Joss Delage

Proper role of the government on the Gulf Coast

312 posts in this topic

Should a proper government compel witnesses -- to life-threatening medical emergencies -- to render aid in the form of calling for medical help? I would say no, if the argument for such compulsion is that such a call is helping a government perform its function. A threat to life is not the same thing as a threat to a right to life. A medical emergency might threaten a life, but such an emergency does not threaten anyone's right to life.

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.

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A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

Note that freedom is a critical part of that definition and explanation. You dropped that in your reduced definition. That means you are free from force or interference from others to take any actions nessessary to sustain your own life. It does not mean you have a right for those actions to be taken by others to further your life.

The rest of your post is based upon that one point.

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Rights can only be violated by other men interfering with the free action of an individual - ie can only be violated by the initiation of force. A man may properly defend against this initiation of force. And he may properly hire someone else to do this job for him - ie designate an agent to act for him in defending against the initiation of force.

Government is that agency.

It is "crucial" to understand exactly what this means. It means government is only one's defender against other men. Government is not one's "guardian" or 'protector' against reality.

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.
The accident victim's "right to life" is not threatened at all. He is still free to act. No man is inteferring with any action he is capable of taking. The fact that he is currently incapable of taking most actions does not change this fact one bit. He still remains free of other men.

Thus, as Burgess previously indicated, the accident victim's life may indeed be in peril because of the accident. However, his right to his life remains completely intact. It has not been at all damaged by the accident.

For his right to life to be protected, he needs a guardian who is empowered to make certain decisions on his behalf
Again we see the equivocation between one's "life" and one's "right to life". This man's "right to life" is still being protected after the accident. If some individual were to step in and seek to take his life (or anything else without his permission), his agent of self-defense would act to prevent that violation. That agent would defend his life from the unsanctioned interference of other men.

No - it is the man's life which is placed in jeopardy by the accident. And he "needs" someone to help him in order to save it. However, this "need" places absolutely no claim on the life of anyone else - to any degree whatsoever.

the responsibility for [acting as temporary decision maker for the incapacitated individual] 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.
Since no one is initiating force against the accident victim, his agent against such initiations does not have any obligations or responsibilities to act at all. As previously indicated, a man's "need" places no obligations whatsoever on any other man - including upon the agent he has hired to defend him against other men - ie the government.

Put simply, other men are not threatening this man's life. Reality is threatening this man's life. And, to repeat, government is not one's "guardian" against reality.

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.
This argument is worse than false. It is the claim that government has the right to someone else's life. It is the complete obliteration of the individual's right to his own life.

An individual has no right to someone else's life - period. The reason they want to use that other person's life is immaterial. The extreme "need" of that other person is immaterial. Nothing grants an individual ownership of someone else - not for a day, not for an hour, not for a minute - not even for the length of a phone call.

For an individual to use someone else - for whatever reason (be it for medical treatment or just pressing some buttons for a second) - requires that other person's permission. Otherwise that person's rights have been violated - ie an initiation of force has occurred against them.

Now, dismuke tries to dismiss this principle by claiming government does this in other instances and so it is perfectly acceptable to do it in this instance:

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.
Of course, since dismuke is not claiming one man is initiating force against another man, his statement is completely false.

The authority to make police detentions or to issue subpoenas, and all the other instances where government is responding to an initiation of force (or threat thereof) with defensive force, is the authority to defend an individual from unwelcome interference of other men. Since no other men are interfering with the accident victim, the government has no authority to initiate force against anyone on behalf of the accident victim.

Put simply, the government has no authority to initiate force against the non-user of force ( a bystander in this instance), because no individual has such a right to delegate to government.

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.
The only context being dropped in this argument is the context of WHAT a government "protects" against. It "protects" men from the initiation of force by other men - nothing more. It certainly does not "protect" men from the dangers of reality - including the dangers of being incapacitated in the face of reality.

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A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

Note that freedom is a critical part of that definition and explanation. You dropped that in your reduced definition. That means you are free from force or interference from others to take any actions nessessary to sustain your own life.

I agree 100%

It does not mean you have a right for those actions to be taken by others to further your life.

But I never said that I or anyone else did have such a right.

The issue under discussion is the rights of the incapacitated. I never said that the incapacitated had a right "for actions to be taken by others to further [their] life." I very clearly stated that, in a context where no willing guardians could be presumed to exist, such people would be up the proverbial creek.

But if someone is willing to give them such assistance, then they do have a right to that which others freely gave them.

Let me throw out some questions for you to consider.

- Does an incapacitated person have a right to life? If so, what is it based on? And why?

- As you mentioned in your quote, Ayn Rand said: "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." Ok. If so, since the incapacitated are metaphysically incapable of exercising the above mentioned freedom of action, how is the concept of rights even applicable to them?

- You also quoted Ayn Rand as saying: "the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life." Since an incapacitated person is metaphysically incapable of taking "all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment" of their own lives, how is the notion of "the right to life" even applicable to the incapacitated?

I have provided my answer to all three of the above questions in my last posting. If you disagree with my answers, then please enlighten me with what you think the correct answers are.

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Question 1) Yes he has a right to life. It is based upon his being free to take whatever actions reality allows, free from physical coercion of others.

Question 2) You confuse freedom with choices. If incapacitated, his choices are very very limited. But he still has no restrictions on his freedom from force.

