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

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The other guy initiated force, not me.

Sez you. Apparently the legal institutions don’t agree, or you would be able to seek redress that way. Maybe you should try again with one of the other, competing justice agencies.

Give us an example, be specific, I’ve given a few already. Here’s a few quotes from the article you’re not interested in clicking on to read.

Visualize, for example, what would happen if a man missed his wallet, concluded that he had been robbed, broke into every house in the neighborhood to search it, and shot the first man who gave him a dirty look, taking the look to be a proof of guilt.

The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures. Men who attempt to prosecute crimes, without such rules, are a lynch mob. If a society left the retaliatory use of force in the hands of individual citizens, it would degenerate into mob rule, lynch law and an endless series of bloody private feuds or vendettas.If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws.

Since the protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of a government, it is the only proper subject of legislation: all laws must be based on individual rights and aimed at their protection.

[Drug laws qualify how?]

There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own).

I will say this, though: if I were a juror in the case of the State vs. Bonasera for conspiracy to do grave bodily harm to the guy who beat up his daughter, I think I’d feel enough sympathy for him that I’d vote to acquit, never mind the evidence. Though in that case the State did find the perp guilty, what pushed Bonasera over the edge was that the judge suspended the sentence.

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I’d like to see examples from the other side in this dispute.

Okay, here's one. You and your family (wife and a kid, maybe) have a tenant upstairs who uses drugs. He also pays the rent late, and gets later and later and then stops. You decide to have a forceful talk with him about it, and he starts shouting and verbally threatens you (strongly), maybe smashes a lamp or something. You report the threat to the police, but it's your word against his, and you have no demonstrable physical evidence that he poses a threat. You know the eviction process would take about 6 months to get him out, but you could get him out and away from your family tomorrow by tipping off the cops about the drugs in his place. You wouldn't even consider it? The guy could clearly become violent, and he has a key to your house.

The point is, it's not that "the legal institutions don’t agree[that he initiated force], or you would be able to seek redress that way," as you later say, but rather simply that you have no physical evidence to substantiate your claim of a verbal threat. You do, however, have physical evidence of drug use. Or consider the example of getting Al Capone off the streets with tax evasion (assuming we both think forcible taxation is immoral). There's a case where the cops knew, but couldn't prove, that he was a gangster and a murderer, but they could prove something else. I understand your concern with utilizing bad laws, but I don't think it's as simple as "If the law is morally illegitimate, never use or invoke it."

Edited by Dante
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This is a moral question is it not? The question being would one utilize

a law which one considers unjustifiable to one's own ends.

If the infractor had already shown his bad intent, initiated force, and to the

best of my knowledge remained a threat to my family or property, I would say "Certainly!"

But certainly not, for any petty revenge, minor matter, etc. - essentially

you are making yourself a judge in this situation, and must weigh it carefully.

An existing (immoral) law is still a fact of reality - and should be dealt

with as such: to your own advantage, too.

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Sez you. Apparently the legal institutions don’t agree, or you would be able to seek redress that way. Maybe you should try again with one of the other, competing justice agencies.

Give us an example, be specific, I’ve given a few already.

Here's a very simple one. Local drug dealer comes up to you, tells you he's gonna kill you if you don't do something he asks. What should you do?

1. Nothing.

2. Do what he asks.

3. Tell the cops he threatened you, but you have no proof except your word.

4. Tell the cops he threatened you and he's dealing drugs.

To me, the answer is obvious. He initiated force, and that means you have the right to use whatever means are available to get rid of him. If you can get him arrested for the threats, fine. If you can't, you may try to get him arrested for the drugs.

And, if you can't do that either, and the threat is serious enough (or he threatens not only you, but defenseless children as well), you may also get a gun and shoot him dead.

Laws are useful, but they aren't perfect. While this thread isn't about that, even the right laws would sometimes fail to protect you. When that happens, you aren't morally obligated to die by them, just because you support the idea of laws, or even the specific laws. There is no dichotomy between being for a state of laws, and acting outside the law when it fails. You can in fact do both at the same time, because a state of laws isn't a utopia.

