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I don't see the value in overly-analyzing some of the situations being discussed in this thread from one's armchair.
Perhaps not, and in case there is any question, the only real issue, as far as I can see, is whether such a suit could in principle have enough merit that it wouldn't just be summarily thrown out of court by the judge (assuming that you live in a community with rational judges). I certainly wouldn't argue for prior restraint, so if you can find a sympathetic pro-victim judge and jury that will award damages, or even can make the threat of such a reward seem credible enough, you can get the effect that you desire at relatively little cost.
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See this thread: Bill Clinton's Impeachment--The legal aspects of abnormal behavior. It's quite a long one and full of pointless bickering, but there is about 10% or so of the posts where you will fin

I disagree with this in part; positive emotions (or any emotions, for that matter) are not the standard of value, but they are values.

You've claimed that "If you build yourself a home, you have earned the right to use it as your home, and the concept 'home' implies the absence of a 140 dB noise." But you haven't explained why the absence of a trash heaps or barbecue smells isn't also implied by the concept "home".

To explain something means to put it in terms you are familiar with; to trace it back to facts you already accept as true. If I knew what you accepted as true about the concept of "home," I would be able to provide the missing links for you. Without this information, I am groping in the dark, expecially since you're asking about a negative--an absence of some implied rights. If I asked you, "Explain me why drinking whiskey doesn't cause lung disease," you too would surely want to know why I think it may do so in the first place.

Since you've spent an awful lot of time thinking about the concept of "home," I'm sure by now you have a definition that is sufficiently well honed to write down. So please tell me what you think are the essential characteristics of a home, and I'll show you the way to the rights from there.

would be legally liable for I still have no clue what offenses I under your system of government. You've rejected by proposal, my moral code, and I want to know what rights concept should stand in its place.

Perhaps you might want to re-write this when you're not studying the effects of drinking whiskey on your grammar? :ninja:

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I propose that we start by using "force" in a literal sense. Any kind of force you exert on my person or property can constitute an initiation of force. This includes sound waves, smoke, ashes, chemicals, light, x-rays, and anything else that affects my property.

Everything affects your property to some degree, since everything on Earth exerts a gravitational force on everything else. Of course, this effect is so small it is hardly even possible to measure it; it certainly isn't relevant as far as your pursuit of life qua man is concerned.

Nor are most of the sound waves, light waves, airborne particles, and so on, that impinge on your property on a typical day. This is why the law holds (or should hold) that nothing is force unless you can show how it undermines your pursuit of a rational life. A just system of law is based on an enumeration of rights, and expressly forbids actions that infringe on those rights--and everything that is not expressly forbidden is permitted.

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The fact is that you don't "make" a home, if "home" is going to include things like "absence of 140db noise." You can not "make" or "create" an absence, you create a presence. You create a house, a yard, a driveway, a street, perhaps a garden, and everything inside the house. The "home" that then exists, i.e. the overall qualities of the space which surrounds your house, yard, garden, etc. are a product of both yourself(for creating the change in the metaphysically given), and the absence of the changes of other humans. You have a right to the absence of other humans on YOUR property, i.e. what you've created, what you've changed about the metaphysically given, but you have no right to demand of them that they obstain from changing the metaphysically given for themselves. They must respect your right to what you've changed of the metaphysically given, but they must not respect the metaphysically given, to do so (in principle) would be their death.

The basis of rights is the fact that in order to survive man must use his mind. "Use his mind" here meaning anyway he might be able to do so, and does not preclude irrationality. The nature of the human mind is that it will not work under compulsion, it shuts down, and the mind dies. So in order for men to be able to use their minds, they must be free from compulsion, i.e. physical restriction of the use of their minds or their minds's products. Perceptions, although non-volitional and thus not under that which one can consent to, are not infringements of a man's right to use his mind as "using his mind" presupposes a perceptual content. Man's use of his mind is not pre-perceptual (since the perceptual is given and automatic), but conceptual, which is the taking of the perceptually given and integrating it into concepts and then acting on the understanding of those concepts. Therefore:

The right to use one's mind, for man,(which is the basis for all his other rights) means the right to first percieve, and then to integrate his perceptions into conceptions, and then to form generalizations and principles based on those concepts, and then to act on the basis of those generalizations and principles, as long as he does not infringe on any other man's right to do the same.