Question 3) It is very limited. But once again, look at the definition that I quoted in the prior post. Freedom to act, does not gurantee that you will be able to act. I might not be able to fly on Space Ship One in my life even tho I really badly hope to. That doesn't mean that anyone violated my rights. It just means that with my choices available, that I wasn't able to choose one that allows me to do what I wanted. A person who is injured has virtually no choice, but his rights in being free from physical coercion are not impacted in a single way.

If someone jumps off a building in a suicide, no matter what he does, he will go splat on the ground. But that doesn't mean his right to life has been violated. He has pretty much no choices left, but if he had any, no-one would be preventing him from acting.

Individual rights are not gurantee's that you will survive, even in difficult situations. They merely state that no-one is to interfere with your life and choices without permission.

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Individual rights are not gurantee's that you will survive, even in difficult situations.

That is completely true. And since I went through great effort to very clearly state exactly that in my posting, I have utterly no idea why you are telling it to me.

Question 1) Yes he has a right to life. It is based upon his being free to take whatever actions reality allows, free from physical coercion of others.

But keep in mind that we are talking about a person in a situation where reality does NOT allow him any actions.

Keeping context is crucial here.

Back to the quote you posted by Ayn Rand"

the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.

When Ayn Rand wrote that, she was NOT assuming the context of people who are mentally retarded, she was NOT assuming the context of someone who is comatose and she was NOT assuming the context of an orphaned infant.

If one were to regard her principle as some sort of dogma without regard to context, one would have to conclude that any right to life that an incapacitated person might have would be utterly meaningless because such a person is metaphysically incapable of taking ANY actions and such a person's condition is NOT that of a rational being.

You also wrote:

They [individual rights]merely state that no-one is to interfere with your life and choices without permission.

Then this implies that one may not even help an incapacitated person by taking actions and making choices on his behalf because, to do so, would be to "interfere with his life and choices without permission." Such permission, of course, would be metaphysically impossible to obtain. Therefore, the only alternative is to simply not interfere with that person's life and let him die.

Obviously such a situation would be absurd.

The correct answer, of course, is to keep context - and I made a special effort to carefully identify that context in my posting.

Let's go back to that Ayn Rand quote:

the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.

This principle does apply to incapacitated people. But since they are NOT capable of "self-sustaining" action and their cognitive status is NOT that of a "rational being" how that principle is applied to their unique situation is necessarily different than how it is applied to people whose metaphysical condition is identical to that which the principle presupposes. In the case of an incapacitated person, it is his guardian who assumes the responsibility " to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment " of that person's life.

Does an incapacitated person have a right to a guardian? As I pointed out in my posting, absolutely, so long as someone is willing to become such a guardian (and, as I also pointed out in my posting, there are contexts in which one may not be willing to do so, in which case, no such right obviously exists). But, so long as someone agrees to become an incapacitated person's guardian, he does have a right to that guardian's assistance because, by virtue of agreeing to become a guardian, one willingly enters into a contractual agreement to be responsible for making decisions and taking actions on behalf of the incapacitated individual's best interests.

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You keep telling me that I am not keeping context. But individual rights are only in a political context. If the person doesn't have a choice of action in the context of reality, well their rights are not being violated. It is no different than the person being poor and not being able to afford things.

So what if reality gives them no choice? That doesn't change the fact that no rights are being violated. Ayn Rand didn't want people to cherry pick part of her sentences, she wanted them to be looked at in full.

Their life is not made worse by other human beings, it is just a crappy situation that they are in by reality. However, the majority of people would choose to help.

However, forcing people to call 911 is a violation of the person passing by's rights because you are getting the government to initiate force to compel someone to do something against their judgement and values.

Lets kill the cellphone example since in America, cellphones are considered cheap / worthless over there and replace it with a satellite phone, common in the Australian outback. Same principle, different unit chosen to demonstrate the principle clearer.

Do you know how expensive those things are? Between $18 to $30 a minute depending on your provider. Yet you want government to force people to be out of pocket. $30 at wages in Australia is stripping away 3 to 4 hours of that persons life.

It is not upto their individual choice or values, they are obligated to do so by the threat of force by other human beings. The nearby persons life is made worse off by the presence of another human being.

Now a second aspect. You can not delegate to the government to initiate force on your behalf since you don't have the right to do so yourself. So what if the government is their guardian? (Which I disagree with) That doesn't magically make the government have the right to say "Either you call the phone or you will be executed or thrown in jail(You said they ought to be treated like murderers)."

A guardian can only look after your rights. He can not do anything that you can't do(You can't sign a contract that signs away a 3rd parties rights who had nothing to do with the contract, that would be testement to slavery), and if you can't compel someone, well your guardian can't either.

As Brian previously highlighted(And I suggest you do read his posts, they are extremely good), the only reason that the government can get witnesses to the stand is because it is responding to the initiation of force that another human being previously did. The moral responsibility for the consequences of the crime(such as calling witnesses to the stand) then belong to the criminal who initiated force.

But in a situation in which no force was initiated, if the government compelled people, it will then be the government that will be initiating force since it is not responding to an initiation of force.

I suggest you take a very long moment to think about what I said in this post, I am getting to the point where I am repeating the same argument over and over in my posts and if you don't understand it from what I have already said, well I don't see what more can be said.

