Re: Ashcroft Antics

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jan 30 2002 - 18:45:24 MST

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > John Ashcroft doesn't like the bare-breasted statue of Justice. He makes
> > the decision to have the statue covered up while he's Attorney General.
> > In what way is this bad? As far as I can tell, he's just optimizing his
> > personal space according to his preferences. Sure, it would be wrong if
> > Ashcroft tried to impose this preference on others, but the above article
> > gives no evidence that he has done so or plans to do so.
> Legally, he probably does have the discretion to decide how to spend
> the justice department's budget on art, and he can make judgments about
> the esthetic value of that art. But when generations of his predecessors
> all worked hard to create and preserve that particular piece, it seems
> something of a slap in their face to vandalize it. At least his change
> is removable so they next AG with more sense can fix it.

That's my point - at some point, even in a libertarian government, someone
needs to have personal responsibility for the artistic appearance of
public buildings. There is nothing wrong with Ashcroft taking charge of
the appearance of his building. Curtains are not "vandalism" and he is
not destroying his predecessors' efforts, just temporarily switching them
off. Sure, Ashcroft's decision may only be temporary; sure, we may
disagree with it; my point is that is that it is legitimately Ashcroft's
decision. How would we feel if a transhumanist Attorney General were
mocked in the media for putting a curtain over, say, a painting of God
judging sinners?

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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