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Question: Should people and organizations be responsible for the indirect effects of what they do if, on average, those indirect effects are almost certain to happen? For example, buying from certain businesses increases the number of slavery-like sweatshops.
It doesn't matter how many people die as long as I'm not involved in any direct way.
I don't care to know how the world works enough to understand what indirect effects my actions have, and as long as I don't know about it I'm still a good person.
We should have people who research what causes what else, and such things should be announced to the public and let them make up their own minds.
People who care about such things should research it and publish their results, letting everyone else choose what to do based on that.
We should have people who research what causes what else, and such things should be enforced.

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BenRayfield
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July 01, 2011, 04:56:55 AM
 #1

Should people and organizations be responsible for the indirect effects of what they do if, on average, those indirect effects are almost certain to happen? For example, buying from certain businesses increases the number of slavery-like sweatshops, and using anonymous currency makes it easier to fund political corruption. In general, where do you draw the line, where does it stop being ok to cause things indirectly?

(I reset 3 votes since I added 2 more options. I added the 2 about people choosing it but it not being enforced)

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JoelKatz
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July 02, 2011, 01:19:43 AM
 #2

IMO, of course not. Otherwise, Federal Express would be responsible any time someone used them to ship child pornography. I mean, when you start a shipping service, you know some people will use it to ship contraband of all kinds.

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benjamindees
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July 02, 2011, 01:30:21 AM
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I'll just point out that the immorality of slavery-like sweatshops is not caused by those who purchase the goods, but by those who supply the labor.

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epi 1:10,000
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July 02, 2011, 01:59:23 AM
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I'll just point out that the immorality of slavery-like sweatshops is not caused by those who purchase the goods, but by those who supply the labor.

What?Huh
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July 02, 2011, 02:01:22 AM
 #5

No. You can't hold people liable for things they aren't even aware of. This is asinine.

Also, sweatshops are hardly slavery.
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July 02, 2011, 03:15:08 AM
 #6

No. You can't hold people liable for things they aren't even aware of. This is asinine.
That's actually a remarkably subtle question. For example, FedEx is aware that some people use their services to ship child pornography, but they don't know whether any individual package is child pornography. If someone builds a 'dual use' product or service and they don't specifically optimize its design or marketing for the bad use, it's certainly not their fault when someone uses it to a bad end even if they know that some people will do this.

However, suppose somebody specifically designs a gun that's optimized for criminal uses. Maybe they design the surface so it's very hard to lift fingerprints off it, they have a shield to stop you from getting powder residue on you when you fire it, and so on. Or say they advertise its use for criminal purposes intending criminals to buy it. In that case, it seems reasonable to hold them responsible, even though they lack any specific knowledge that any particular purchaser intends a bad use.


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July 02, 2011, 03:41:28 AM
 #7

What?Huh

This is a really bad argument if the primary example is one with such a weak causal link.  You could just as easily argue that feeding the poor leads to more sweatshops since they then reproduce poor children who have to work in them.  Therefore you're evil for feeding the poor.

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July 02, 2011, 04:03:01 AM
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In general, "we" will eventually get the world "we" want to live in.

Of course right now, the "world-creating" power is greatly skewed towards various powerful interests - both through state power and economic power (and the unholy alliance between the two) as well as of course "meaning generating" power (media/ads/etc).

But assuming that in any libertarian society that power would be much more de-centralized then sure, we would eventually either figure out ways to deal with things we wanted to phase out (as a society or as a market if you prefer to talk about the aggregate measures of individual preferences rather than terms that imply any sort of collectivity) and we would take "responsibility" for phasing them out.

All that saying -- I don't think it makes a ton of sense to talk about assigning individual moral culpability in complex systems. Only to talk about desired outcomes and undesired outcomes. And figure out the best way to move towards the desired outcomes.