So: the only ways to infringe on a man's rights is to either disallow him to perceive (by creating 140db+ noise which drowns out all other noises, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, by encroaching upon his sense of smell to the point where he cannot function and is overwhelmed), to disallow him to integrate those perceptions (by knocking him unconscious, or any other encroachment upon his being conscious), or by disallowing him to act on those concepts (which is more commonly understood as: chaining his arms and legs, killing him, or stealing the products of his labor).

The inversion that occurs when people start expecting that a man has the right NOT to percieve, instead of a right TO perceive, is totally baffling to me. The mind starts with perceptual content and works from there. Unless a perception disables a person from further percieving and using his mind, it can not be an infringment of his rights, as his basic right is the use of his mind UPON the perceptual.

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So: the only ways to infringe on a man's rights is to either disallow him to perceive (by creating 140db+ noise which drowns out all other noises, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, by encroaching upon his sense of smell to the point where he cannot function and is overwhelmed), to disallow him to integrate those perceptions (by knocking him unconscious, or any other encroachment upon his being conscious), or by disallowing him to act on those concepts (which is more commonly understood as: chaining his arms and legs, killing him, or stealing the products of his labor).
This is the kind of objective characterization I was looking for, and I think may encompass all of the kind of "nuisance" that should have legal consequences. I'll have to mull this over.
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So: the only ways to infringe on a man's rights is to either disallow him to perceive (by creating 140db+ noise which drowns out all other noises, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, by encroaching upon his sense of smell to the point where he cannot function and is overwhelmed), to disallow him to integrate those perceptions (by knocking him unconscious, or any other encroachment upon his being conscious), or by disallowing him to act on those concepts (which is more commonly understood as: chaining his arms and legs, killing him, or stealing the products of his labor).

Great post Meta. This seems like an effective, principled approach to resolve these disputes.

Edited by DarkWaters
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I've mulled Michael's identification over, and I think it's almost exactly correct, or maybe it's simply correct at least for relevant set of contexts. The fundamental division that has to be made is between those things that make rational life impossible because they are physically compelling -- an ammonia sprayer or a jet engine -- versus things that we may not like, such as barbecued chicken (oh, man, I'm hungry) or the "music" of Philip Glass (no, that really is a mind-killing rights violation, make that Enya). An ugly man on his front porch is not a violation of my rights, even if I don't want to perceive him. Nor, for that matter, is a pink house, even though I really don't want to have to look at a pink house. A pink house is not a perceptually-compelling experience that drowns out all other perceptual experiences.

The one remaining issue that I can see is that I think there's room for a distinction between incidental and intentional perceptual trespass. Your neighbor's pink house reflects pink light at you and even into your house; obviously, that can't constitute "trespass" that should be legally sanctionable. On the other hand, I conclude that it would be a sanctionable act of trespass to deliberately shine a light (pink or otherwise) into my neighbor's house, even if it wasn't so bright as to objectively impair perception.

The relevant distinguishing factor that comes to mind is that in the pink house case, the consequence (pink house) is an incidental consequence of your exercise of a clear right -- to despoil your house by pinkening it. In contrast, shining a light into your neighbor's house is not incidental trespass, it is deliberate -- you are acting only for the purpose of trespassing.

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Great post Meta. This seems like an effective, principled approach to resolve these disputes.

Thanks a lot. I read it to my gf after writing and said "This is brilliant! If this doesn't convince them, I don't know what will!"