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Speaking as moderator, I realize that this subject has become a rather contentious issue for some, but I remind all participants in this thread to stick to the facts and leave out any personal remarks.

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Michael is exactly right in his post. (Well said, Michael... :) ). Throughout this thread, dismuke complains that everyone else but himself is dropping context. He has gone so far as refusing to speak to me because he claims I do not grasp the concept of "contextual absolutism".

In fact, however, it is dismuke who has consistently and persistently dropped context in his every post here. This is quite evident in his latest response:

But keep in mind that we are talking about a person in a situation where reality does NOT allow him any actions.
The context of the standard and basic principles of rights is not what specific actions man is capable of taking in relation to reality. The context of the standard and basic principles of rights is what actions man is free to take in relation to other men. In other words, the context is not metaphysics. The context is ethics.

As Miss Rand clearly and explicitly identifies, the context of rights is "social". However, as explicitly indicated above, dismuke drops this context. He drops the context of freedom from other men and changes it to freedom from reality.

the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.

When Ayn Rand wrote that, she was NOT assuming the context of people who are mentally retarded, she was NOT assuming the context of someone who is comatose and she was NOT assuming the context of an orphaned infant.

Here we see the naked claim. Dismuke asserts, without any basis provided (or possible), that Miss Rand was supposedly speaking only of "normal" people when she identified the nature of rights. Supposedly Miss Rand was not speaking of "mentally retarded" people, or "comatose" people, or "orphaned" people, because their 'metaphysical context is different' from "normal" people. In other words, supposedly the right to life for a mentally retarded person does "NOT" mean the "right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action". Supposedly the right to life for such a person means something else, because his "context" is something else. Supposedly, the right to life for someone who is comatose does "NOT" mean "the freedom to take all the actions...etc". Again, supposedly the right to life for such persons means something else, because their 'metaphysical context' is something else.

Dismuke never explicitly identifies what the right to life for such 'non-normal' persons supposedly means - if Miss Rand's meaning does not apply to them. But others (myself included) have. Dismuke's 'right to life' in the 'non-normal' "context" is the right to the life of another person.

If one were to regard [Miss Rand's] principle as some sort of dogma without regard to context, one would have to conclude that any right to life that an incapacitated person might have would be utterly meaningless because such a person is metaphysically incapable of taking ANY actions and such a person's condition is NOT that of a rational being.
The right to life is meaningless when considered outside the context of human interaction - ie outside ethics. The right to life is meaningless when considered inside the context of the interaction with reality. Dismuke admitted this explicitly when he stated:
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.
In other words, in relation to wilderness - in relation to reality, as opposed to man - the concept 'right to life' simply does not apply. And the reason is because there is no one there to interfere with his actions.

That is why one must keep the context of rights. And that is why dismuke's argument is consistently wrong. Because he drops the valid context and substitutes another, rendering his use of the term 'rights' meaningless (worse actually, because his concept of rights serves to destroy the objective concept entirely).

this implies that one may not even help an incapacitated person by taking actions and making choices on his behalf because, to do so, would be to "interfere with his life and choices without permission."  Such permission, of course, would be metaphysically impossible to obtain.  Therefore, the only alternative is to simply not interfere with that person's life and let him die. 

 

Obviously such a situation would be absurd.

Dismuke is correct when he states the above is absurd. But it is absurd because his premise is absurd. And an absurd premise necessarily results in an absurd conclusion.

The fact that man may not initiate force against another man does not 'imply' that a man may not help another man currently unable to give or withhold his permission of interaction. It does not 'imply' that a samaritan may not come into contact with the person or his property without the incapacitated man's explicit consent.

Absent the knowledge (ie absent actual evidence) that a person does not want to live, the valid presumption when interacting with other individuals is that they value their life and seek to keep that ultimate value. Of course, this is not simply an arbitrary assumption. One has an enormous amount of evidence to support this position. One has the fact of the individual's life as that evidence. As such, absent the knowledge that someone does not want you to come into contact with them for purposes of saving their life (ie they want to die), and absent the ability to explicitly acquire that knowledge from the person, the proper premise is that such contact is implicitly authorized.

It is only if one treats the absence of evidence the same as evidence - ie treats non-existence the same as existence - that one can reach dismuke's premise and thusly arrive at dismuke's "absurd" conclusion.

The correct answer, of course, is to keep context - and I made a special effort to carefully identify that context in my posting.
While dismuke is correct that one must indeed keep context in order to deal with this issue, unfortunately - despite his "special effort" - he has not succeeded in his attempt to do so. And because of his dropping of context, dismuke has invented a concept of rights that destroys man's actual rights, as identified by Objectivism.

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Speaking as moderator, I realize that this subject has become a rather contentious issue for some, but I remind all participants in this thread to stick to the facts and leave out any personal remarks.

For the public record, I do not regard myself one who regards the issue as contentious. I am not out to persuade anybody and I really couldn't care less if any given individual agrees with me or not.

