Quote of the day—Timothy Hsiao

Your right to life isn’t dependent on whether respecting your life would yield the best set of consequences. It is absolute and unrelenting, even if it would be more beneficial to others if your right were violated. It would be wrong for me to override your right to life in order harvest your organs to save five people, even if in doing so I produce a more beneficial outcome.

Your life has basic dignity that cannot be defeated in the name of social utility. It isn’t dependent on the outcome of a cost-benefit analysis. The same goes for other rights that are derived from the right to life. For example, it would be wrong to rape someone even if doing so would save ten lives. Rights function as moral “trump cards” that override appeals to utility.

Timothy Hsiao
February 27, 2018
Why Americans Have A Right To Own Guns Even If That Makes Us Less Safe
[I have nothing to add.—Joe]

5 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Timothy Hsiao

  1. Hsiao describes that basic concept which the authoritarian confederacy hates, denies and attacks every day. They also seek to retain the option to, officially and at the wholesale level, violate every one of the Ten Commandments, and thus they hate that law as much as the U.S. constitution, if not more.

    The rape example makes the point, but a better one would be theft, being that wholesale theft is so universally practiced around the world;

    “For example, it would be wrong to steal from someone even if doing so would save ten lives.”

    Now I can hear the protests already, “But wait, Lyle, you uncompassionate dolt; what if there was someone bleeding to death on the sidewalk and you were right next to a medical supply store after hours. Wouldn’t you smash the window and steal a first aid kit if it could save that person’s life?” Yes I would, but I’d be breaking a just law. The store owner would have the right to press charges against me. I would break the window and steal with that knowledge, and I would accept the responsibility, the full consequences, for doing so. I would hope that the shopkeeper would have compassion (or at least an idea of his best interest with regard to public opinion) and let me off the hook to some extent, but ultimately it is my responsibility to make good, pay damages, and possibly serve jail time. See how that works? It isn’t complicated. There’s never an excuse to make regular theft into a public policy, though of course it’s done all the time.

    I can’t think of a scenario in which raping someone could possibly save a life, but the underlying point is valid nonetheless.

    • This is critically important stuff. In the medical scenario above, it is not my right to make the decision for the shopkeeper to donate his window and his first aid kit. At minimum, it would be my responsibility to make him whole on that score. Nor is it the right of a prosecutor to make that decision, by letting me off the hook for damages, thus forcing the shopkeeper by law to give up his property without full restitution. I alone would have made that decision in breaking the window and stealing someone else’s property, and thus I alone should bear the consequences unless someone else volunteered to share in the burden of saving that life. It is also the bleeding person’s right, of course, if he were conscious, to refuse treatment based on the fact that theft is was only means of saving him. The words, “If I die, I die” are in the Bible for that reason. Reiterated, it says, “I refuse to participate in coercion, come what may”.

      The ideal in all of this, which never gets the attention it deserves and is often forgotten altogether even in lengthy moral/political discussions, is the total lack of coercion in society. It’s really that simple. Many have a difficult time even imagining a society free of coercion, but it should nonetheless be the ever-present, longingly pursued ideal. We were created with free will for that reason, so as to flush all of this out to the very end.

    • I believe the medical emergency case described above is covered in the legal world by the phrase “affirmative defense”. In essence, “Yes, I broke the law but I had a valid reason and hence the state should not find me guilty in this case.”

      It is my belief that nearly all prosecutors (and store owners) would give you a pass on this provided you notified the police and/or owner in a reasonable time, minimized damages and losses, and made a reasonable effort to make the store whole.

  2. The situation he mentions reminds me of Rod Steiger in “Dr. Zhivago”, when he shows up later in the movie and says that he is still alive because he’s useful to the party. Pavel, Tom Corteney, later Strelnikov, was not.
    Another thing, is physician-assisted-suicide, which in the Netherlands has devolved, unsurprisingly to doctors and waiting heirs persuading old people there’s no hope, so why not take the last cocktail since they aren’t useful anymore..

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