The relevant distinguishing factor that comes to mind is that in the pink house case, the consequence (pink house) is an incidental consequence of your exercise of a clear right -- to despoil your house by pinkening it. In contrast, shining a light into your neighbor's house is not incidental trespass, it is deliberate -- you are acting only for the purpose of trespassing.

I worry that that might include deliberately getting someone's attention with a "hey you!" as being lumped in with the deliberate pink light. Also: Would a deliberate annoyance such as "nanny-nanny-poo-poo" be illegal then? Can you clarify on the distinction you're making?

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The fact is that you don't "make" a home, if "home" is going to include things like "absence of 140db noise." You can not "make" or "create" an absence, you create a presence.

May I ask whom this is addressed to?

So: the only ways to infringe on a man's rights is to either disallow him to perceive (by creating 140db+ noise which drowns out all other noises, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, by encroaching upon his sense of smell to the point where he cannot function and is overwhelmed)

... or by building a skyscraper that blocks his view of whatever is behind it.

By tying a blindfold around your eyes, I make you perceive the blindfold. By putting up a skyscraper, I make you perceive the skyscraper. (And how much easier it is to remove the blindfold than to remove the skyscraper!) To be sure, the skyscraper still allows him to see other things, while the blindfold doesn't--but he can still hear, smell, taste, and touch things with the blindfold on, so it's still just a partial obstruction of percepts, not a total one. Just like the skyscraper.

And what about a loud noise that drowns out most other sounds, but not all? Say, a 120 dB noise, which still allows you to hear thunder, but not much else. Does that qualify as disallowing you to perceive, or doesn't it? What about a plane flying low above your home, or a construction site near you, which drowns out many sounds, but still lets you perceive many others? Where do you draw the line, and why exactly do you draw it there?

to disallow him to integrate those perceptions (by knocking him unconscious, or any other encroachment upon his being conscious), or by disallowing him to act on those concepts (which is more commonly understood as: chaining his arms and legs, killing him, or stealing the products of his labor).

... Or building a golf course between his ranch and his brother's one, forcing him to take a detour when his conceptual faculty tells him to go in a straight line. Or marketing a product under a trademark that he would have liked to use. Or making a product that is superior to his one and drives it out of the market. Or enforcing property rights, disallowing him to act on his concept of theft.

Every human action has the potential of disallowing another man some other actions. Every claim of a right is a prohibition of certain actions by others. When the concepts of man A tell him to do one thing, and the concepts of man B tell him to do a conflicting thing, how do you decide whose concepts trump the concepts of the other?

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Every human action has the potential of disallowing another man some other actions. Every claim of a right is a prohibition of certain actions by others. When the concepts of man A tell him to do one thing, and the concepts of man B tell him to do a conflicting thing, how do you decide whose concepts trump the concepts of the other?

All claims of a right are of the negative kind and are an explicit prohibition on the actions of others, the prohibition that they must not violate his right to use his mind WHEN USING HIS MIND DOES NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHT OF ANOTHER TO USE HIS. A man does not have the right to use his mind in order to prevent others from using theirs, that would deflate the meaning and purpose of rights, this is elementary Objectivist politics, and I am surprised that a person whose handle is "Capitalism Forever" would not grasp that.

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And what about a loud noise that drowns out most other sounds, but not all? Say, a 120 dB noise, which still allows you to hear thunder, but not much else. Does that qualify as disallowing you to perceive, or doesn't it?

If I am not mistaken, being exposed to a 120 dB noise over an elongated period of time would probably damage one's auditory faculties. In this case, this would clearly be a violation of rights.

Of course, I understand that the specific level of sound pressure was besides your point. I think that Meta's proposed principle works really well in these situations, that is judging to what extent the noise generated by an individual becomes a new, significant obstacle for other individuals to use their ears to hear reality on their own property. Although if you wish to argue that it is nontrivial to apply this principle in a court of law, that is to determine what specific level of sound generated goes from just becoming a nuisance to actually becoming an impediment to one's hearing, then I agree with you. Applying this principle is non-trivial.

