Thursday, May 24, 2012

Libertarian Ethics

The debate -- more of an argument, really -- has been waged elsewhere and at great, shouting-past-one-another length.

But it is a fundamental one, beginning, as it does, at the basis of all rights: property rights. What's the single most inalienable thing you own? That's easy: it's your own self. That's the most basic thing you've got.

One of the rights that grows from this root is your right to take an early exit. In most cases, it's not the best course and you're best off stopping and rethinking; but it is a right.

However, just as the right to own and carry weapons doesn't give you the right to point 'em any which way without consequences, your property rights over your own person don't mean you get to threaten to off yourself without eliciting unwanted responses from others.

You don't own other people; you don't get to control what they do. When you threaten to harm someone -- even yourself -- you're initiating force, attempting to extort something from the persons to whom you are expressing your threat.

Even in Libertopia, they're justified in trying to stop you, same as they would be if you were making a similar threat to someone other than yourself. (I believe the philosopher Mel Brooks addressed this early on in his monograph, Blazing Saddles). And since we don't live in Libertopia, sometimes the intervention is less justified and more forceful than one would wish.

Do you have the moral right to kill yourself? I think you do;* you even have the right to discuss it. But you don't have the right to colonize other people's minds; if they take your "discussion" as a threat, they'll react. And if you "discuss" the matter in the heat of the moment with an agent of the State -- a policeman, a firefighter, an EMT? Why, at best, you will almost automatically be finding yourself detained and under observation for a day or three while they try to figure out if you're rational or not.

Unfair? Possibly; but it's the world we live in -- a world of dangerous things that will provoke strong reactions if you meddle with them incautiously around others. You don't juggle bottles of rat poison in a crowd; you don't wave firearms around -- and you don't make suicide threats. That doesn't mean you can't use rat poison, defend yourself, or that your right to ownership and control of your person has been abridged. You're a grown-up and your peers grant you a staggering degree of trust; but it is not an unconditional or irrevocable grant.

You're surrounded by persons just as real -- and just as opinionated -- as yourself. Normal life involves interacting with them and accepting that they're not just clones of you. If you want to dictate how they should act and react, you might want to take a closer look at your own philosophical premises: you might not be a libertarian. You might not even be pro-freedom for anyone but yourself.

Update: An excellent discussion in Comments! Thank you. My own "bright line" is that any time threats of suicide are used to attempt to compel others, it's a hostage situation -- and 72 hours to cool off is a truly gentle response. Most of the "gray area" situations aren't that gray when examined closely: few if any serious suicides announce it ahead of time. (I'd like to point out that no ethical suicider would commit the act with unfulfilled obligations, either; you can't leave your messes for others to clean up and claim you're acting responsibly.)

SF writer H. Beam Piper, broke and with no prospects he was aware of, took his own life within days of his agent sending news that he had made a major sale. He never found out. Rational persons contemplating suicide should consider his story before taking irrevocable steps.
_____________________________________________
* Most religions think you do not. And -- hooray! -- in a free society, you're free to follow the dictates of your faith. You don't get to impose them on other adults.

27 comments:

Divemedic said...

As a liberty minded Paramedic, I sometimes had to take people to the hospital over their objections. I had to reconcile that with my own views. This is how:
People who are capable of making rational decisions have the right to decide for themselves what care to receive. Some people are not in that position, whether through illness or other disability:
The mentally retarded, children, people with head injuries that impair cognitive abilities, the mentally ill, and those who are chemically impaired.

In those cases, the default should be ensuring that the decision to refuse care is a fully informed one that is arrived at through rational thought, after being presented with the information.

perlhaqr said...

When you threaten to harm someone -- even yourself -- you're initiating force, attempting to extort something from the persons to whom you are expressing your threat.

I think I just fundamentally disagree with this statement right here.

If something is mine, I am allowed to destroy it. I am allowed to talk about destroying it. No one else is entitled to prevent me from destroying it. If they are, that makes it not mine in the most fundamental way possible.