Edited by Nicky
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Sez you. Apparently the legal institutions don’t agree, or you would be able to seek redress that way. Maybe you should try again with one of the other, competing justice agencies.

[...]

I will say this, though: if I were a juror in the case of the State vs. Bonasera for conspiracy to do grave bodily harm to the guy who beat up his daughter, I think I’d feel enough sympathy for him that I’d vote to acquit, never mind the evidence. Though in that case the State did find the perp guilty, what pushed Bonasera over the edge was that the judge suspended the sentence.

I actually did give an example already, in this earlier post. I am not promoting "competing agencies," since I do believe that a majority of people taking justice into their own hands would not yield better results than objective laws -- in general. However, if justice is not served with the justice system, I do not think it is immoral to serve justice yourself.

At this point I have nothing else to say, as I have covered all the angles I think are relevant in previous posts.

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Okay, here's one. You and your family (wife and a kid, maybe) have a tenant upstairs who uses drugs. He also pays the rent late, and gets later and later and then stops. You decide to have a forceful talk with him about it, and he starts shouting and verbally threatens you (strongly), maybe smashes a lamp or something. You report the threat to the police, but it's your word against his, and you have no demonstrable physical evidence that he poses a threat. You know the eviction process would take about 6 months to get him out, but you could get him out and away from your family tomorrow by tipping off the cops about the drugs in his place. You wouldn't even consider it? The guy could clearly become violent, and he has a key to your house.

Good one. Really good one, more nuanced than I was expecting. It calls to mind the movie Pacific Heights. In my first post I gave two examples, the turning in a Jew to the Nazis because he’s dating the woman you desire. “Disrupts your life and poses a threat to your well-being” (OP) is vague enough to permit such a concretization, so this example was geared to frame the issue, to be an “obviously not moral in this case” case. The second example was also meant to frame the issue, this time an “obviously moral” case. That example was the meth lab in an apartment building, about to blow up at any moment. I was meaning to add a caveat to that one however, so I’m going to do that now. The idea here is that once you posit an emergency situation, the normal rules become secondary to the new prime directive: end the emergency situation. If your neighbor were to negligently operate a gas grill on his balcony, let’s say you live above him and you see him passed out drunk while the flames shoot up (as he passed out his foot flipped the knob up to max), you call the fire department and there’s a good chance he’s going to get in legal trouble, for argument’s sake let’s say a week in jail. With a meth lab let’s agree that he’s put you in the same level of danger, but he’s going away for 10+ years. Well, I say that’s an unintended consequence and you’re morally in the clear.

Now to get back to your example, what I’d do is photograph (maybe even "confiscate") the evidence, change the locks (you’re going to have to do that anyway), leave his stuff on the curb and let him know you’ve got the goods on him, so to speak. Part of what made this example so good was that in most places there are laws governing landlord tenant relationships that get in the way of people making such contracts the way they want to make them. In Pacific Heights the laws made it impossible to get rid of Michael Keaton the psycho tenant.

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Now to get back to your example, what I’d do is ... ...
You don't explain why your idea is better than Dante's.

Are you making the point that whenever there's a way to solve the problem without using immoral laws, that is the way to go?

Edited by softwareNerd
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You don't explain why your idea is better than Dante's.

Are you making the point that whenever there's a way to solve the problem without using immoral laws, that is the way to go?

Why it's better, meaning in a consequentialist sense? We're talking hypotheticals here, so Dante can easily come back with "guy goes on rampage", then I can come back with "guy goes to jail, when he gets out it's Cape Fear". Of course if you can solve a problem without using immoral laws, you do it that way. If it's an emergency situation, it's going to depend on the emergency. One might even argue against allowing a mosque to be built on those grounds, 1st Amendment be damned.

This calls to mind the old absurd property rights dilemma, asteroid is about to destroy earth, and the rightful owner of the sole asteroid destruct button invokes his property rights to prevent anyone from using it. Will the rest of the human race violate his property rights? Can we still claim to value property rights after taking it away?

