Selling infected glass beads to Indians

December 20, 2017 § 168 Comments

In this post I will present an argument that it is immoral to sell digital pornography and/or bitcoin.

Premise 1: It is immoral to sell property for an unjust price.

Premise 2: Context can make particular property more or less valuable; for example, water is more valuable in the desert than in a mountain lake. Call this a context multiplier.

Premise 3: Personal preferences or needs can make particular property more or less valuable to a particular buyer. I like whiskey but I don’t care for wine. Call this a subjective multiplier.

Premise 4: It is possible for particular property to have zero or negative intrinsic value: for particular property to be literally useless or harmful.  (Alternatively, it is possible for the typical and intended uses of a particular kind of property to have zero or negative intrinsic value.  Call this “Premise 4 light”).

Premise 5: When property (or its typical use case: call this “Premise 5 light”) has zero or negative intrinsic value, neither a context multiplier nor a subjective multiplier can make its just price greater than zero.

Digital pornography has negative intrinsic value: its typical use case is destructive to the user.  Unlike paper pornography it has no useful material substrate which enables atypical uses: paper pornography might be used as fuel for a fire, for example, but digital pornography cannot even be burned to produce heat.  Purchasing copies of digital pornography might be justifiable when doing so is part of a plan to destroy it or to attack its production; but this limited warrant to purchase-for-destruction does not justify the sale of digital pornography to purchasers who are likely to use it for its intended purpose.

Pornography has negative intrinsic value because it promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.

Bitcoin is also a digital product which promotes vice, a false picture of reality, and other disorders in relation to the truth about the good.

Therefore selling bitcoin is immoral.  (“Light” version: therefore selling bitcoin to buyers who are likely to use it for its typical use cases, is immoral).


Obviously Premise 5 is doing the heavy lifting here, though Premise 4 may also be controversial.

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