If I say "I am going to cut my car into very tiny pieces and then melt the scrap into a cube", that's not an attempt to extort anything out of anyone, no matter how cool someone else thinks my car is. And likewise, no one else is entitled to forcibly prevent me from doing so. That's just fundamental to the very idea of property. Either I own it and I can dispose of it as I see fit, or I don't really own it.

I understand that the laws as they stand in the country I live in today permit others to behave in a fashion contrary to this ownership. But that doesn't make such intervention ethical.

docjim505 said...

I think that most people would agree that a person ought to be let alone so long as he's not hurting or threatening to hurt somebody else.

Many people, however, give themselves a caveat by adding "or COULD hurt". This is where such intrusive laws, ranging from seatbelt use and motorcycle helmets to prohibitions against various weapons and even laws against DWI comes in: "You MIGHT hurt somebody!"

I suppose that I take a reactionary view: yeah, you can do as you please, but may God have mercy on you if you hurt somebody else, because I won't. Unfortunately, society seems to have taken the opposite tack: "You can't do that because you might hurt somebody, but if you DO, well... it's not REALLY your fault. Your mother did drugs or some nasty company tricked you into misusing their product or you played too many violent video games" or some such.

elmo iscariot said...

If I say "I am going to cut my car into very tiny pieces and then melt the scrap into a cube", that's not an attempt to extort anything out of anyone, no matter how cool someone else thinks my car is.

This. If I have the fundamental right to take my own life, surely I have the right to determine the conditions under which I'll do it. And if I have the right to do something, surely I have the right to talk about doing it.

Libertarianism, in practice, means a whole lot of telling people "X may cause you distress, but he has a right to do it, so stop trying to force him to stop." If I read you correctly, the distinction you're making is that when I do X with _intent_ to cause somebody distress, then he has the right to use immediate, physical, non-abstract force to stop me from doing X.

I'm really not comfortable having the determinant of whether an action is protected be somebody's assessment of the intent behind it.

elmo iscariot said...

I note that the quote I took from perlhaqr wasn't well chosen.

I'm not arguing that a suicide threat can't be extortion; I'm arguing that people have the right to make ultimatums provided they otherwise have the right to do what they're threatening to do.

The distinction between an ultimatum and extortion doesn't seem to me to apply in a libertarian philosophy.

"I won't stay with you if you don't stop treating me like this," is a threat few reasonable people would argue justifies force against the threatener. What's the difference in principle between it and "I won't stay in this world if you don't stop treating me like this"?

LabRat said...

"I won't stay with you if you don't stop treating me like this," is a threat few reasonable people would argue justifies force against the threatener. What's the difference in principle between it and "I won't stay in this world if you don't stop treating me like this"?

I take some issue with philosophy that requires we treat human nature as a side issue of little relevance. In abstract principle there may be no difference between destroying your car and taking your own life, in the species I live in destroying a possession like a car would be, assuming maximum value placed upon it by others, at most provoking in the short run, perhaps creating a grudge. Suicide is often traumatizing to the friends and family of the suicide for the rest of their lives. The two threats are simply not equivalent. You can argue that in principle the friends/family shouldn't place so much value on a life that isn't theirs, but unless humanity changes on a fundamental level I just don't see that ever actually reflecting reality.

I'm not arguing that the trauma factor to loved ones negates a person's right to rationally and sanely conclude that their life is no longer worth living and take steps to act on that.

I am arguing that a)the choice being rational and sane rather than the result of mental illness is by far the minority case, and b)the threat of suicide is a really common weapon of psychological abuse that often goes hand in hand with other kinds of abuse. It is simply in no way equivalent to "I'll destroy my car" except in the most abstract.

At the very least I don't feel it can be honestly argued that the threat of suicide isn't a threat to seriously wound the target, even if it's not the intended primary effect.

elmo iscariot said...

LR: I don't disagree. But my comment was intended to discuss a principled issue of when one person can use physical force to control another person in a libertarian philosophy, and that question has to turn on matters of principle, not of degree. The car analogy, I assume, was a deliberately frivolous example for illustrating the principle without the degree. You have a right to do X, but doing so will distress me. In conventional law and morality, I get to do balancing acts based on the _amount_ of distress and society's perception of the _importance_ of X, but libertarianism is in large part a rejection of that balancing act.