Mr. Monkey

:lol: Surely you know the difference between a monkey and an ape!

Edited by DarkWaters
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I worry that that might include deliberately getting someone's attention with a "hey you!" as being lumped in with the deliberate pink light. Also: Would a deliberate annoyance such as "nanny-nanny-poo-poo" be illegal then? Can you clarify on the distinction you're making?
Gimme more examples, and maybe. The distinction I was making depended on invading a man's castle through the window with a spotlight, so annoyance was not a sufficient condition. When the neighbors are having a wild party in their backyard and I can't sit out in my lawn chair and enjoy the peace and quiet of the crickets croaking, I go inside to pursue indoor values. As long as they don't go aiming their spotlight in my window, I can exclude them from my house. But clearly, we have to identify such cases objectively, and I'm not entirely certain that we have to go beyond your proposal. The spotlight case fits with respect to the fundamental "reason for law" principle, but fails w.r.t. the "metaphysically compelling" principle, as long as it's of low enough candlepower that it doesn't make vision impossible.
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I agree with Dan Edge's common sense approach here. These issues are rationally decided in courthouses and city councils across the country. The answers are contextual and often decided on a case-by-case basis. For example, can a penthouse owner in New York start up a goat ranch on his roof? What is the answer to that? No answer, because the situation hasn't happened yet. When it does, and a neighbor feels he is being harmed by the penthouse owner's actions, he will sue that person, and the issue will be decided in court.

The sum of these lawsuits and municipal codes based on the same principles set up the rules of civilized conduct in any particular geographical region.

Emphasis mine

Supposing that the proper legal foundation of public decency is determined, how would that foundation be implemented? I would caution assuming that municipal codes are a good option. The context is vitally important and it would be near impossible for a municipal code to address every circumstance, every factor. You merely have to look at any city's municipal code to see that many of the codes dreamed up by city councilmen, while potentially well intentioned (or not), wind up banning completely moral behavior. I'm not allowed to have farm animals on my property why? Because the code says so! If the animal smell was unbearable to the neighbors that would be a different story but the code outlaws the activity regardless whether any harm has been done.

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Supposing that the proper legal foundation of public decency is determined, how would that foundation be implemented? I would caution assuming that municipal codes are a good option. The context is vitally important and it would be near impossible for a municipal code to address every circumstance, every factor. You merely have to look at any city's municipal code to see that many of the codes dreamed up by city councilmen, while potentially well intentioned (or not), wind up banning completely moral behavior. I'm not allowed to have farm animals on my property why? Because the code says so! If the animal smell was unbearable to the neighbors that would be a different story but the code outlaws the activity regardless whether any harm has been done.

I agree completely with your concern over relying on municipal codes. That is why in my full post I emphasize the role of the courts in resolving property disputes. Courts would resolve the sundry lawsuits that arise as new and ever-changing interactions among humans bring up new conflicts to be resolved. The body of those decisions will provide guidance for future actors and court decisions. The courts also have a constitutional role in reviewing the constitutionality of municipal or state or federal laws. They invalidate laws that violate rights instead of preserving them.

The primacy is with the courts in resolving property disputes because the circumstances are so contextual. The principle -- protecting the right to property -- is universal. The application is highly specific and often unique to the particular situation.

Still, that would not rule out municipal codes. It seems entirely reasonable for government to restrict obvious violations of property rights. For example, a law could state that in a residential area, construction work which makes very loud noises is permissible, but only in daylight hours during the workweek. Etc.

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If the animal smell was unbearable to the neighbors that would be a different story but the code outlaws the activity regardless whether any harm has been done.
On the other hand, the ex post facto approach means that you can't really be sure what's allowed until the last appeal has been decided. Without clear and objective statutory guidance, judges and juries who are charged with deciding whether a person should be penalized for their acts have to apply some kind of principles -- "community standards", as they individually construe them. The same facts could be judged to be legally acceptable or unacceptable, depending on various things such as the plight of the plaintiff, the sympathetic character of the defendant, the leanings of the judge, and the whims and experiences of the jurors. Until there is a statutory definition of harm, reducing nuisance problems to lawsuits introduces a major element of subjectivity.