My selfish interest here is to further clarify my understanding of the issue. This thread and some postings by certain individuals in it have been very helpful to me in that regard. All one has to do is read my earlier postings in this thread and read my later ones to see how my thinking on the issue has evolved. For that reason, it has been well worth the time and effort I have put into it. Therefore, I welcome intelligent comments and criticism on my position and my premises as it has been such comments and criticism that has forced me to do the thinking that was necessary for understanding to thusly evolve. But it is not worth my time or effort to be involved in any sort of contention or debate. Going forward, I will respond only to comments where I think doing so will either clarify my understanding of the issue or will enable me to clarify my position in areas that I have either not addressed or not adequately addressed. If others wish to debate, I will not participate. If others wish to declare some sort of "victory" that is their prerogative, I guess and I couldn't care less.

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A property owner certainly has a degree of responsibility for what happens on his property, if he is aware of the events, particularly given the privacy afforded by one's house, used in this case to hide the abuse from public scrutiny.

True. A house owner is legally responsible for physical damages caused to anybody who happen to be on his premises. Insurance companies insure a property owner against such damages. Then why shouldn't a house owner be responsible for the mental (and possibly physical) damage caused to an abused child on his premises?

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True. A house owner is legally responsible for physical damages caused to anybody who happen to be on his premises. Insurance companies insure a property owner against such damages. Then why shouldn't a house owner be responsible for the mental (and possibly physical) damage caused to an abused child on his premises?

The problem in the case I mentioned was that the statute was constructed in such a way that only certain people could be guilty of the crime of child abuse, such as parents etc. The issue only really comes up when you have a parental figure abusing a child and a third party who fails to act to prevent it. Thus it ends up being an issue of failure to report or stop a crime rather than the actual committing an actual crime.

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You keep telling me that I am not keeping context. But individual rights are only in a political context. If the person doesn't have a choice of action in the context of reality, well their rights are not being violated. It is no different than the person being poor and not being able to afford things. So what if reality gives them no choice? That doesn't change the fact that no rights are being violated.

Michael - I think this is one of the big areas where you are missing my point. I base my contention that you are missing my point rather than the other way around on the fact that I completely agree one hundred percent with the above and do not regard it as being even remotely controversial.

You are entirely correct, Michael, in that sometimes reality presents one with few, if any, choices of action or only choices of action which are all unpleasant. And, as you correctly point out, this does NOT violate a person's rights in any way, shape or form. Reality cannot violate a person's rights, only other people can violate someone's rights. One does not have a right to demand that reality or other men provide him with choices of action.

My point is simply this: whatever choices of action that reality does provide a person with, he has a right to make those choices and to act on those choices of action. The fact that those choices of action might be extremely limited or unpleasant has zero implications on his right to life. His right to live consists only of his being free to act on those choices of action. To deny a man the freedom to choose and act on whatever (non rights violating) choices of action that reality presents him with is to violate his right to life. There is only one way that can be done: by the initiation of force.

All of the above is Objectivism 101 and should be non-controversial in the context of this Forum.

Now, let's go back to the incapacitated. Their situation is unique from a right to life perspective not because reality has significantly limited their choices of action but rather because, metaphysically, they cannot choose and cannot act on whatever choices of action reality does present them with.

Does an incapacitated person even have choices? Very frequently he does. Let's say a successful business man trips and ends up in a coma. Certain risky options exist regarding the course of his medical treatment. Plus, in order to pay for his medical care, certain assets of his need to be sold. Does a person have a right to decide which proposed medical options are to be pursued in his treatment? Of course - because it is about his life and his body. Does the comatose businessman have a right to his assets? Sure. He earned them. Does he have a right to choose which assets are to be sold and for what price? Of course - because they are his assets and he has a right to them. Unless he happens to be a crime victim, the mere fact that he is in a coma does not constitute a violation of his right to life. What gives the situation right to life implications is the fact that that the coma makes it metaphysically impossible for him to choose and to act on the choices of action that must be undertaken for the preservation of his life and property.

Remember, one's right to life is the right to make such choices and act on them. As a human being, the comatose person has a right to make such choices and actions but he is metaphysically incapable of exercising this right because cannot choose and cannot act. Therefore, because of his metaphysical limitations, the only way that his right to life can be exercised is for him to delegate that right to some other person, i.e. a willing guardian who will exercise it on his behalf.

Does a person have a right to delegate to a willing guardian the responsibility for exercising his right to life - i.e., to exercise his freedom to act on the choices of action that reality puts in front of him? Of course he does because they are his responsibilities and his rights to delegate. Does he have a right to have such actions taken on his behalf by his guardian? Yes, he does because, by virtue of agreeing to become guardian, his guardian willingly entered into a contractual obligation to do so.

All of the above is non-controversial as far as Objectivism is concerned.

Does an incapacitated person have a right to a guardian? Only if someone is willing to function as one. If an incapacitated person does not have a guardian, is it appropriate for the government to step into the picture and appoint one? That depends on the wider context.

Let's say that a two year old girl is found abandoned and wandering. Her parents cannot be located. Is it proper for the government to take custody of the girl and locate suitable guardians willing to adopt her?

If the girl is found in a pre-industrial agricultural society where "good" times mean that there is no famine, where parents can barely support the children that they already have and where girls in particular are considered to be a burden because boys are able to help out in the fields at an earlier age, then it would not be appropriate for the government to take action on the child's behalf. It would not be appropriate because there would be no basis to assume that willing care givers and guardians can be found and to force people to take care of her would be a violation of rights.

