Re: Ethics

Joe E. Dees (
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 19:34:52 -0500

From:           	Hiro Protagonist <>
Subject:        	Re: Ethics
Organization:   	Netropolis Technologies
Date sent:      	23 Jul 1998 19:47:13 -0700
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> Daniel Fabulich <> writes:
> > That's why I asserted that egoism demands that we steal only to the extent
> > that it is profitable, *and no further*. If the risk increases every time
> > I steal, as you claim, then egoism claims that I should steal only up to
> > the point where that risk would become unacceptable.

This viewpoint is known as cost-benefit analysis. The potential criminal weighs the benefit to be gained from the successful completion of the crime, multiplied by a calculated likely success percentage, against the penalty to be paid if apprehended, multiplied by a calculated likely failure percentage, against the probable future should the theft attempt not be made. It's a statistically based gamble, and the stakes are how well (or badly) a future chunk of life will be lived. This is why crimes for lesser amounts are committed by poorer classes; their default baseline is much lower. Those who are nabbed include bad statisticians and optimistically flawed data selectors, as well as those whom either the law of averages or the advent of random exception fails.

> Well, let me re-phrase then, 'principled egoism' over the long term
> recognizes the immense advantage of honesty. Your brand of 'pragmatic
> egoism' might imagine that in the short-term, or if done infrequesntly
> enough, crime pays.
> > Can you prove that? Remember, I don't necessarily have to provide any
> > representation at all in order to get away with a crime: I just have to
> > keep it a secret.
> How do you keep the fact that a crime has been committed a secret from
> the victims? How do you prevent them from getting at the truth unless
> you misrepresent reality - wear gloves, shave your head so there's not
> hair left behind for DNA analysis, establish an alibi, frame someone
> else... all standard practices when trying to get away from the
> facts. To evade facts is clearly anti-egoism, because the facts don't
> care if you are evading them or not. It's the same as standing in the
> path of a high-speed train on an acid trip because you don't believe
> the train exists. And the outcome, in the long run, will be precisely
> the same.
> > If objectivism is true, it should be trivial to prove that you can
> > never keep a secret for a long time.
> The issue here is maintaining a lie, not keeping a secret, though it's
> obvious that people are very bad at the second, too, especially in the
> face of determined efforts by others to get at the secret.
> Crime is a losing proposition, at least for principled egoists who can
> see past immediate gains to long-term consequences.
> Hiro
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