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Is it moral to "snitch" on someone for drugs?

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Suppose that someone in your sphere or vicinity disrupts your life and poses a threat to your we-being and that simply getting away from the person is not a practical short-term option. Is it moral to report him to the authorities for drug related activity in the hope of having him taken away?

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How is he threatening your well-being? Is he a competitor for a promotion, or a romantic interest, etc., or is he threatening you with physical harm? The analogy that comes to my mind is of living in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, and you have a neighbor with a better job, and who’s dating the object of your desire. You find out he’s really Jewish and is living under a false name. Or he has Jews in his attic. Why not turn him in? That’ll sure solve it!

If he’s actually threatened you, why don’t you seek legal redress for that? I assume, though you haven’t stated it, that you’re opposed to drug criminalization, this being an Objectivist site. Now, if he’s your neighbor in an apartment building, and he’s cooking meth in his kitchen and the whole thing might blow up at any time, that would be another matter.

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Without details, it's hard to say. Can you really not get away? Are the possible consequences for this person justified based on what he has done to your life? Etc.

In general, if there are not legal repercussions for a real harm someone has caused you, I say take justice in your own hands. All the better if there are existing laws that will do the work for you, even if the laws shouldn't exist. I think the key is being accurate in your own judgement of justice, which might get tricky.

Comparing possible jail time for drugs to a concentration camp isn't fair, since the outcomes are vastly different for the reported persons.

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Comparing possible jail time for drugs to a concentration camp isn't fair, since the outcomes are vastly different for the reported persons.

The outcomes sure are different, but I think the point was that it may be ok to leverage a bad law to "deal with" someone, but only if that person is violating your rights.

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The outcomes sure are different, but I think the point was that it may be ok to leverage a bad law to "deal with" someone, but only if that person is violating your rights.

Well of course. I took "threat to wellbeing" to mean violating rights.

Here is a fictional example where I would find using bad laws appropriate to dealing with someone: At your job, someone has begun verbally threatening you several times a day at work. One day, he decides to take it a step further and actually hit you. You can't lose your job or take the time to look for another one due to financial constraints -- say, you have children or are taking care of your parent. You don't hit him back or report the incident since there were no witnesses to either the verbal or physical threats. You know that he is a drug user because you saw a coworker sell him something in the bathroom. You also suspect that he has immigrated illegally.

In this case, I think using the laws are justified. I also condone using physical force in return in some way, but this opens up the possibility of dragging it out and inviting even more problems headed your way, say from his friends or relatives. The bad laws would be a good option that could be executed anonymously.

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Another point I would like to make is that using the laws to execute justice isn't always the best way, especially with all of the convoluted legal crap that exists today. If it takes more of your life to see that justice is served through the law than it is worth, I think finding another means is fine. If a "friend" doesn't pay you back $1000 I'm sure anyone could think of a lot of ways to deal with that besides small claims court. Again, the stress is on appropriate, or making sure that the punishment fits the crime. It's tricky to get it right both personally and legally, but I would say it's moral.

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Comparing possible jail time for drugs to a concentration camp isn't fair, since the outcomes are vastly different for the reported persons.

Jail time and a criminal record can follow a person for the rest of their life, the consequences shouldn’t be minimized either. The OP totally omitted the measurements, so we’re all putting in different ones, which is fine but if he doesn’t come back soon and clear it up, I’m going to write him off as some freeloader trying to do research to maybe get a school paper written.

Anyway, if you’re going to talk vigilantism you can always point to the story of Bonasera from the Godfather.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88K0Qsubkx0

Even better is the example I gave of the meth lab in your apartment building, the police are certainly going to put a stop to that, even if meth became legal.

Another example, one that I want to particularly aim at you (JASKN), ultimately refers to the events that got Oscar Wilde imprisoned. Hard labor for 2 years, during which he sustained an injury that eventually killed him. It’s a complicated case, but ultimately he went to jail for being gay. The father of his lover arranged it. Did he think the consequences were justified based on what Wilde had done to his life? He probably did, who cares?

