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BRG253

Did I wrong this person?

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OK so I recently got busted for driving with a suspended license and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Since governemnt doesn't have the right to issue driver's licences in the first place, I felt that I had done nothing wrong and that the most moral course of action was to get it over with as painlessly as possible.

I did the community service with a one-man environmentalist organization picking up trash and removing invasive plants at city parks. The "president" of the organization is a guy who lost his job as an airplane mechanic (before the recession) and cannot now find another line of work, so spends his days as a professional "volunteer" running his one-man nonprofit agency. He is very ideological about volunteerism and the first day I met him, he went on a fucking rant about how evil employers are and how he couldn't get a job now because he was "overqualified." Really f'd up shit.

Anyway, most of the work was unsupervised, so there were plenty of opportunities to cheat and embellished my hours, i.e. report work when I really wasn't working. I spent about 50% of my reported time not working. He eventually caught me taking a break offsite while I was "on the clock" and read me the riot act. I later sent him an email apologizing for lying to him and explained my side: I didn't mean to rip him off, but I was operating under coersion and had no incentive to work any harder than absolutely necessary. Here is his response:

"Attitude is everything. You wasted my time and cheated the community of a valuable service. Volunteering can be fun, rewording and educational. I suggest you find something you like to do and try it some time."

This seems ridiculous to me beacause the hours I lied about required no time investment on his part. He only benefitted from the time I spent working, and lost nothing during the time that I wasn’t. Regardless of how many hours I reported, he was always the beneficiary of my misfortune. Of course, we all understand the silliness of "cheating the community."

My question is: did I owe this guy my honesty since it wasn't his fault that I was in trouble with the law? The contract is that I give him a certain number of hours and he pays me in the form of a letter to the judge verifying my completion of those hours. However, since I'm operating under coersion, and he is in collusion with the courts, I think this renders the contract morally invalid. But I would like to hear your thoughts. Did I "cheat" this man out of something that was rightfully his?

Edited by BRG253

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I disagree with the premise. (that you were wronged by being sentenced for driving with a suspended license). Sure the government doesn't have the right to tax us, and use the money to build roads, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't issue licenses once they do build those roads.

You certainly don't have a right to drive on a road you don't own, without the permission of the owner, so you aren't being wronged in your rights by being required to have a driver's license. You're wronged by being required to pay taxes for the road to be built, but you're not wronged just for being required to have a license.

In conclusion, if you were sentenced to community service for failing to pay some tax, you would be justified in lying to get out of it. As it is, I disagree that you are a victim.

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I think that you should have been given jail time instead.

Really? Is this for the reasons given above by Jake Ellison? If I am wrong, I want to realize it.

Edited by BRG253

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If I am wrong, I want to realize it.
Alright, so to begin with, getting your license suspended is not the equivalent of a parking ticket. You did something wrong, and not just "technically" wrong. We don't need to know what. So your license was suspended, and you knew it. Yet you decided "F that nonsense, ain't nobody gonna tell me what to do" and persisted in driving. So you get caught. Now, if you really held that it is unjust and immoral for the government to require people to follow certain rules and have a license when driving, then you would have challenged that law and let the jury of your peers determine whether you had indeed committed a crime. But you (presumably) did not do this, and instead you pretended to accepted community service as the punishment. The most moral thing to do was not to lie about your future conduct. If you wanted to be moral, you would have refused to recognize the right of the government to punish you in any way, and should have been honest in declaring your intention to lie about carrying out the sentence.

Since you have decided that your contract is invalid, then it would be perfectly just if the guy were to send in a letter stating "The guy never showed up and he did no work at all". After all, if you have no contract with him, he has no contract with you and he has no obligation to provide you with anything of value. Then it's not his problem is they put you in jail.

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You were wrong because you broke the law. You may disagree with the law, but you have to take the consequences of your actions when you break the law. Stop whining about being a poor victim and get a new drivers license and try to do better next time.

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Now, if you really held that it is unjust and immoral for the government to require people to follow certain rules and have a license when driving, then you would have challenged that law and let the jury of your peers determine whether you had indeed committed a crime. But you (presumably) did not do this, and instead you pretended to accepted community service as the punishment. The most moral thing to do was not to lie about your future conduct. If you wanted to be moral, you would have refused to recognize the right of the government to punish you in any way, and should have been honest in declaring your intention to lie about carrying out the sentence.

