April 14, 2018 § 29 Comments
If the positive law of some governing body expressly authorized X yesterday, and then that same body criminalizes X tomorrow, it is unjust – with caveats – for that body to punish someone tomorrow for having already done X yesterday. This has to do with the just exercise of authority, not the justice of the action in question: when a particular authority punishes an action which it explicitly authorized this (the punishment) is an unjust act by that authority. If I authorized you to shoot the dog it would be unjust for me to punish you for having already shot the dog, though it is not unjust for me to withdraw authorization.
This principle against ex post facto law has limits. Punishment might not be an unjust act by a different, especially a higher, authority: God punishing people for doing things which are supposedly “authorized1” by the positive law is not unjust, for example. And in general a different authority may be justified in punishing actions which it did not authorize, even though some other authority attempted to “authorize” it.
This is especially true when people ought to know better. Importantly, the fact that some authority has not said anything about X does not constitute authorization by that authority to do X. In this case no ex post facto prohibition applies as a moral constraint on the authority to punish. And I would not be too quick to dismiss the notion that mothers mostly ought to know better than to kill their own children, no matter what pressures they are under.
Modern people with their politically liberal commitments may find this difficult to swallow, but the fact that nobody in authority has expressly forbidden doing X does not mean that you are authorized (have the authority) to do X. The fact that there is no positive law prohibiting you from doing X doesn’t grant you a right to do X, for all possible X: “right” is just a different term for authority.
When we do something which we have no right to do, sometimes there are consequences, including punishment of some sort by someone in authority. And the fact that someone – even someone in authority – told you that you were authorized to do something evil does not confer actual authorization: it doesn’t make you not guilty, it just makes the person(s) who attempted to authorize evil also guilty.
The fact that someone in authority egged you on to commit murder may be a mitigating factor in deciding upon a just punishment. But it can never be entirely exculpatory. We are responsible for our own choices2, and that includes being sure that we have the authority to do the things we choose to do.
 I use scare quotes around “authorize” because in fact nobody has the capacity to authorize or require doing evil.
 Here I leave out the mentally ill and otherwise truly incompetent.
April 12, 2018 § 29 Comments
There is an enormous amount of room between the death penalty and, not only no punishment whatsoever, but a general freakout over the very suggestion that this form of murder ought to carry some sort of punishment — any punishment at all.
Voluntary abortion only has “two victims” in the same sense that any kind of voluntary murder has “two victims” – that is, when we cast the perpetrator as a kind of victim. There is some truth to that, but it doesn’t keep us from punishing murderers.
March 7, 2018 § 18 Comments
Christendom college and other backward troglodyte institutions – those which still require actual evidence before taking punitive action against students accused of committing sexual assault – really need to get with the #metoo program. Everyone knows that very few rape accusations are false. Modern research proves it. And how could the experts possibly be wrong?
February 16, 2018 § 6 Comments
February 13, 2018 § 30 Comments
Every real world economy is filled with real people, and there are all kinds of people in the world. There are always criminals, grifters, scammers, market manipulators, thieves, frauds, and tax evaders. There are always financially ignorant monomaniacal idealists: people who don’t grasp the difference between reality and their beloved simulations and fictions; people who believe that messy human authority and fallibility can be dispensed with and replaced by machines. There are always substantial numbers of naive gamblers and bagholders, lured into getting fleeced by their own avarice and ignorance.
Cryptocurrency exchanges may represent a natural economic evolution, nature’s way of attracting many of these elements out of the real economy and into a buggy, hackable, scammable, get-rich-quick speculative open source video game.
You can think of cryptocurrency exchanges as a heat sink. A heat sink is a large thermal mass which carries destructive waste heat away from the parts of a system where that waste heat can do harm.
Cryptocurrency exchanges are like a heat sink, except for stupidity and vice rather than heat: they are economic stupidity-and-vice sinks. The real economy is doing very well at present, despite what is technically a very long running bull market. I wonder if that isn’t at least in part because a lot of the insanity which typically accompanies bull markets has voluntarily walled itself off in its own video game world. A lot of the craziness that we saw in the dot com era has literally locked itself away from reality inside an electricity-wasting computer game, at a cost of less than six billion dollars taken out of circulation.
Some people predict that the price of cryptocurrencies will soon go to zero; that they will shortly be left behind in the dustbin of financial history. Personally I have my doubts. I think society produces enough stupidity and graft to keep cryptocurrencies running indefinitely. They may well stick around for a long time, as the economy’s evolved way of avoiding sepsis from what amounts to an intestinal blockage of greed and stupidity.
February 6, 2018 § 151 Comments
Some days it seems like I am the only person on earth who actually respects women. Men and women are different, both individually and when considered as populations. But one of the ways we are the same – at least in my view – is that both men and women are moral agents, responsible for the behaviors we choose.
Yet a great many people – notably feminists and the mainstream pro-life movement, though those two are hardly exhaustive – really don’t seem to think this is the case at all.
In the comment thread below reader Jay posted a link to the following image:
This image was allegedly posted in a Facebook advocacy group started and governed by the very same young woman who accused her ex-boyfriend of rape (a year and a half after the alleged incident), in a case we discussed here.
There are several things to observe about this image. I’ll point out a few.
First, the image characterizes the distinction between rape/sexual assault (a very serious matter) and consensual sex (at best a minor matter, probably nobody else’s business) as something which occurs strictly and only in the woman’s mind. If she was subjectively afraid to say no and did not actually say no, he is guilty of sexual assault or rape.
Personally I would have no problem with colleges punishing extramarital sex – as demonstrated by actual evidence – severely, independent of consent. The idea that consent turns extramarital sex into a minor matter in the first place is simply wrong. Premarital sex is a grave, despicable, life-wrecking moral wrong. Consenting to fornication is a grave moral wrong. Physically forcing someone else’s participation in a morally despicable act is itself a morally despicable act, but the idea that fornication is just no big deal while rape is a terrible moral violation is false. They are both grave moral wrongs and should be treated as such.
Second, we would never buy the “I was afraid to say no” line of argument if the action was, for example, murder. The particulars matter, as always, but the most the particulars could do – even when in fear for your own life – is mitigate some of the guilt for actively participating in a murder. Saying no, resisting attempted persuasion or compulsion to do evil, is a basic obligation of every moral agent without exception. Failure to resist evil is itself a moral failure. And yes, this of course includes women – at least if you have any respect for women.
Third, if this image in fact comes from the alleged source – from the actual young woman who years after the fact accused her boyfriend of “rape” in the Shenandoah wilderness where she drove him – it appears to be a tacit admission that, whatever actually did happen between them, she didn’t actually say “no”.
January 29, 2018 § 43 Comments
When a man and a woman meet privately they often come away giving different accounts, to the rest of us, of what happened in the encounter.
When this sort of “he said, she said” situation arises the important thing is to believe the man, not the woman; at least according to recent critics of Christendom College who favor a gossip-based approach to justice over an evidence-based approach.