In the context of modern day America, however, where there are huge waiting lists of people who are very eager and more than willing to adopt a two year old girl, it is entirely appropriate for the government to step into the picture. She does not have a right to a guardian, but she does have a right to a guardian who wants to take care of her - and in our society, there are plenty of such would-be guardians. But since she is not able to act on this right, it is appropriate for the government to step in and make sure it is adequately protected. A two year old is not capable of finding or selecting a suitable guardian. Furthermore, a situation where would-be parents who wish to adopt can simply pick up any unattended child they happen to come across would, for obvious reasons, be intolerable. Furthermore, since the child is only two years old, she is vulnerable to criminals such as child molesters.

To use another example, let's say you are mugged, beaten and are found unconscious in a strange city. You are rushed to the hospital. All of your identification was stolen in the mugging. Certain decisions must be made with regard to your medical care but you remain unconscious. Normally it would fall to your family to make such decisions. But nobody has any way of knowing who your family is or how to contact them. Because you do have rights, until your family can be located, it is entirely appropriate for the government to step in and make certain emergency decisions on your behalf or, having anticipated such circumstances in advance, to have delegated those decisions to the hospital staff.

I don't think that any of what I have said above about the role of government in such contexts is controversial to most Objectivists.

Now, I want to step back and point something out to Michael and to others here who are intellectually sincere. To agree with what I have said up to this point in this posting does NOT necessarily imply that one agrees with my position on requiring people to call 911. While it is true that my position depends on the above arguments, they alone are not sufficient to prove my position.

The reason I say this is because this thread has been profoundly frustrating due to the fact that, rather than forcing me to focus on those aspects of my argument that do need to be defended and are arguable, I have ended up spending an enormous amount of time dealing with objections based on parsings and nitpicks of premises that should not be at all controversial to Objectivists.

The fact that one may regard a conclusion as suspect, by itself, says nothing about the validity of the individual premises that are put forth to support it. To be hostile to a premise or regard it as suspect based on the fact that it supports a conclusion that one disagrees with is a form of rationalism. I have been guilty of this myself, on occasion. For example, I sometimes find myself in discussions with Leftists and, knowing where they are heading with an argument and finding their ultimate conclusion to be grotesquely hideous, I wish to "defeat" it. In doing so, I will sometimes fall into a knee jerk mode of trying to nitpick and disprove ANY fact or premise they put forth to support it. Of course, if one of those premises happens to be right - well, my denying it does not help anyone out and actually undermines my position.

This fallacy is not merely something one must watch out for in one's own arguments. One must also be alert for it when following the arguments of others. An extreme, contemporary example is the attitude of today's Left has towards President Bush. They disagree with his policy on the war - so anything the man says or does with regard to foreign policy (or anything else, for that matter) is parsed and nitpicked no matter what, even when he (unforgivably) is acting to appease them. Of course, not every instance of this is dishonest, as is the case with the Left. Sometimes people hear a conclusion that somehow does not sound right to them so they passionately conclude that it must be incorrect. But if they either cannot or do not know how to argue against the position in terms of the relevant essentials, they will sometimes seize upon and try to parse any and all premises in order to "defeat" that conclusion because they "know" that it cannot be right. Perhaps the conclusion the person is arguing against is, in fact, totally incorrect. Regardless, the trap for those who are following the argument is that the only effect such rationalism has is to muddy the water and make it difficult to gain a genuine understanding of the issue.

Ayn Rand didn't want people to cherry pick part of her sentences, she wanted them to be looked at in full.

But I have not engaged in "cherry picking."

What Ayn Rand did not want is for people to accept her conclusions and principles as if they were some sort of religious dogma. Ayn Rand held that her moral principles, like all principles, were formed based on a specific context and, if one were to find himself in a completely and fundamentally different context, those principles may or may not be applicable to that new context. For example, Ayn Rand held that honesty is a virtue and, therefore, one should never lie. I consider that principle to be 100% valid. But it is entirely appropriate for me to lie in order to protect my values from a criminal. To say that is not to "cherry pick" Ayn Rand but, instead, to acknowledge the fact that Ayn Rand's moral principles do not presuppose the context of my having a gun pointed at my head - a context in which moral action becomes impossible.

However, forcing people to call 911 is a violation of the person passing by's rights because you are getting the government to initiate force to compel someone to do something against their judgment and values.

I am afraid that this begs the question as the above is precisely the issue that is under discussion. I submit that there are certain very delimited and rare instances where the government does have the authority to use such compulsion and that it does not constitute a rights violation - and I have explain why I think this is the case.

Lets kill the cellphone example since in America, cellphones are considered cheap / worthless over there and replace it with a satellite phone, common in the Australian outback. Same principle, different unit chosen to demonstrate the principle clearer.

Do you know how expensive those things are? Between $18 to $30 a minute depending on your provider. Yet you want government to force people to be out of pocket. $30 at wages in Australia is stripping away 3 to 4 hours of that persons life.

That is perhaps an entirely valid point. But the only possible implication it has on my position is in its application and implementation, not the validty of the position itself. I very clearly pointed out that I am assuming the context of someone who is in an objectively non-sacrificial position to make such a call. There are any number of contexts where it may not be appropriate to expect people to contact the government. One example given was if one has reason to fear for one's life. I also stated that defining the specific instances and exactly how such a law would be applied is not something I am qualified to do. That is not a philosophical issue but a legal issue.

Now a second aspect. You can not delegate to the government to initiate force on your behalf since you don't have the right to do so yourself.