The solution, of course, is to statutorily define the criteria for damage, rather than prior restrint on acts that are thought to often cause damage.

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All claims of a right are of the negative kind and are an explicit prohibition on the actions of others, the prohibition that they must not violate his right to use his mind WHEN USING HIS MIND DOES NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHT OF ANOTHER TO USE HIS. A man does not have the right to use his mind in order to prevent others from using theirs, that would deflate the meaning and purpose of rights, this is elementary Objectivist politics, and I am surprised that a person whose handle is "Capitalism Forever" would not grasp that.

I know all about Objectivist politics, but I am asking about YOUR proposed alternative to it. Objectivist politics is based on life, liberty, and property, while you are talking of rights to "perceive, conceive, and act." I suppose your unstated implication is that what you are proposing is merely another way of stating the Objectivist position--but I don't think it is; I think your proposal is vague at best (see the sentences ending with a ? in my previous post) and to the extent it isn't vague, it is in many ways incompatible with Objectivist politics (see the sentences ending with a period).

And merely stating that rights cannot conflict ("WHEN USING HIS MIND DOES NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHT OF ANOTHER TO USE HIS") does not resolve the conflict. The reason rights are important to identify is precisely the need to resolve conflicts between what one man wants to do and what another man wants to do.

Let's take the concrete example of the conflict between the rancher and the golf club builder. The rancher has used his mind and arrived at the conclusion that it is best for him to go to his brother's ranch in a straight line. The builder has used his mind and decided to build a golf club between the two ranches. They cannot both act on their decisions--one of them has to give. If the rancher is to go in a straight line, he will violate the builder's right to use his mind. If the builder is to build the golf club, he will violate the rancher's right to use his mind. So what you'll end up with--if you follow this theory consistently--is that the builder must not build the golf course and the rancher must not go in a straight line--but make a detour around the nonexistent golf course.

Objectivism resolves this conflict by means of the concept of property rights--a concept that is MISSING from your theory because you REPLACE it with rights to "perceive, conceive, and act." Specifically, Objectivism holds that there is NO right to go in a straight line (no matter how strongly your use of your mind has convinced you to do so) but there IS a right to develop unowned land and claim it as your property. So the builder can go ahead with his golf course and the rancher must get used to taking a detour. Unless, that is, the rancher has built a road through the wilderness, which makes it his property that the golf course builder must respect.

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I know all about Objectivist politics, but I am asking about YOUR proposed alternative to it. Objectivist politics is based on life, liberty, and property, while you are talking of rights to "perceive, conceive, and act." I suppose your unstated implication is that what you are proposing is merely another way of stating the Objectivist position--but I don't think it is; I think your proposal is vague at best (see the sentences ending with a ? in my previous post) and to the extent it isn't vague, it is in many ways incompatible with Objectivist politics (see the sentences ending with a period).

I am reformulating Objectivist politics, and the principle of rights. You say that it contains "life, liberty, and property" and that I only include "percieve, concieve, and act"? Well lets look at these shall we??

Life FOR MAN means the use of his tool of survival--HIS MIND. His mind must be able to perceive, conceive, and then put his ideas into practice in order to create the values he needs to sustain his life. Liberty for man, means the ability to use his mind and translate his thoughts into action, without compulsion from others. Man is a being of body and mind so both must be free, but since all action starts in the mind, the mind being free is most important. He must be able to perceive(mind) conceive(mind), and then act(body). Property is that which a man has produced by the work of his mind and his body. property are the values that he has created for the furtherance of his life. property are the end results of his percieving, conceiving, and acting.

And merely stating that rights cannot conflict ("WHEN USING HIS MIND DOES NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHT OF ANOTHER TO USE HIS") does not resolve the conflict. The reason rights are important to identify is precisely the need to resolve conflicts between what one man wants to do and what another man wants to do.

