Aug 212012
 

“Free will” could be exercised in defining the field of battle, not when and how my enemies would attack. Whenever I heard them ask “Would you like that super-sized?” I knew they were really saying “It’s already too late.

 - from This Article by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s unfortunate this was sparked by the soda-size restriction, since I think it’s kinda dumb, and I’m interested in the principle rather than that case. I’m of the opinion that all drugs should be legal, so I wouldn’t argue for restrictions on something like soda. But I don’t think “it’s their own choice” makes a good rebuttal because it portrays humans as agents, which is… an exaggeration, at the least. That is the heart of this article. The soda restriction is a very poorly thought out reaction to that human problem. It is, at best, a treatment of one particular and minor symptom. You don’t stop the mafia by making it illegal to say the words “It’d be a shame if something happened to your store.”

When I was originally discussing this with some friends, I was asked -

how do you balance the inability of some people to effectively act as their own agent with allowing drugs to be legal?

Any time a product is sold which is known to be harmful to the user, the seller takes a responsibility to not engage in predatory actions, and to warn the buyers. Predatory action will be prosecuted (and ideally also strongly socially stigmatized), the insanity surrounding the housing/financial crisis of 2008 would have started landing people in jail back in 2004. Certain forms of marketing (colloquially known as “Dark Arts” where I hang out) would be treated the same way, regardless or what the product is.

This would be combined with large-scale education. Every public school would include a Defense Against The Dark Arts class which demonstrates such attacks and attempts to train defense against them, as well as teaching the proper loathing for such violators. And yes, addiction would be treated more like a mental disorder/disease and public health initiatives would include treatment, rather than incarceration. And while I’m at it, everyone gets a pony and a castle and their own flying car.
And for Man’s sake, the government would immediately stop doing this as well. The lottery should be abolished immediately. The government is there to protect us from this shit, not push it on us.

 

Where is the line which delineates predatory action? Who will define that line? I think what a lot of us are saying is that government is not there to protect us from our own stupidity. It’s there to protect us from the tragedy of the commons, and possibly rein in some of the excesses of capitalism. I would also like to add that I love the lottery. There are few better non-cumpulsory sources of revenue for the government.

Where is the line which delineates age of majority? Who will define that line? There are some 14-year-olds out there mature enough to sign contracts, consent to sex, and drink alcohol. And there are some 28-year-olds out there who aren’t. Sometimes we have to draw arbitrary lines, because to not draw any lines is even dumber.

I consider the lottery downright immoral. It’s one thing for a random asshole to set up a casino. It’s another thing entirely for the people who are supposed to defend us to jump in on the action. It’s like the difference between some thug mugging you, and a police officer mugging you. The betrayal makes it more abhorrent. Or, to hearken back to last month, a comedian attacking the defenseless. The lottery is a hostile attack by its nature. It is an exploit no less than any computer virus. The fact that we can spend time/money on anti-virus software to defend ourselves doesn’t make it any less of an assault.I’m not saying the government is there to protect us from our own stupidity per se. But it is there for society to defend itself from outside attacks. The physical attacks are easy to see. But as long as people keep thinking of humans as agents, rather than as biological systems, they’ll have hard time seeing the less violent ways in which humans are hacked. If you believe strongly in individualism I would submit that you’d profit from efforts to defend people from subversion of their volition. I think there’s a big difference between someone being stupid, and a malicious person intentionally targeting others.

 

There have been numerous government agencies set up to defend the public. Police, military, firemen, EPA, FDA, FDIC. There needs to be an agency to fight practitioners of the Dark Arts as well.

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