Choosing to break a law you disagree with carries a risk, but openly defying the law in court is suicidal and guarantees the worst possible outcome. It seems moral to lie to the court to escape a more severe punishment than is necessary when the punishment is unjust.

Edited by BRG253

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To me, your initial post says much more about your personal integrity than it does about the system, the volunteer guy or anything else.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking, it's honesty in action, it's paying ones debts and owning up to ones mistakes.

To tell you the truth, right now, after reading this I wouldn't hire you to work for me

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My question is: did I owe this guy my honesty since it wasn't his fault that I was in trouble with the law?

You owed it to yourself. Honesty and integrity are rational virtues that reward the person who practices them.

Think of the consequences. When you sit down over a beer and are telling the story to someone you value what will you say? Will you describe how you lied to this person, loafed on the job and forced someone else to accept the consequences of your actions? Or will you lie? And how will that make you feel?

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To me, your initial post says much more about your personal integrity than it does about the system, the volunteer guy or anything else.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking, it's honesty in action, it's paying ones debts and owning up to ones mistakes.

To tell you the truth, right now, after reading this I wouldn't hire you to work for me

I viewed the situation as one in which no debt was owed and therefore did not consider it a breach of honesty and integrity to act as I did. I'm willing to re-consider that premise, but this is not how I would handle MOST situations in life. These actions reflect my attitude only toward this specific scenario.

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You were wrong because you broke the law. You may disagree with the law, but you have to take the consequences of your actions when you break the law. Stop whining about being a poor victim and get a new drivers license and try to do better next time.

The question is not whether I have to deal with the consequences, but whether the consequences are right.

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Choosing to break a law you disagree with carries a risk, but openly defying the law in court is suicidal and guarantees the worst possible outcome. It seems moral to lie to the court to escape a more severe punishment than is necessary when the punishment is unjust.
Anyhow, you've clearly demonstrated that your moral character is on the side of evil, not good, so what puzzles me is why you don't just call it quits with respect to this thread? What "moral code", i.e. set of objective principles, are you adhering to? It seems to me that maybe if you didn't grasp the fact that your decision to lie multiple times was immoral, you could have chewed this stuff over and realized "Crap, I really was in the wrong", but now you're just rationalizing and evading. You exploit the fact that the government runs the roads and evade the fact that after your previous bad driving conduct, with a privately-run road system you simply would not have been able to get on the road. Then you use the fact that "taxation exists" as an blanket and literal get out of jail free card. The punishment was just. The owner of the roads gets to stipulate the rules for their use, and breaking into that property when you have been told to not trespass is a totally immoral action. But you compound this by saying "Because I don't agree with this consequence of my actions, I am being coerced into this action, therefore no matter what I do, I am free from any negative moral evaluation".

Anyhow, this is one of the many reasons why I think that actual jail time is what's called for, in response to breaking the law. Negotiating punishments downwards to include "community service" makes it easy for evaders to pull stunts like this.

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Anyhow, you've clearly demonstrated that your moral character is on the side of evil, not good, so what puzzles me is why you don't just call it quits with respect to this thread? What "moral code", i.e. set of objective principles, are you adhering to? It seems to me that maybe if you didn't grasp the fact that your decision to lie multiple times was immoral, you could have chewed this stuff over and realized "Crap, I really was in the wrong", but now you're just rationalizing and evading. You exploit the fact that the government runs the roads and evade the fact that after your previous bad driving conduct, with a privately-run road system you simply would not have been able to get on the road. Then you use the fact that "taxation exists" as an blanket and literal get out of jail free card. The punishment was just. The owner of the roads gets to stipulate the rules for their use, and breaking into that property when you have been told to not trespass is a totally immoral action. But you compound this by saying "Because I don't agree with this consequence of my actions, I am being coerced into this action, therefore no matter what I do, I am free from any negative moral evaluation".

Anyhow, this is one of the many reasons why I think that actual jail time is what's called for, in response to breaking the law. Negotiating punishments downwards to include "community service" makes it easy for evaders to pull stunts like this.