But I don't see that we even need to get to that point. If we're assuming an ideology in which a person does have the right to end his life even though we understand that it will cause other people psychological trauma, I don't see how we can argue that he doesn't have the right to _say_ things that will cause them trauma.

I'm having a hard time understanding how an ideology that rejects suicide threats on the grounds that they'll hurt others can keep from rejecting suicide in private without warning on the same grounds.

At the very least I don't feel it can be honestly argued that the threat of suicide isn't a threat to seriously wound the target, even if it's not the intended primary effect.

Again I don't disagree, I'm taking it as given, like above, that the target will be traumatized. I mean only to say that I don't think degree or intent can turn something you have a right to do into something people can use force to stop you from doing, not to say that it shouldn't be a big deal to the people left behind.

[For the record, I think using suicide as an ultimatum is a shitty thing to do, BTW.]

elmo iscariot said...

Please bear with a liberal arts major while he tries to illustrate his point with clumsy math:

The car analogy says that I can destroy my car even if it will cause you X distress.

And I have the right to threaten to destroy my car even if that threat will cause you some portion of X distress.

If we're assuming that increasing the value of X doesn't invalidate the first clause (proceeding from the assumption that suicide is a right), why does it invalidate the second?

RobertM said...

I largely agree with Divemedic. I still don't agree that the threat of suicide is enough justification to deprive someone, even temporarily, of their freedom.

I have to admit, though, that my own anecdotal experience with people who threaten suicide probably has a lot to do with my view. I've heard that threat quite a few times, and it was always BS. Always.

And if it hadn't been, if someone was really serious, I can't think of a way to prevent them except taking away their freedom. I don't think it's a good enough reason. I don't think it's right to take everything that makes life worth living away from someone in order to keep them from ending the living part. To me it seems to be an absurd rationale. That's me.

I witnessed my mother cut her own wrist with a broken glass after fighting with her boyfriend. She didn't cut herself bad enough to do any serious damage, but for a kid it was pretty traumatic. The part that sticks in my head the most is when she walked into the bedroom where her boyfriend was yelling, "See what you made me do?"

I was in the house, and a teenager, the next time she did it. I was asleep at the time, as was everyone else in the house. Her friend, who she called after doing it, woke me up. At this point in my life I was a little jaded with my mothers antics. I told the friend to call 911 if she wanted but I was going back to bed.

Not long later my mother threatened to kill herself again. I offered her a gun so she could get it right this time. It shut her up pretty quick, and in the many years since she's never tried that particular tactic with me because it doesn't work. I don't care anymore.

So maybe I just have a hard time taking it seriously when someone makes these threats, and I think it's stupid when other people act as if they're serious. I think it's just reenforcing negative behavior by childish people.

And growing up the way I did I can be a cold, hard bastard. If someone no longer wants to live, even someone I deeply care for then I'm done with them. There is no point wasting any further effort in that direction.

LabRat said...

If we're assuming that increasing the value of X doesn't invalidate the first clause (proceeding from the assumption that suicide is a right), why does it invalidate the second?

I suppose I'd turn it around and ask why initiating aggressive force against someone else with a credible threat to do them serious harm becomes okay so long as you're using your own body as the weapon? It's not just shitty to threaten, sometimes people follow through. I've seen at least one long-term coroner comment that as many of the suicides he'd seen were an act of impulsive rage, meant to do final permanent harm against someone else, as despair.

I actually still see the fact that most people who are suicidal aren't rational actors as the actually deciding factor that makes detention morally okay with me. Combine the two- it's an aggressive act, and the assumption that the subject is rational isn't actually reasonable- and I come down on "you get to take a 72 hour timeout".

Maybe "background" plays in, but I've got plenty of history of mental illness in my family/childhoods and have seen all kinds of mental states that were way far away from normal or competent but could include suicidal ideation. (Sometimes directly caused by medication meant to treat the illness.) Those people didn't really want to kill themselves and once they were restored to rationality were damn glad someone pushed the button, as it were.

