Steven Landsburg carries out three “thought experiments”. They’re all pretty bad — one suggests that we have no grounds to complain about environmental destruction in Alaska if we’re living somewhere else, to which I’d have to reply, “You mean like Mars?” — but the third one…jebus, Mr Creepy McLiberturd is masturbating publicly here.
Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm — no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission. (Note: The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I’ve read, was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, we are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of rape? Should they be illegal?
He provides his Libertarian philosophical answer.
As long as I’m safely unconsious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits? And if the thought of those benefits makes me shudder, why should my shuddering be accorded any more public policy weight than Bob’s or Granola’s? We’re still talking about strictly psychic harm, right?
Maybe we could even talk about a positive advantage. You go in to a hospital for some essential medical treatment that involves anesthetizing you, and while you’re unconscious, the hospital pays for its services by leasing out your body to anyone willing to pay. Free health care! It’s a benefit, right?
It’s a remarkable claim from a Libertarian. If we’re not using our property at some moment, do we forfeit our rights to it? When Landsburg is not driving his car, is it OK if someone takes a joyride in it as long as it’s returned when he needs it, with the gas consumed replaced?
Is there really no cost to a person if their body is abused while they are unconscious? He writes as if this “psychic harm” is meaningless nothing. Reputation, security, trust…these are mere “psychic” phenomena, so they have no significance to a person?
And what gives this hypothetical rapist the right to use someone else’s body? Flip it around and try to justify the rapist’s exploitation of another for his personal benefit — by what right does that person deserve to “reap the benefits” of someone else’s unconsciousness…or for that matter, reap the benefits of the Alaskan wilderness? Mr Landsburg seems to naturally take the side of the takers and looters.
We’ve got a convenient phrase for what Landsburg is doing: it’s called JAQing off. He’s clearly a master.