Re: Ethics

Daniel Fabulich (
Fri, 24 Jul 1998 03:28:53 -0400 (EDT)

On 23 Jul 1998, Hiro Protagonist wrote:

> > 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.
> 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.

It seems to me that you give your case away if you agree that crime pays when it is done infrequently enough. Do you agree with that?

> > 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?

If I'm an egoist, I don't intrinsically care if they know that a crime was committed;
all I care about is whether they knew it was me. Since they don't know who it was, all I have to do is keep a SECRET, not a lie.

But even if I did; are you trying to say that lies don't hold up in the long run? If so, what could you say to the millions (if not billions) of people who believe in miracles that didn't happen?

> 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.

You will not necessarily have to go to this great a distance in order to successfully commit a profitable crime. Hell, you don't even necessarily need an alibi in most cases; if they have no idea who you are, they won't have to ask you for your alibi. Nor will they be able to match your DNA. Nor will you have to frame someone else. Gloves, maybe, but maybe not if you rapidly flee the area.

> 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.

Again you assert that it is impossible to commit a crime and get away with it, yet there is copious evidence to the contrary: namely the thousands of crimes that are committed every year that go unpunished.

> 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.

The argument that it is impossible to get away with lying is absurd. I've seen it happen; I'd be surprised if even one in 20 people off the street have not seen someone lie and get away with it.

I think the problem here is that you think I believe that egoists should *always* steal; this is not the case. Egoists should only sometimes steal; a smart egoist will make it his/her business to figure out when.

> Crime is a losing proposition, at least for principled egoists who can
> see past immediate gains to long-term consequences.

Crime doesn't pay if it's done poorly or too often. but not when done correctly at the right times. A wise egoist will figure out when this is true and steal at precisely those times.

By the way:

Main Entry: klep-to-ma-nia
Pronunciation: "klep-t&-'mA-nE-&, -ny&
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin
Date: 1830
: a persistent neurotic impulse to steal especially *without economic motive* [emphases mine, of course]

The kleptomaniac is not a rational egoist. The rational egoist will always have a self-interested motive for stealing. This is the difference between the two.