In my perfect world I'd be OK with sending them home afterward with a how-to manual and a kit if someone competent to judge their state of rationality concluded the decision was a rationally arrived-at one- but I don't put the freedom to blow yourself and your family up, and be free for that 72 hours, ahead of "very likely they are either not in their right mind and are actively terrorizing others".

But, I think "people are almost always rational actors" is as big a flaw in absolutist libertarianism as "people will almost always act in the best interests of all" is in absolutist collectivism. What that means is its own jumbo-sized can of worms.

elmo iscariot said...

I suppose I'd turn it around and ask why initiating aggressive force against someone else with a credible threat to do them serious harm becomes okay so long as you're using your own body as the weapon?

To use the term currently going around about the ACA in the Supreme Court, I see a need for a limiting principle. If we consider "your actions cause me distress" an initiation of violence in the libertarian sense, I can't see any difference in principle between "libertarianism" and the status quo. It's all just line-drawing over how _much_ distress you're permitted to cause before your rights turn off.

Basically, I feel like you're presenting a completely legitimate case for a traditional interest-balancing model of law and morality that draws the lines much closer to individual freedom. IRL, this doesn't sound like a bad deal to me; I won't reject a freer world to get more Libertarian Purity points. I'd try to be first in line to live in New Labratia, even if it has involuntary mental health holds. In this case, I was responding to the part of Roberta's post that dealt with libertarian principles, and it's hard for me to reconcile using force to respond to threats of self-harm with libertarian principles of individual rights.

But, I think "people are almost always rational actors" is as big a flaw in absolutist libertarianism as "people will almost always act in the best interests of all" is in absolutist collectivism.

FWIW, I won't say that determining when a person is mentally incapacitated isn't a difficult issue for libertarians. I've had a parent suffer a substantial personality change and disconnection from reality as he died of brain cancer. I'm just more frightened by the possible consequences of letting society decide to remove a nonviolent individual's control over even his own body than with the possible consequences of treating irrational people as if they're rational actors.

LabRat said...

To use the term currently going around about the ACA in the Supreme Court, I see a need for a limiting principle. If we consider "your actions cause me distress" an initiation of violence in the libertarian sense, I can't see any difference in principle between "libertarianism" and the status quo. It's all just line-drawing over how _much_ distress you're permitted to cause before your rights turn off.

Okay, but that need goes both ways. What's "distress" and how separate is that from "violence"? If I have a troubled, mentally unstable boyfriend that punches me in the face, everyone is going to agree that's violence and have no problem with the idea that he has therefore given up a bit of his liberty if I choose to call the cops, and more of it if I choose to press charges. But I'm going to recover a lot faster than that punch in the face than I'm going to recover from the trauma if he decides to blow his brains out in front of me- which is one all-too-common manifestation of the "suicide as an aggressive act of rage" phenomenon.

To add to that, most people will go pretty far in order to prevent someone else's death even if the act is suicidal. How is that threat not a BIG coercive act? Again, just because it's yourself you're taking as the hostage?

There's also the equally problematic phenomenon of the murder-suicide- an alarming number of people who are so far gone as to conclude suicide is their best option are ALSO far gone enough to conclude that their loved ones are suffering as well and they need to be strong enough to put them out of their misery.

Draw the line on one side and you're valuing the individual's liberty over everyone else's mental and physical safety. Draw it on the other, and you create excuses for the state to exercise that force monopoly it's so fond of.

elmo iscariot said...

Very sorry for the brevity of this reply--I've run out of time.

I'm not aware of a libertarian remedy for harassment (and I don't mean that dismissively--I mean the whole spectrum of intentional infliction of emotional distress). I acknowledge this is a weakness of libertarianism as I understand it, but still think it's worth the protection we get from physical, intellectual, and property rights suppression.

There's also the equally problematic phenomenon of the murder-suicide...

I unreservedly affirm your right to use force against somebody who threatens to kill himself and you.

perlhaqr said...

I suppose I'd turn it around and ask why initiating aggressive force against someone else with a credible threat to do them serious harm becomes okay so long as you're using your own body as the weapon?