No, I'm seriously chewing it and considering the likelihood that I was wrong. I didn't agree with the specific statement in your post that I responded to, but I shouldn't have focused solely on that point while avoiding the more important ones pertaining to having done something wrong.

Anyway, I now believe that you and others are correct. I did somethng wrong to get my license suspended. Government does have to impose rules of the road such as issuing driver's licenses as long as it is responsible for controlling the transportation system, and I feel foolish for having failed to understand this. Accordingly, I should not have lied to the voluteer guy, who was providing me with a chance to avoid jail in exchange for my work. I was wrong to lie to him. Thank you all for the well-deserved scolding and I shall try to try to emerge from this mess with a lesson well learned.

To correct you on one point, however, if the roads were privately owned I would not have been apt to break the rules in the first place due to my respect for private property. My disregard for the current rules has been largely based on my contempt for government ownership (even if I was in error about that).

Edited by BRG253

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I viewed the situation as one in which no debt was owed and therefore did not consider it a breach of honesty and integrity to act as I did. I'm willing to re-consider that premise, but this is not how I would handle MOST situations in life. These actions reflect my attitude only toward this specific scenario.

When you lay down your principles at what point does it become convenient to pick them up again?

You responded to what you saw as an injustice (a small one that did not impact your survival) by cheating and lying. Aren't you better than that?

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My disregard for the current rules has been largely based on my contempt for government ownership (even if I was in error about that).
Awright, well I think that's something that merits your attention. There's a difference between the government directly doing something that it shouldn't do and that shouldn't be done at all (taxation, drug regulation), versus the government doing something that should be done in connection with it doing something that it shouldn't do but private industry should. Prior to us reaching Objectopia, you can expect that the government will overstep its proper boundaries, which it shouldn't do. But the proper response to government overreach is not anarchy, it is to work earnestly to correct the government, and generally live in a civilized society while we work towards this ultimate goal.

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I get a very different impression of this poster. Seems sincere and honest, unusually so. The error of generalizing government's improper interferences to drivers' licenses is an easy one to make. (Of course, we didn't learn why his license was suspended in the first place.)

The contractor for his court-decreed punishment is buying his labor to throw it away, isn't that what "community service" amounts to? The clean-up work wasn't a trade between our poster and the contractor. Not doing the work didn't short-change him. His fury at the laxity was because it dis-respected his personal "volunteerism" values.

I think some of the responses went overboard.

Mindy

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Mindy, sorry, I'm confused. What volunteerism values? He didn't volunteer. He was sentenced to community service because he broke the law (it's beside the point whether the law is right or wrong.) That was a punishment. It wasn't his place to agree or disagree with it. He needed to serve the time. If he wanted to challenge the law, he lost. The law's a powerful bitch, which is why most of us abide by it.

Personally, I think he's trying to take the phylosophic high road after being careless with his license renewal and then petulant about being made to live with the consequences.

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Mindy, sorry, I'm confused. What volunteerism values? He didn't volunteer.
In this Mindy was not referring to the values of the OP, but the (reported) values of the guy he was working for: the guy to whom the court gave the labor that the OP was sentenced to provide.

Given today's context the court was within its legitimate realm to sentence the OP. If this sentence was X hours of his labor instead of a fine or prison time, then the court was not overstepping there either. If the court is going to sentence you to labor, it also seems fine that it would direct this to some general value-creation that benefits the local community at large: like cleaning trash, painting the court-room walls, and what not. Obviously someone is required to supervise such labor, and if volunteers are available to supervise, that's an efficient solution. Someone is volunteering to supervise the court-mandated labor. No problem there either.

As others have said, since the court's sentence is legitimate, the OP should have done his labor as sentenced and moved on. He did not. Instead, he argued to himself that the court's sentence was not legitimate. To answer the question posed in the title, he does not really owe that labor to that supervisor, whose role is more analogous to a prison guard, but to the court/government.

As irritating as the values of the supervisor might be, that does not change the fact that the OP was basically not doing what he was sentenced to do. So, it is not surprising that he got a lecture. Now, let's assume the supervisor is really ideologically an environmentalist who has bad values and who thinks people ought to volunteer etc. etc. That does not change the essence of the situation any more than if he were a strict Christian and thought odd things about heaven etc. In other words, when the supervisor lectured the OP, the supervisor might have given the wrong reasons for why the OP was doing something wrong; but, that does not change the fact that the OP was in the wrong, for some other (right) reasons.