Again, that begs the question. What is under discussion here is the fact that I am arguing that, under certain very specific instances, requiring a person to call 911 is appropriate and does not constitute an initiation of force, just as the military running tanks over Cindy Sheehan's pasture in time of war does not constitute an initiation of force.

So what if the government is their guardian? (Which I disagree with) That doesn't magically make the government have the right to say "Either you call the phone or you will be executed or thrown in jail(You said they ought to be treated like murderers)."

Go back and reread my postings because I have already addressed all of the above in very great detail.

A guardian can only look after your rights. He can not do anything that you can't do(You can't sign a contract that signs away a 3rd parties rights who had nothing to do with the contract, that would be testement to slavery), and if you can't compel someone, well your guardian can't either.

I very clearly stated exactly that. So I am not sure what your point is in saying it.

As Brian previously highlighted(And I suggest you do read his posts, they are extremely good), the only reason that the government can get witnesses to the stand is because it is responding to the initiation of force that another human being previously did.

I am not a lawyer but I don't think that is the case at all as I am pretty sure that the government has the power to authorize subpoenas even in cases involving disputes where there has been no initiation of force but, rather, where there is a mere dispute over exactly what each party's rights are in a given situation.

Regardless, the reason the government can get witnesses to the stand is because, in order for the rights of all parties to be protected, it is crucial and mandatory that the judge and the jury have access to the facts and knowledge that they need to do their job and, therefore, the government has a right to obtain those facts and that knowledge.

The moral responsibility for the consequences of the crime(such as calling witnesses to the stand) then belong to the criminal who initiated force.

This actually implies that the government, in compelling a witness to a stand, is passively perpetuating a process of force initiation that the criminal set in motion. That is simply bizarre.

Requiring someone to serve as a witness is not something that someone must be "morally responsible for" and it does not constitute an initiation of force. The reason it is not an initiation of force is because one cannot morally demand that others respect his rights but, at the same time, refuse to cooperate with the measures which are objectively necessary to protect the rights of others.

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The problem in the case I mentioned was that the statute was constructed in such a way that only certain people could be guilty of the crime of child abuse, such as parents etc.  The issue only really comes up when you have a parental figure abusing a child and a third party who fails to act to prevent it.  Thus it ends up being an issue of failure to report or stop a crime rather than the actual committing an actual crime.

Nevertheless, whoever has custody of the child after the abusive mother was charged can sue the owner of the house for damages. It will be a civil case, of course, and the damages will be for the purpose of covering physical and mental treatment for the abused child. The point is that the owner of the house acted as host for the mother and child. Having them as guests in her house imposed on her a certain responsibility for their safety. If the neighbor's son walked in and started beating up the child, the owner would also be liable for doing nothing. The host could order the mother and child out once she observed the abuse, but she didn't.

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Now, let's go back to the incapacitated.  Their situation is unique from a right to life perspective not because reality has significantly limited their choices of action but rather because, metaphysically, they cannot choose and cannot act on whatever choices of action reality does present them with.
Exactly why cannot man make a choice in such instances? Because reality has prevented him from being able to make choices. It has provided him with no alternative to his incapacitation. It has provided him with no alternative to his inability to act. Of course, the fact that reality does not give him the ability to act does not change the fact that rights pertain to the realm of ethics (ie his interaction with other men) and not the realm of metaphysics (ie his interaction with reality) as dismuke keeps trying to assert. Thus the assertion that he is "metaphysically" incapable of acting is a profound non-sequitur.
Remember, one's right to life is the right to make such choices and act on them.
Which means the freedom to make such choices as he is capable absent the initiation of force by other men - and the freedom to act on those choices as he is capable absent the initiation of force by other men.

It means absolutely nothing else.

It is not a guarantee reality will present him with such choices nor a guarantee that he will be capable of acting on those choices. Yet the latter is precisely the guarantee dismuke seeks to secure - through the subjugation of the capable to the incapable (the 'selectivity' of his subjugation does not change the fact of the subjugation, nor his assertion of it as a proper principle).

In cases where a man is incapable of acting to secure his rights, dismuke seeks to create a metaphysical right to such actions be taken by other men on his behalf (which, as has been pointed out in other posts, destroys ethical rights completely).

This is what dismuke claims "should not be at all controversial to Objectivists." This is what dismuke claims is simply "nitpicking".

What is under discussion here is the fact that I am arguing that, under certain very specific instances, requiring a person to call 911 is appropriate and does not constitute an initiation of force, just as the military running tanks over Cindy Sheehan's pasture in time of war does not constitute an initiation of force.
Dismuke has once again completely dropped context. In the Sheehan example, the context is defense against the initiation of force. In the 911 example, there has been no initiation of force. Thus, in the Sheehan example, because government is responding to the initiation of force, its use of force is self-defense - ie valid. In the 911 example however, because the government is not responding to the initiation of force, then its use of force is an initiation - ie invalid.

Put simply, claiming the 911 example does not involve the initiation of force because the Sheehan example does not involve the initiation of force is false - just as the claim murder does not involve the initiation of force because self-defense does not involve the initiation of force is false.

The moral responsibility for the consequences of the crime(such as calling witnesses to the stand) then belong to the criminal who initiated force.
This actually implies that the government, in compelling a witness to a stand, is passively perpetuating a process of force initiation that the criminal set in motion. That is simply bizarre.
Here dismuke substitutes mudslinging for an actual argument. Instead of explaining why Michael's argument is somehow in error, he merely dismisses it by calling it a name.