Do you mean mental harm?

I mean, that's an even worse slippery slope to walk down, IMO. That seems to be positing a right to not be offended by an unpleasant display.

TriggerFinger said...

This is a tough one for libertarians. Let me get some fundamental principles down first.

1) I believe people have the right to kill themselves if they choose to do so.

2) This right is not in any way dependent upon someone else's judgment that they are of sound mind when they make the decision. If a right requires someone else's permission to exercise, it's not a right, it's something else.

3) Threatening to do something you have every right to do anyway is part of that right. It is not an initiation of force when you are threatening to hurt yourself.

Here's where it gets tough.

4) *No matter what we say while in our rational minds, suicide and our responses to it are not normally rational moments.* In the heat of an argument people will say things they might not mean in a rational moment ("I'll kill myself if you don't..."), do things they might not do (bang!), and intervene where they might in a more rational moment decline to do so ("I'm going to take the gun from you"). No matter what we say in the course of a rational discussion, our behaviors in an emotionally-charged moment are going to bear little relationship to our rational thoughts.

5) The cost of successfully committing suicide in a manner that you would otherwise regret are much higher than the consequences of being prevented from committing suicide -- mainly because success is permanent but failure is temporary.

In light of all that, the only pragmatic decision in the real world is to try to prevent people from committing suicide on impulse, even by force, while providing a pathway to do so legally for those who come to a rational decision to do so. Humans are simply not going to accept a "don't touch" policy for suicide response, and there are good reasons for that to be the "snap judgment" that humans make.

Anyone who has made a truly rational decision to commit suicide is going to be able to do so. No one is going to be able to stop them. It's the people who aren't rational and aren't serious who make threats or act in the heat of the moment, and that's more than enough justification to stop them until they calm down.

That's not the whole story, though, because there are some other cases here. When you get hauled into an ER for "observation", voluntarily or not, it messes up your life. If we are going to allow people to be locked up while we figure out whether they are rational or not, we have to provide the same due process considerations that we do when people are charged with crimes. If the person is rational, or returns to rational behavior, we have to let them go promptly and without any blemish on their criminal record.

If we aren't careful, then mental health holds based on suicide threats become just another way to use the force of the state to ruin someone else's life. A friend of mine has had that happen to then; her roommate lied to the police about a suicide threat he claimed she made, and she spent a night or two in a mental health ward.

We have to allow for discretion by the people on the scene, without threat of lawsuits after the fact, so that the people with the best evidence to judge *in the moment* whether someone is behaving rationally or needs medical help can do it without pressure from one side or the other.

No one is going to accept "just leave them all alone" and "bring them all in for evaluation" is equally unacceptable in a free society. There has to be room for a reasonable judgment without fear of liability, as well as room to punish unreasonable abuse of authority by police or emergency responders.

That sounds pretty much like what we've got, and I'm not sure that human nature will allow us to do better.

LabRat said...


I unreservedly affirm your right to use force against somebody who threatens to kill himself and you.


That's pretty cold comfort for a two-year-old.

Before I get a FERRR THE CHILREEEEN- which, yeah, it's an argument dragging kids in- children, young children, are pretty likely to be victims in murder-suicides. Whether it's rage/possession motivated or despair "put an end to their suffering" motivated, they're not likely to be able to remedy the situation by taking up arms against Mom or Dad.

Do you mean mental harm?

I mean, that's an even worse slippery slope to walk down, IMO. That seems to be positing a right to not be offended by an unpleasant display.


Yeah?

If I manage to traumatize you enough to give you PTSD, I have inflicted actual, measurable brain damage. Your life will never be the same again, mostly because your brain won't.

Let's not pretend all mental and emotional harm is as trivial as being offended. My point is that some of it is in all measurable ways a greater injury than some injuries we recognize easily as violence sufficient to justify restraint.

Look, my overall point here is that any "well let's just draw a clear bright line to put in front of the state" has some pretty major harms that pretty badly violate "my right to swing my fist ends at your fast" attached.

PA State Cop said...