--

If it some point I became convinced that bitcoin as a currency was facilitating more harm in the world than good, I would stop my own personal involvement in it, despite the strictly correct claims that a means of exchange is fairly morally neutral. At the moment I think the prison-military-bankster complex is much more dangerous than the possibility of, say, easier human trafficking by using bitcoin, so I support it

epi 1:10,000
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July 02, 2011, 12:26:38 PM
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However, suppose somebody specifically designs a gun that's optimized for criminal uses. Maybe they design the surface so it's very hard to lift fingerprints off it, they have a shield to stop you from getting powder residue on you when you fire it, and so on. Or say they advertise its use for criminal purposes intending criminals to buy it. In that case, it seems reasonable to hold them responsible, even though they lack any specific knowledge that any particular purchaser intends a bad use.


What?Huh   So building a safer corrosion resistant firearm = marketing towards criminals?  How do you make a gun optimized for criminal use?  I can see a case against a dealer who blatantly advertises "We will disregard laws and not follow federally mandated background checks when selling firearms."  I have never met one who did that though, but i am sure there are some out there.  Of coarse I come from a family that illegally ran guns and supplies to the Continental Army and helped run the underground railroad so I may see things differently.
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July 02, 2011, 02:01:09 PM
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However, suppose somebody specifically designs a gun that's optimized for criminal uses. Maybe they design the surface so it's very hard to lift fingerprints off it, they have a shield to stop you from getting powder residue on you when you fire it, and so on. Or say they advertise its use for criminal purposes intending criminals to buy it. In that case, it seems reasonable to hold them responsible, even though they lack any specific knowledge that any particular purchaser intends a bad use.


What?Huh   So building a safer corrosion resistant firearm = marketing towards criminals?
No, on two counts. First, I never said anything about corrosion resistance. I was talking about a gun that was specifically designed to be optimal for criminal uses. Second, I never said that design implies marketing. Notice I said "Or say they advertise ...".

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How do you make a gun optimized for criminal use?
I gave some examples. It could have a coating specifically designed to make it more difficult for law enforcement to lift fingerprints from the gun's surface and that served no other purpose. It could have a shield to prevent a person from getting gunpowder residue that could be detected by law enforcement but served no other purpose. I'm not a firearms expert and this was simply a hypothetical. If you have some issue with the specifics, make it a car specifically optimize for running people over and escaping.

Quote
I can see a case against a dealer who blatantly advertises "We will disregard laws and not follow federally mandated background checks when selling firearms."  I have never met one who did that though, but i am sure there are some out there.  Of coarse I come from a family that illegally ran guns and supplies to the Continental Army and helped run the underground railroad so I may see things differently.
That's a somewhat different case. I'm not talking about someone who violates the law. I'm talking about someone who stays within the law but specifically and intentionally profits from helping people commit crimes, though without knowledge of any specific crimes he's assisting.

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benjamindees
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July 02, 2011, 09:25:48 PM
 #11

How do you make a gun optimized for criminal use?

That's easy.  You just pass a law mandating the removal of self-defense features such as bayonet lugs and pistol-grips.

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I can see a case against a dealer who blatantly advertises "We will disregard laws and not follow federally mandated background checks when selling firearms."  I have never met one who did that though, but i am sure there are some out there.

Generally they only do that when a government official tells them to:

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-national/somebody-s-going-to-jail-latest-on-atf-doj-gun-smuggling-scandal?CID=examiner_alerts_article

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July 02, 2011, 09:44:13 PM
 #12

Sorry I just gota go for the absurd, for the sake of comedy, and point out that a car built to run over people is perfect for zombie apocalypse preparation.
Actually, I think that's a fair point. It's the reason crimes have an intent element. The same conduct in the same circumstances could be perfectly innocent if done for one reason and justifiably criminal if done for another.

The classic example: your friend has a gun. A cop is walking up to him saying "Sire, you need to give me the gun". You say to your friend, "let him have it".

If you meant "don't be an idiot, give him the gun", you're a good guy trying to defuse the situation. If you mean "shoot that pig" ...

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