That is not rational.

And neither is the point he is trying to make. Dismuke claims it is "simply bizarre" to consider government use of force to be a continuing and appropriate response to the force initiated by a criminal. In other words, he considers it "simply bizarre" to believe "compelling a witness to a stand" is a link in a causal chain of defensive uses of force set in motion by the criminal's initial use of force, for which that criminal is entirely and morally responsible.

Far from being "bizarre" however, such a principle is the only foundation of a rational and objective system of justice. Such a principle is the application of the concept of self-defense. And it is the only one which makes government use of force defensive as opposed to an initiation. Whih means, it is the only principle a proper government can follow.

Consider for a moment if one took dismuke's objection seriously. If the government use of force to compel a witness to court was not a response to the force initiated by the criminal - was not "another step in the process force" set in motion by the criminal - then that would mean the government's use of force was an initiation. And it would mean government, by compelling witnesses to testify, is violating the rights of those individuals. In other words, in order to protect against the violation of rights, government would be engaging in the violation of rights.

That is an obvious contradiction.

No. The principle which makes dismuke's favorite Sheehan example not an initiation of force is exactly the same principle which makes dismuke's "witness" example not an initiation of force. While both do indeed involve the use of force by government, that use is a response to the use of force. As such, while government force is a direct result of the force used by the criminal - ie it is a continuation of the "process of force" begun by the criminal, and for which the criminal is completely responsible - it is not a 'passive perpetuation' of the force initiated by that criminal. In other words yes, government is continuing the use of force, but no, it is not continuing the initiation of force, as dismuke claims is implied by the principle.

Unfortunately for dismuke's overall argument, it is precisely the fact that government is responding to the initiation of force (or threat thereof) in such situations which makes it invalid for him to lump his 911 example in with the proper actions of government - such as the Sheehan example. In the Sheehan example, any force used by the military (including tanks rolling over Sheehan's pastures) is the continuation of the force initiated by the enemy. As such, that enemy is morally responsible for the military's force against Sheehan. In the 911 example, however, there is no initiation of force. As such, there is no 'process of force initiation' to which the government can validly respond to with defensive force. Therefore any use of force in such a situation would be an initiation of force - and thus a violation of the person's rights. And this initiation of force and violation of rights would be the sole responsibility of the government - which would properly be treated as criminal in such instances.

To be considered a defensive use of force, government force must be in response to the initiation of force or threat thereof. It cannot logically be considered defensive absent such initiation or threat of that initiation.

Yet that is the position dismuke presents - which is what makes his position illogical.

--

To summarize: the fact that reality presents a man no alternative to death unless he is helped by other men, does not give that man or his delegate the right to initiate force in order to acquire such help. No man may initiate such force another because no man is the property of another.

Whether a man seeks full medical and economic help at the point of a gun, or only a phone call at the point of a gun, does not change this principle. Whether the action involves a sacrifice or not (as determined by the gun wielder) does not change this principle. And whether one initiates this force one's self or gets someone else who is willing to do it for him, does not change this principle.

Put simply, there is no right to subjugation - whether for a long time or a short time, whether the subjugator considers it a sacrifice or not on the part of the subjugated, nor whether one does the subjugating on one's own or has one's delegate to do it for one's self.

No man's need places an obligation upon another man. Period. No "ifs" "ands" or "buts".

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Then why shouldn't a house owner be responsible for the mental (and possibly physical) damage caused to an abused child on his premises?

I think one has to be very careful when it comes to the issue of "mental damage."

I agree that it is a definite issue and a very serious one at that in terms of a child's well being. Telling a child over and over again "You're rotten. You're worthless. You will never amount to anything." can sometimes cause deeper and far more permanent scars than mere physical abuse. For example, what Ellsworth Toohey did with Catherine was most definitely mental abuse in my book. The problem is that there is a very slippery slope when the government gets involved with it.

I could make a case that it causes mental damage to tell a child that he is wicked by nature, that if he pursues his own happiness he will face eternal misery and that any injustice or evil that he encounters is his fault. But do we want the government telling parents that they cannot preach certain religions and philosophies that uphold exactly that?

I suspect that the primary context in which mental damage could become a proper governmental concern is when it comes to custody issues. For example, if a father becomes outraged and concerned over the ongoing verbal abuse his wife spews at their children and, for this reason, wishes to divorce her, get sole custody and raise the kids by himself, then I could see that as potentially being something that a court might need to take into consideration. Of course, to what degree and how it would have to be proven is a legal and not a philosophical issue.

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I think one has to be very careful when it comes to the issue of "mental damage..."

The problem is that there is a very slippery slope when the government gets involved with it...

But do we want the government telling parents that they cannot preach certain religions and philosophies that uphold exactly that?

I was referring to mental damage in the context of the case cited by Vladimir Berkov (post 225, 9/25/05):

I don't have my casebook in front of me but I recall a case in which a woman invited a mother and her child from church to stay at her house over the weekend because they had nowhere else to go. Over the course of the weekend, the guest (who had mental problems) went into a fit, deciding that her child was possessed by the devil and proceeded to beat up her child which eventually died from lack of medical care.