Having pulled the knife out of the hands of the lady carving on herself, I, frankly could give a shit what she thinks. You wanna snuff yourself, go ahead. Just don't get on the phone to Dearly Beloved saying you're going to off yourself. The consequences of that are guys like me with No sense of humor coming for you. No debate or negotiation, you're going.


PS I was a Medic before LE. Real Suicide attempts don't call first.

Ambulance Driver said...

Triggerfinger nicely summed up in his last comment what it took me three posts and over a hundred comments to express.

Good job.

I will slightly quibble with this:

"When you get hauled into an ER for "observation", voluntarily or not, it messes up your life. If we are going to allow people to be locked up while we figure out whether they are rational or not, we have to provide the same due process considerations that we do when people are charged with crimes. If the person is rational, or returns to rational behavior, we have to let them go promptly and without any blemish on their criminal record."

The laws allows for just that. A 72 hour psych hold is just that - a hold. It is not adjudication, it is not a commitment, and it does not alter your gun rights in most states (those with ridiculously restrictive firearms laws excepted). It is adequately explained on the Form 4473.

You either have to be adjudicated mentally defective - in court, with a judge and a jury and your own lawyer, in other words, due process - or you have to be involuntarily committed to an institution. Voluntary admission does not count.

In Louisiana, an actual commitment requires a psychiatric evaluation before the 72 hour hold expires, by a third party. If a coroner initiated the hold, the psych evaluation must be by a psychiatric physician. If a physician initiated the hold, the coroner must do the evaluation.

IN any case, both assessments must agree, or the patient goes free. If both agree on commitment, it can last fifteen days. It can be extended for another fifteen days, provided both the coroner and the physician agree on the extension.

And during all that time, the patient is entitled to a lawyer to represent his interests and/or challenge the ruling.

Beyond 30 days in Louisiana requires a court proceeding, and not merely an administrative law hearing.

And right there on the Form 4473, it says that once you have been declared of sound mind and are no longer mandated for any type of treatment, your gun rights are restored, provided you did not commit a disqualifying crime and use temporary insanity as a defense.

Of course, I'm also aware that some states may be far more restrictive than the 4473 requirements, but the people for whom I'm (maybe) violating their civil rights, live in Free America.

perlhaqr said...

If I manage to traumatize you enough to give you PTSD, I have inflicted actual, measurable brain damage. Your life will never be the same again, mostly because your brain won't.

Let's not pretend all mental and emotional harm is as trivial as being offended. My point is that some of it is in all measurable ways a greater injury than some injuries we recognize easily as violence sufficient to justify restraint.


Hrm.

I don't have a good answer for that. I'll have to think about it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. What little exposure I've had w/ indivduals threatening to off themselves, it amounted to straight-up extortion, trying to force another person to do thier will. That is,in my mind, institution of force by the suicide threatener, and the threatened party's right to self defence kicks in. on other words, nobody wins! A Kobiashi Maru senario if there ever was one....Heinline kinda adressed this in one of his books (Time Enough forLove, IIRC), when hospice staff had to com up w/ a way to prove life was worth-while so the oldest living human would go thru with regeneration instead of legally permitted suicide. But in the real world, no one "wins" in fhis situation. JohninMd(help?)

Goober said...

I'm of the opinion that anyone who says something like "If you don't do X, then I'll hurt/kill myself" is not expressing their right of control over their own person so much as they are using that right to extort another person into doing their bidding.

Extortion is aggression, and that isn't allowed in Libertopia.

Yeah, you can kill yourself, but you don't get to use that as a weapon to force others to bend to your will.

bluntobject said...

You folks are awesome, and have inspired a blog post (which I'll get around to writing maybe this weekend). Basically I'm thinking about the place of verbal threats, violent language, and other "speech intended to cause harm" on the force continuum, and what that implies for Rothbard and initiation-of-force vs. freedom from constraints on speech. Thanks, all.

Kristopher said...

Actually, H. Beam Piper's problem was that his agent, who had an eidetic memory and no need of a file system, had died of a heart attack.