Also, we only have the OP's testimony to go on as to the supervisor. It is quite likely that his lecture was actually a mix of good and bad reasoning. For instance,by the OP's own quotes, we see that the supervisor got many things right "you cheated the community" is pretty close to the truth, even if "you wasted my time" might be a bit further. I actually like that he told the OP "Volunteering can be fun, rewording and educational. I suggest you find something you like to do and try it some time." When one finds oneself in a situation that cannot be changed, there is nothing to be gained from sulking about it; the best approach is to accept things that one cannot change and instead of converting them into dead-zones of blank-out nothingness, to ask what best you can get from the situation. Squeeze as much value out it as you can out of life. Hark back to the supervisor's remark: "Attitude is everything". It may not be everything, but it can make all the difference to one's happiness in a given situation.

With that said, it sounds like the OP may be seriously reconsidering what he did.

Edited by softwareNerd

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I think you forgot to blame him for the holocaust, too.

I don't know what you did to get your license revoked, and I don't really know what kinds of things warrant that. Getting caught ten miles over the speed limit more than five times? No big deal. Drunk driving in a school zone while trafficing Muslim terrorists? Pretty bad. Given that I don't know the details, I'm not going to judge on that account.

The government monopoly on roads does not give you the freedom to negotiate the terms on which you'll use the roadways, and given a free market perhaps you'd take a commuter train instead, so you thought, "They took my money forcibly to pay for this road, so I'll use it and I'll damn well use it how I please." If that meant that you were speeding but were (correctly) confident in your ability to control the vehicle in spite of this (maybe you were in a speed trap and police were looking to drum up revenue by going hard on BS offenses), I don't think that's bad at all, you really did nothing wrong. If you were drunk driving, or driving at wild speeds, you were putting other people's lives in danger, as well as your own. That's both immoral and rightfully illegal even under the unideal, non-capitalistic circumstances.

And I tend to think that whether it was right or wrong to have driven without a license is contingent on whether it was right or wrong to do what had earned your suspension.

As for whether you did anything wrong to the individual, I don't know, that's a little too muddled for me to know where to come down. But I did want to say that, depending on your particular violations, you might not be the trash that everybody here seems to accuse you of being--and the mere fact that you're obviously interested in whether you did wrong is evidence that you're a long way from evil.

In any case, you're obviously bad at getting away with breaking the law--even if it's an improper law--so you seem to be doing yourself a disservice by this kind of... let's call it civil disobedience, for the sake of charitable interpretation.

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Thanks, Softwarenerd, for that clarification.

If I understand the situation correctly, the supervisor is paid by the government to oversee "perps'" community service time. His non-profit business probably just pays his own salary and some expenses. When he failed to supervise our friendly perp, he was cheating the court system with his lax over-sight. His outburst may well have been due to guilt at his own failure.

I don't blame my horse for wandering away if I don't have a rope on her.

It just seems that some are looking on this as if he promised someone something, then didn't deliver, but forced labor as punishment doesn't fit that scenario, does it?

Mindy

Edited by Mindy

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I think you forgot to blame him for the holocaust, too.

I don't know what you did to get your license revoked, and I don't really know what kinds of things warrant that. Getting caught ten miles over the speed limit more than five times? No big deal. Drunk driving in a school zone while trafficing Muslim terrorists? Pretty bad. Given that I don't know the details, I'm not going to judge on that account.

The government monopoly on roads does not give you the freedom to negotiate the terms on which you'll use the roadways, and given a free market perhaps you'd take a commuter train instead, so you thought, "They took my money forcibly to pay for this road, so I'll use it and I'll damn well use it how I please." If that meant that you were speeding but were (correctly) confident in your ability to control the vehicle in spite of this (maybe you were in a speed trap and police were looking to drum up revenue by going hard on BS offenses), I don't think that's bad at all, you really did nothing wrong. If you were drunk driving, or driving at wild speeds, you were putting other people's lives in danger, as well as your own. That's both immoral and rightfully illegal even under the unideal, non-capitalistic circumstances.

And I tend to think that whether it was right or wrong to have driven without a license is contingent on whether it was right or wrong to do what had earned your suspension.