Assume the laws are the same now as they were then, and some OO poster, let’s call him ND, is mad at you for deleting his posts. ND thinks his posts are so important that the survival of Western Civilization depends on them being seen here on OO. ND doesn’t think homosexuality ought to be illegal, but, dammit, you just keep deleting his posts, and finally it gets to a point, I mean look, the lights of the west are going out! So he calls the vice squad on you…what kind of SOB, huh? Don't leave it to him to reintroduce the measurements.

Edited by Ninth Doctor

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Assume the laws are the same now as they were then, and some OO poster, let’s call him ND, is mad at you for deleting his posts. ND thinks his posts are so important that the survival of Western Civilization depends on them being seen here on OO. ND doesn’t think homosexuality ought to be illegal, but, dammit, you just keep deleting his posts, and finally it gets to a point, I mean look, the lights of the west are going out! So he calls the vice squad on you…what kind of SOB, huh? Don't leave it to him to reintroduce the measurements.

To be clear, I don't think vigilanteism is better than objective laws. But the laws are not currently very objective, and the system does not work that well. I'm talking about those cases where it doesn't work, or possibly couldn't work. After all, even small claims has a minimum requirement of a $20 loss. In those cases, social justice in the form of disassociating with the guilty party is appropriate. That neither promotes vigilanteism, nor concentration camps, nor discrimination of gays to the point of death. Life and individual judgement isn't perfect, and neither is the law. Edited by JASKN

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Life and individual judgement isn't perfect, and neither is the law.

I’m a bit puzzled, I went out of my way to substitute doing drugs for being gay and you’re not addressing it. You were open to letting the OP decide if the consequences of violating an improper law are justified, in effect substituting those consequences for whatever may be, under the law, rightfully due his oppressor for “posing a threat to his well being”. Is that still your position?

Is your name Walter White?

No, I'm the Doctor. Don't try to tell me Beaker looks like he might start a fire making meth.

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Suppose that someone in your sphere or vicinity disrupts your life and poses a threat to your we-being and that simply getting away from the person is not a practical short-term option. Is it moral to report him to the authorities for drug related activity in the hope of having him taken away?

It's a question of initiation of force. Is he using or threatening force, or would you be the one initiating it? It is never moral to initiate force.

If someone is physically threatening you, then you have the moral right to get rid of him by any means whatsoever. Getting him busted for drugs (or anything else, really, criminal or not) is perfectly justified. It would be justified even if he wasn't dealing drugs.

In the face of the threat of violence, respect for the thug's rights, or even the attempt to be fair, are misguided. But he would have to actually be an objective threat to you. The mere act of dealing drugs and being an inconvenience isn't enough.

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You were open to letting the OP decide if the consequences of violating an improper law are justified, in effect substituting those consequences for whatever may be, under the law, rightfully due his oppressor for “posing a threat to his well being”. Is that still your position?

My position is that the rights violator is at fault and that justice should be served. I stated that the punishment should fit the crime. What other supposed position do you think I have?

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My own answer to any question of the form "Is it moral..." is: no; if it were, you wouldn't be asking.

Morality is a difficult science. It isn't always immediately obvious what the right thing to do is. Furthermore, it creates a magic distinction between action and inaction. Consider the following two questions:

1) Is it moral to intervene in a suicide attempt

2) Is it moral to refrain from intervening in a suicide attempt

The answer to both of these, by your formula, is no.

Note that if this attitude was helpful, Dr. Peikoff would never answer "Yes" to any question that comes in the form: "Is it moral to…?"

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My position is that the rights violator is at fault and that justice should be served. I stated that the punishment should fit the crime. What other supposed position do you think I have?

That it’s ok to start bringing in immoral laws to even the score when the proper laws just aren’t giving you the result you think is right. I’m sure there are some great parts from The Nature of Government that would fit in right here, but I don’t have time to look them up at the moment.

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That it’s ok to start bringing in immoral laws to even the score when the proper laws just aren’t giving you the result you think is right.

What is your issue with this?

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That it’s ok to start bringing in immoral laws to even the score when the proper laws just aren’t giving you the result you think is right.