The agent's heirs had a big stack of royalty checks with Piper's name on them, and no clue where to send them.

SewerDweller said...

A couple of things Libertarians seem to not get. Unless you are unmarried, not dating, without family, your life is not truly your own. By killing yourself, you deprive people who love you of, well, yourself.

Secondly, if you have dependants, husbands, wives, 'significant others' or children, your life is not your own.

perlhaqr - "I'm going to destroy my car, because it's mine, and i can" is not the same as "if you don't give me a million dollars, I'm going to destroy my car, which you happen to really enjoy riding in, looking at, and spending time with."

one is personal choice, one is extortion.

I'm in a.. rather unique position. I got married, and it turns out my wife had cancer. She now has stage 4 cancer, fully metastesized, and spread to multiple organs. The odds of her recovering are very, -very- small. In about 6 months, she's going to be in agony. If she decides to end her life, I'm not going to stop her. Please note, this decision is based on a large amount of soul searching.

Now, if she told me. "I'm going to kill myself if you do not agree to 'X'." I'd be furious. She has no right to extort agreement from me by the threat of force.

see the difference?

Roberta X said...

Kristopher: Thank you for the expanded backstory. --As well as evidence that no matter how good one's memory, a filing system could be useful.

Really, that ties into the wider notion that one mustn't die with unfulfilled obligations. Can't be avoided if your body sabotages you, of course, but voluntary exits are a different story.

TriggerFinger said...

AmbulanceDriver, if you check the end of my comment, I was noting that what I was describing seemed pretty close to what we have. I'm certainly no expert on all the state laws involved, and the only thing I have to add to what you said is that even being absent from your job without notice for 72 hours or whatever the limit is can get you fired, give time for your roommate to steal all your stuff and get out of town, or whatever other mischief comes to mind.

SewerDweller, my life is always my own regardless of marital status or children. People have a moral responsibility to hang in their to help their families, but their spouse or children should not have the legal right to use force to stop them -- other than in the heat of the moment as I described above.

If someone thinks his life is bad enough to want to kill himself, it's his life, he can do that. His girlfriend, wife, children, parents, siblings, and cute puppies do not have a say in it. They don't get to make decisions for him. It may make him a cruel, uncaring person if he ignores their feelings and needs, but I doubt someone on the verge of suicide is bothered by that prospect.

As for extortion... initiating force against yourself is meaningless, and threatening to harm or kill yourself (or even destroy a valued piece of properly you own outright) if someone else does not take some action is not in any sense extortion. It's stupid and childish, yes, but the appropriate response from the "victim" is to say "No, I won't do what you ask. You can do what you want to yourself or your own property."

People talking about the claim that a wife or child has on someone else is a major reason that I'm an unmarried, childless libertarian. I do what I want; I make my own choices. I don't want anyone else to have a claim on my actions.

perlhaqr said...

perlhaqr - "I'm going to destroy my car, because it's mine, and i can" is not the same as "if you don't give me a million dollars, I'm going to destroy my car, which you happen to really enjoy riding in, looking at, and spending time with."

one is personal choice, one is extortion.


I'm afraid I must disagree with you about this. Extortion in any rational sense must require a threat of force or blackmail against someone else, not oneself. In the situation you cite, all I've really done is set a price of a million dollars and a ticking clock on the offer.

LabRat has made the most compelling argument (to me) as to how a threat of suicide can legitimately constitute initiation of force against another person. I think "If you don't do X, I will blow my brains out in front of you and cause you PTSD" does, in fact, cross the line.

I think my biggest issue here though, is that the definition of "threat" versus "statement" is very very fuzzy.


(The following statement is purely hypothetical. I am not suicidal.)

It is my opinion that if I were to say to Roberta, "I have been very very depressed for the last decade, it has been getting worse and worse, and nothing seems to make it any better. I have been contemplating suicide." that this does not constitute a threat, but rather a simple statement of fact. And yet, if I have understood AD correctly, this very calm and IMO rational utterance would constitute a legitimate legal reason to place me in involuntary detention for evaluation. And that, essentially, is what gets up my left nostril so much about this whole position debate.