As for whether you did anything wrong to the individual, I don't know, that's a little too muddled for me to know where to come down. But I did want to say that, depending on your particular violations, you might not be the trash that everybody here seems to accuse you of being--and the mere fact that you're obviously interested in whether you did wrong is evidence that you're a long way from evil.

In any case, you're obviously bad at getting away with breaking the law--even if it's an improper law--so you seem to be doing yourself a disservice by this kind of... let's call it civil disobedience, for the sake of charitable interpretation.

Aleph, no one has used words like evil or trash. As a matter of fact, one of my major problems with Objectivists is how easily the word evil is tossed out. Someone makes a mistake, he/she is automatically evil. That's not my thinking at all. Aside from Hitler and a few others, I really don't think that word applies. People make mistakes, that's all. Mistakes can be corrected. I just think he's a confused kid who's discovered Objectivism and has decided that the world is working against him and is unfair to him. He probably just needs to grow up. Hardly a big deal. (Okay, I'm sure he'll post back saying that he's really a fifty-five year old physician.)

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I think you forgot to blame him for the holocaust, too.

I don't know what you did to get your license revoked, and I don't really know what kinds of things warrant that. Getting caught ten miles over the speed limit more than five times? No big deal. Drunk driving in a school zone while trafficing Muslim terrorists? Pretty bad. Given that I don't know the details, I'm not going to judge on that account.

The government monopoly on roads does not give you the freedom to negotiate the terms on which you'll use the roadways, and given a free market perhaps you'd take a commuter train instead, so you thought, "They took my money forcibly to pay for this road, so I'll use it and I'll damn well use it how I please." If that meant that you were speeding but were (correctly) confident in your ability to control the vehicle in spite of this (maybe you were in a speed trap and police were looking to drum up revenue by going hard on BS offenses), I don't think that's bad at all, you really did nothing wrong. If you were drunk driving, or driving at wild speeds, you were putting other people's lives in danger, as well as your own. That's both immoral and rightfully illegal even under the unideal, non-capitalistic circumstances.

And I tend to think that whether it was right or wrong to have driven without a license is contingent on whether it was right or wrong to do what had earned your suspension.

As for whether you did anything wrong to the individual, I don't know, that's a little too muddled for me to know where to come down. But I did want to say that, depending on your particular violations, you might not be the trash that everybody here seems to accuse you of being--and the mere fact that you're obviously interested in whether you did wrong is evidence that you're a long way from evil.

In any case, you're obviously bad at getting away with breaking the law--even if it's an improper law--so you seem to be doing yourself a disservice by this kind of... let's call it civil disobedience, for the sake of charitable interpretation.

Aleph, no one has used words like evil or trash. As a matter of fact, one of my major problems with Objectivists is how easily the word evil is tossed out. Someone makes a mistake, he/she is automatically evil. That's not my thinking at all. Aside from Hitler and a few others, I really don't think that word applies. People make mistakes, that's all. Mistakes can be corrected. I just think he's a confused kid who's discovered Objectivism and has decided that the world is working against him and is unfair to him. He probably just needs to grow up. Hardly a big deal. (Okay, I'm sure he'll post back saying that he's really a fifty-five year old physician.)

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It just seems that some are looking on this as if he promised someone something, then didn't deliver, but forced labor as punishment doesn't fit that scenario, does it?
agreed, it is not a contract. I think only the OP was looking at it as if it were a "contract" that he never agreed to. Edited by softwareNerd

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Aleph, no one has used words like evil or trash. As a matter of fact, one of my major problems with Objectivists is how easily the word evil is tossed out. Someone makes a mistake, he/she is automatically evil. That's not my thinking at all. Aside from Hitler and a few others, I really don't think that word applies. People make mistakes, that's all. Mistakes can be corrected. I just think he's a confused kid who's discovered Objectivism and has decided that the world is working against him and is unfair to him. He probably just needs to grow up. Hardly a big deal. (Okay, I'm sure he'll post back saying that he's really a fifty-five year old physician.)

In fact, the word "evil" was applied in a post by DavidOdden.

I would I could so blithely disdain the reality of evil in life. Do you consider the recent 'Honor Killings' just those two girls' father's "mistake?"

Mindy

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