The woman who invited this mother into her house and who had watched the mother assault the child over the course of several days never once called the authorities, an ambulance or anybody nor did she attempt to protect the child.

She was found to be not guilty of child abuse because not being the child's mother and not being in loco parentis she had no duty of care to look out for the child regardless of the fact that she watched it being abused and did nothing.

My point is that, had the child survived, she would have required physical as well as mental care for the trauma of being beaten to near-death. I agree that the government is better kept out of it, and private charity could take care of the damages. My point is that the host who watched the child being beaten and did nothing is legally liable for damages in a civil suit by the child's custodians, public or private.

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I was referring to mental damage in the context of the case cited by Vladimir Berkov (post 225, 9/25/05):

My point is that, had the child survived, she would have required physical as well as mental care for the trauma of being beaten to near-death. I agree that the government is better kept out of it, and private charity could take care of the damages. My point is that the host who watched the child being beaten and did nothing is legally liable for damages in a civil suit by the child's custodians, public or private.

I am inclined to agree with the above. The only reason I say "inclined" is simply because of my lack of specialized knowledge on legal matters. It certainly makes sense to me.

I wasn't aware that, by "mental damage" you specifically meant treatment of trauma. I mistook it to mean to mean "mental damage" in a wider sense which, unfortunately, can be sometimes ambiguous, especially in light or our still largely primitive level of knowledge and understanding of human psychology. So I stand corrected.

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Michelle,

You said:

Nevertheless, whoever has custody of the child after the abusive mother was charged can sue the owner of the house for damages.

Recalling that one is innocent until proven guilty, on what basis do you suggest the child's guardian has grounds to sue the owner of the house for damages?

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Recalling that one is innocent until proven guilty, on what basis do you suggest the child's guardian has grounds to sue the owner of the house for damages?

In the case cited by Vladimir Berkov, the owner of the house invited the mother and child to stay over the weekend, then let the mother beat the child to death in her house. The grounds for suing her for damages is negligence. If the stairway in the house was broken and the child fell down and was injured, the grounds for suing the owner for damages would be negligence as well. The guaridan will have to prove that the owner indeed saw the abuse taking place in her house and did nothing about it, so the owner is innocent until proven guilty. I should point out that the owner could order the mother and child out of her house as soon as she observed the abuse in order to avoid liability. Also, by "owner" I mean the person living in the house and acting as a host, not the landlord.

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The guaridan will have to prove that the owner indeed saw the abuse taking place in her house and did nothing about it, so the owner is innocent until proven guilty.

Michelle - Question: let's say that, for whatever reason, the abusive parent was acquitted in any criminal trial that took place. Obviously that would probably weaken any case the guardian might have against the owner - but would it necessarily be sufficient to render it invalid?

My understanding is that to be convicted in a criminal case, the government must prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt." Isn't that threshold somewhat lower in civil cases? I did not follow the OJ trial (and I am one of the very few people who has no opinion of it - though most people I agree with on other things who did follow it believe he was guilty) - but I seem to recall that after he was acquitted of murder, he faced another trial for the civil consequences of the murder he was acquitted of. Unfortunately, I cannot remember for sure if that trial took place or what the results were.

I guess what I am asking is that, obviously the guardian would have to prove that such abuse did, in fact, take place. But isn't the standard of that proof going to be much lower for the guardian's lawyers than the prosecutors in the civil trial? Also, let's assume OJ was instead convicted. Would the lawyers in the civil suit be able to enter that fact in as evidence? Or would they have to prove his guilt again from scratch?

Also one other question if you do not mind my asking: Are you a lawyer or a law student? Or is this simply a subject you happen to be knowledgeable about?

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The civil standard is "by a preponderance of the evidence" which is a lower standard than the criminal one because the state has no particular interest in either outcome of a civil case.

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Dismuke,

I am not a lawyer or law student. I simply watched many TV dramatizations of real cases and followed closely important cases such as the OJ Simpson case. I welcome corrections and comments for anyone more knowledgeable.

In answer to you questions, the civil case against OJ did take place, and he was found guilty and had to pay monetary damages to the relatives of Ron Goldman, who were the ones suing him. Mr. Berkov is right that the civil standards are lower than the criminal standards. One reason is that in a criminal case, the possible outcome is jail time or execution, not just monetary damages.

In the case of the abusive mother, if she is found not guilty in criminal court because there is not enough evidence that her beating caused the child's death, than there is no civil case against the owner. But if the mother is found not guilty by reason of insanity, then there is a civil case against the owner, assuming she is sane.

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In the case cited by Vladimir Berkov, the owner of the house invited the mother and child to stay over the weekend, then let the mother beat the child to death in her house. The grounds for suing her for damages is negligence.
Negligence is the basis you suggest for proper grounds? Ok.

So your suggestion is the home owner (read: owner/witness) neglected to do something. And your suggestion is the home owner - by virtue of being owner - had an obligation to do this something (ie a non-owner witness would not be obligated to do the same something) - and that he failed in this obligation.

What is that obligation exactly?

For instance, using your second example: a stairway in the house is broken and a child falls down and is injured because of it. What obligation does the owner have to a visitor? Based on what principle? And how did the owner fail in this instance to meet his obligation to that visitor?

Put simply - what right of the visitor is the property owner in each instance violating? What force against the visitor is the property owner initiating?

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