It's not a competition, so it's not a score. And "the result you think is right" suggests that there isn't an objective right and wrong result, when dealing with a criminal who threatens a rights respecting person. But there is.

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What is your issue with this?

Here’s a link to the Rand essay I referred to earlier.

http://www.aynrand.o...e_of_government

I’m frankly surprised at the pushback, maybe I’ll have to look at the arguments again later.

Here’s another example, Howard Roark believes Ellsworth Toohey has initiated force against him in the Cortlandt situation, pre-dynamite. Toohey engaged in tortious interference with HR’s contract with Keating, concludes HR after a little time in the law library. Since he knows he won’t win in an actual lawsuit, he decides that justice will be served by him sneaking into Ellsworth Toohey’s home, planting a bag of pot, then calling in a drug bust. Or, he just happens to know that Toohey has some weed at home, either way works. Roark celebrates the announcement of the bust by sparking up some of the best stuff from his own stash. Is this a sound concretization of the principles you favor?

Edited by Ninth Doctor

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I’m frankly surprised at the pushback, maybe I’ll have to look at the arguments again later.

Here’s another example, Howard Roark believes Ellsworth Toohey has initiated force against him in the Cortlandt situation, pre-dynamite. Toohey engaged in tortious interference with HR’s contract with Keating, concludes HR after a little time in the law library. Since he knows he won’t win in an actual lawsuit, he decides that justice will be served by him sneaking into Ellsworth Toohey’s home, planting a bag of pot, then calling in a drug bust. Or, he just happens to know that Toohey has some weed at home, either way works. Roark celebrates the announcement of the bust by sparking up some of the best stuff from his own stash. Is this a sound concretization of the principles you favor?

Here you've included several elements on top of the original scenario, like Roark planting the drugs himself instead of simply using Toohey's actual drug use, and Roark being a habitual drug user himself, thus making him fraudulent and a hypocrite. Clearly these elements alone put him in the wrong. My question is, if your previous argument concerning the original post is so clearly correct, why are these here?

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My question is, if your previous argument concerning the original post is so clearly correct, why are these here?

I’m dramatizing the hypocrisy, rather than repeating material I’ve used in previous posts. I noted that the break-in aspect wasn’t necessary, I added that to raise the stakes and make Roark perform a clearly illegal act, a kind of vigilantism via an immoral law, since vigilantism is part of what we’re arguing about. I could have ended with “Roark believes marijuana should be decriminalized”, but went with “show, don’t tell”.

I’d like to see examples from the other side in this dispute. No need to restrict it to drugs, how about insider trading? I already mentioned sodomy, which is thankfully anachronistic, so let’s see what else, maybe raw milk? Owning gold in the mid 1930’s, after Roosevelt made it illegal? Use your imagination, I’m ready to be convinced. Concretization is the death of the floating abstraction. Extra credit for integrating quotes from Rand’s The Nature of Government, linked above. Double plus good if you can work in a shot at Rothbardian competing justice agencies.

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I haven't taken the time to re-read Rand's essay, mainly because I don't see a reason to. Why don't you just state in your own words why you think using bad laws as a form of justice is wrong? I already listed a bunch of caveats, the most important of which is being sure in your own judgement. Government isn't some omniscient thing, it's just the best way to right the wrongs of a civilized society. If you're going to step out of the government's realm, that brings its own consequences if the stepping out is somehow illegal. However, depending on the objectivity of the laws, "going illegal" might better serve justice.

I haven't mentioned yet, but if in using a bad law you are certain it will have worse negative effects in your particular fight against that law than the justice you believe will be served, obviously that is something else to consider.

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Why don't you just state in your own words why you think using bad laws as a form of justice is wrong?

You’re initiating force, and promoting the continuation of improper laws. You’re undermining your own moral standing to object when/if someone does the same to you.

Not a complete list of objections, but it should do for a start.

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You’re initiating force, and promoting the continuation of improper laws. You’re undermining your own moral standing to object when/if someone does the same to you.

The other guy initiated force, not me. The moral standard is justice. Bad laws shouldn't exist in the first place, so this is a gray area, but if justice is served, that is what matters -- if, as I said, you're not actively trying to fight said laws.

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