an insignificant number of cell phone minutes is a creature who is evil beyond words. Now, if your point is to merely argue the strictly legal point that such behavior, regardless of its moral status, should not be criminalized, that is certainly ok and you are indeed in good company because I am the only person in this thread who is taking a contrary point of view. But, even so, that does not change the fact that such a person is a monster. There are times when an advocate of individual rights will find himself defending the rights and freedom of persons and behavior he considers to be morally repugnant. But, when one does so, it is absolutely mandatory that not, in any way, lend sanction to such behavior. For example, I will vigorously defend a John Kerry type hippie's right to wipe his rear with the American flag despite the fact that I consider such an act to be nihilistic and evil. But in doing so, I am not going to defend it in the same way the hippie would. I am not going to belligerently assert that nothing is sacred and that to the only thing that the flag symbolizes is colonialistic oppression, slavery and the evils of capitalism and that I can do whatever I wish with it because it is nothing more than a stupid piece of cloth. I would instead say that the American flag, regardless of what country one is from, is a symbol of everything that is good and just and that dishonoring it in such a manner is profoundly nihilistic and offensive - but the fact that something is merely offensive does not mean that it violates anyone's rights and, therefore, the hippie properly has the political freedom to engage in such behavior despite the fact that it is vile and repugnant. Now, in the context of this Forum, it is a reasonable assumption that most people here would consider ignoring the life or death plight of an innocent victim to be evil. So I don't think it is necessary for every poster defending the political right of such behavior to go to great lengths to condemn it. But the last thing that is morally proper in making the legal point is to do so from the point of view of the evil person and going so far as to rationalize and justify such behavior. I am afraid that, as written, that is what the above posting does. If you want an excellent example of how to morally argue the legal point under discussion without sanctioning the evil behavior, go back and reread some of Phil Oliver's postings over the past couple of days.
  12. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Based on this, it would certainly seem that the legal establishment is certainly in disagreement with me as well. That, of course, does not, is not sufficient for me to change my mind. I still think I am correct - but I think there is definitely a need based on this and a couple of points that have been raised for me to double check my premises, which I emphasise, I still consider to be valid. I have some things to do away from the computer so I may or may not be able to respond to subsequent posts today.
  13. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I agree that this is a valid distinction between criminal negligence and failure to summon assistance in an emergency.
  14. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I am not sure what you are disagreeing with. A primary emphasis on theoretical categories and classifications sounds suspiciously like rationalism to me.
  15. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Or primary focus should be on the facts of reality - not on what categories in a theoretical heirarchy it is best to classify certain situations under or whether the situations best fall under the same category or different categories. What both situations (criminal negligence and failure to summon aid to an accident victim) involve is people being aware of certain conditions in reality that represent a danger to human life and refusing to take action to address it. I bring the issue of criminal negligence up because people here asset that individual rights do not impose any sort of requirement for postive action on the part of other human beings under any sort of circumstances whatsoever. Criminal negligence laws, however, DO demand that people take certain postive actions when they become aware of certain potential threats to human life. If one does not have a problem with criminal negligence laws, then the question becomes why shouldn't we make certain demands on people who become aware of ACTUAL and ONGOING threats to human life? Whether you wish to classify such situations as "force" or "fraud" or whatever - I really couldn't care less in the context of what we are talking about.
  16. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    What the heck does this have to do with anything? I have already stated VERY CLEARLY multiple times that I am talking about strictly non-sacrificial assistance.
  17. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Ok. Question: Do you consider criminal negligence laws to be valid? If so, is criminal negligence an example of the initiation of force and how is what I am advocating somehow different from the issue of criminal negligence?
  18. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I am not sure what the point of your example is. It doesn't refute what I said about one not having the right to serve as judge, jury and executioner as to whether a person should live or die. Are there rare and extreme occasions when a rational person might wish to see another person dead? Probably. But that doesn't refute my basic point. Are there occasions when a rational person can properly hate another individual? Certainly. For example, I consider Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Janet Reno to all be thoroughly evil, wicked and despicable excuses of human beings and worthy of the worst sort of hell imaginable. But if one of them were to collapse on the floor in front of me, I would hold my nose and call 911. As to the escaped convict example, well, since such a convict being on the lose is an objective threat to the safety of innocent people, I would definitely call the cops. What if he manages to escape from the quicksand?
  19. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I don't know that I would consider current laws to be Judeo-Christian or intrinsicist. My only point was that the Judeo-Christian tradition and moral intrinsicism is the dominant moral framework of the vast majority of individuals who have been responsible for creating our current laws. That doesn't necessarily mean that all of the laws they created are a direct reflection of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But in our culture that tradition has been the dominant influence on most people's thinking with regard to moral issues.
  20. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I am not sure the fan is the best example as I don't know that it would rise to the level of being criminal. If you were not aware that the fan was unsteady or posed a danger, its falling would merely be an accident. You might be liable from a civil standpoint for any injuries that might be caused by it. But it wouldn't necessarily be criminal. On the other hand, if you worked at an amusement park and discovered that a critical part was defective and likely to fail and your boss told you to ignore the problem because it would cost too much money and down time to fix it and your busiest weekend of the year was about to come up - that would rise to the level of criminal negligence if the ride failed as a result of the defect and killed a bunch of people. Your boss would definitely be subject to criminal negligence. Reporting your discovery to your boss would usually take you off the hook for something like that - but I am not sure if there would be further charges or perhaps lesser charges if you refused to take further action when you became aware of your bosses refusal.
  21. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    As I said at the time, my formulation that it was an "equivalent" was off the top of my head. I am actually now more inclined to think of what I am advocating as being in the same category as criminal negligence laws. Criminal negligence does not involve force per se - but I think it is an indirect implication of the issue of force.
  22. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Yikes! That should be "insinuated." Pesky spell checker. If one is not careful and clicks on the wrong option, one never knows what crazy things he might end up saying!
  23. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    I would certainly consider that to be a very valid reason for inaction. As you say, for him to help would put his own safety at risk. And, beyond the victim's emergency, while a person DOES have a legal obligation to report knowledge about a crime (which, on this, nobody here seems to disagree with me), I can understand and regard as totally valid witnesses who refuse to report criminal activity because they have an objective fear of criminal retaliation against themselves or their families. But that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about someone who refuses to push a few buttons on his cell phone to call 911 even when there is no danger at all in him doing so. How will a prosecutor know the difference? The context of the situation. A prosecutor is certainly going to be aware of gang involvement in a particular case and the potential danger it represents to witnesses. On the other hand, one might have a bit of explaining to do when the police question as to why one gleefully sat back and watched his much despised mother-in-law suddenly lapse into violent seizures and squirmed around on the floor for three hours before expiring and refused to call an ambulance. Somehow I doubt the cops are going to be especially amused - nor will they likely regard the demands for prosecution on the part of those family members who actually loved the deceased woman as having the same legal credibility as assertions that hurricanes and bears have rights.
  24. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    Really cute. As well as totally juvenile and uncalled for.
  25. Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

    But why should I care if grabbing and running off with his possessions violates his right to life? After all, if I am willing to stand by, refuse to summon available help and decide to let him drown, I obviously don't place very much value on his life. So why on earth shouldn't I grab and run off with his possessions if I regard that life as being so utterly inconsequential? And why should I refrain from taking his things on grounds that he "has a right to life" after I have allowed him to DIE? What good is his "right to life" then?