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Now to get back to your example, what I’d do is photograph (maybe even "confiscate") the evidence, change the locks (you’re going to have to do that anyway), leave his stuff on the curb and let him know you’ve got the goods on him, so to speak. Part of what made this example so good was that in most places there are laws governing landlord tenant relationships that get in the way of people making such contracts the way they want to make them. In Pacific Heights the laws made it impossible to get rid of Michael Keaton the psycho tenant.

Okay, but you're still using the law here, even if you aren't using the police directly. Without the immoral law, your blackmail has no bite. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to each strategy (if you send him to jail, he gets out one day, whereas if he gives in to the blackmail, you always have something on him to keep him away in the future; but blackmailing probably requires confrontation, which could turn violent, whereas the cops will do that for you in the other scenario). However, I fail to see that one course is unambiguously better than the other, for principled reasons.

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Okay, but you're still using the law here, even if you aren't using the police directly. Without the immoral law, your blackmail has no bite. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to each strategy (if you send him to jail, he gets out one day, whereas if he gives in to the blackmail, you always have something on him to keep him away in the future; but blackmailing probably requires confrontation, which could turn violent, whereas the cops will do that for you in the other scenario). However, I fail to see that one course is unambiguously better than the other, for principled reasons.

The way I’m reading your fact pattern you have an emergency situation on your hands, and I’d be changing the locks and leaving his stuff on the curb whether there was pot or not. The point is that he’s potentially using an immoral law against you, but exactly what kind of redress he has is not clear to me. I can hardly imagine him getting the police to come in to force you to let him back into your house, but I know the laws vary from state to state, and probably from municipality to municipality, so I’m allowing that that’s a possibility, crazy as it sounds. If holding it over him that he’s going to get in bigger trouble than you for turning to the police, it’s square with me.

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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  • 2 months later...

Okay, here's one. You and your family (wife and a kid, maybe) have a tenant upstairs who uses drugs. He also pays the rent late, and gets later and later and then stops. You decide to have a forceful talk with him about it, and he starts shouting and verbally threatens you (strongly), maybe smashes a lamp or something. You report the threat to the police, but it's your word against his, and you have no demonstrable physical evidence that he poses a threat. You know the eviction process would take about 6 months to get him out, but you could get him out and away from your family tomorrow by tipping off the cops about the drugs in his place. You wouldn't even consider it? The guy could clearly become violent, and he has a key to your house.

This is very close to what was going on.

Edited by happiness
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Okay, but you're still using the law here, even if you aren't using the police directly. Without the immoral law, your blackmail has no bite. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to each strategy (if you send him to jail, he gets out one day, whereas if he gives in to the blackmail, you always have something on him to keep him away in the future; but blackmailing probably requires confrontation, which could turn violent, whereas the cops will do that for you in the other scenario). However, I fail to see that one course is unambiguously better than the other, for principled reasons.

So feel free to rely on the drug laws, just don't "literally" use them? Why are you clinging to that? Is it because you want to win the argument, or do you really not understand principles, and the role of context in principled thought?

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So feel free to rely on the drug laws, just don't "literally" use them? Why are you clinging to that? Is it because you want to win the argument, or do you really not understand principles, and the role of context in principled thought?

What? I was pointing out that the blackmail idea still uses the drug law, even though you're not directly involving the police, so I don't see why it would be acceptable when simply calling the cops wouldn't be.

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I wouldn't consider this a practical way to get rid of an annoyance (or an actual threat). There's a very high risk that the dude would keep his job and only be required to go to rehab, and also that he might discover the source of the tip that got him in trouble. That would only serve to escalate the situation and possibly bring harm back upon yourself.

The proper solution is more along the lines of what my brother did when other kids were harassing him on the bus. He recorded their behavior and then showed them the recording. They never bothered him again. If someone is really a threat to you instead of just an annoyance, get yourself a recorder or camera, catch them in the act, and then take THAT to the authorities instead of a drug charge.

That is both the practical AND moral solution to your dilemma--and it pertains whether improper laws exist or not.

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