Rights are not about resolving conflicts between two men who "want" to do contradictory things. The right to life for man, is the right to use his mind, which means that he has a right not to be dissallowed to use his mind, not that he has a right to use his mind in order to restrict others from using theirs. EVERY man has a right to his mind, which means that every man must NOT impinge on another man's ability to use his mind. If one man wants to build a house(legitimately use his mind) and another wants to stop him, the second man is violating the first's right to use his mind.

Let's take the concrete example of the conflict between the rancher and the golf club builder. The rancher has used his mind and arrived at the conclusion that it is best for him to go to his brother's ranch in a straight line.

A man may decide the best route for his passage, but since the golf course owner has right to the products of his mind, the rancher must respect it, and take that into account when he decides his route. AGAIN: no man has the right to violate rights.

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So: the only ways to infringe on a man's rights is to either disallow him to perceive (by creating 140db+ noise which drowns out all other noises, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, by encroaching upon his sense of smell to the point where he cannot function and is overwhelmed), to disallow him to integrate those perceptions (by knocking him unconscious, or any other encroachment upon his being conscious), or by disallowing him to act on those concepts (which is more commonly understood as: chaining his arms and legs, killing him, or stealing the products of his labor).

The inversion that occurs when people start expecting that a man has the right NOT to percieve, instead of a right TO perceive, is totally baffling to me. The mind starts with perceptual content and works from there. Unless a perception disables a person from further percieving and using his mind, it can not be an infringment of his rights, as his basic right is the use of his mind UPON the perceptual.

Michael,

I admire your efforts at originality, but your reformulation of Objectivist politics is simply wrong.

This is because there are many aspects of violation of human rights that are not covered by your formulation. It does certainly cover a subset of those situations, but by no means does it include all.

For example, if you like a woman's breasts and decide that you should touch them, albeit lightly, you have not overwhelmed any of her perception senses, but you have still violated her rights. And in case you want to argue that her senses are still affected, just change the example slightly: assume she is asleep (or change 'breasts' to 'hair'). This still does not give you the right to deliberately touch any part of her body for your pleasure, irrespective of your conceptualisation theory of rights. Thus your reformulation is invalid.

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I think Michael's distinction is a good one, and could be used as a rule of thumb for many different types of cases. But as BlackDiamond (and others) have pointed out, it's not an all-encompassing rule from which one can unfailingly deduce the answers to all property disputes. Again, I don't think a deductive approach is sufficient on this issue.

--Dan Edge

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Again, I don't think a deductive approach is sufficient on this issue.
I agree that it isn't sufficient, but it is still necessary. Since we're talking about way in which people can be penalized for their actions under color of law, in a society governed by objectively justified, defined and applied laws, a deductive approach is required for rational existence -- for life qua man. In order to obey the law (including any principles about misconduct that will be enforced against you in civil courts), you must have a means of knowing whether your actions are allowed under the law or disallowed under the law. That is, a general principle that subsumes the specific results -- from which one can deduce the consequences -- is necessary.
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David,

I agree, but I haven't seen a single general principle from which we can deduce the solution to all the situations we've been talking about. Of course, we have the Non-Initiation of Force principle and rights theory, but these are not specific enough.

Many of the traditional common laws (such as nuisance law) are rational inductive principles based on the application of property rights to a variety of situations. The result is a history of legal precedence that a judge can use to deduce the proper judgment for a particular case. I think this is a rational process.

--Dan Edge

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Still, that would not rule out municipal codes. It seems entirely reasonable for government to restrict obvious violations of property rights. For example, a law could state that in a residential area, construction work which makes very loud noises is permissible, but only in daylight hours during the workweek. Etc.

Thanks for claifying

The solution, of course, is to statutorily define the criteria for damage, rather than prior restrint on acts that are thought to often cause damage.

Sounds like a great plan!

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