Malevolent liberty or benevolent tyranny

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Malevolent liberty is better than benevolent tyranny. A lot of this boils down to the Trolly Problem: a thought experiment in ethics that goes like this: a runaway trolley is going to kill five people tied to one set of tracks, or you can flip a level where it will go to a side track and kill one person. Which is more ethical? For me, the victims not having a say in what you do, is where much of the problem is. In Liberty, they choose. In Tyranny, you choose for them.

Self Driving Cars

There are many variants of the Trolly Problem -- it's often used to tease out biases on the participant. What if the one is a child and the 5 are old people (or race, and other biases). But the basics are not really whether 1 is less than 5, it's whether you think action that kills someone is better than inaction which will have many more die.

Imagine self-driving cars. There are going to be cases where a kid runs out in the street from a hidden position, and the car must make a decision of (a) kill the kid (b) swerve into a tree and probably kill the driver/passengers but save the kid (c) swerve into oncoming traffic and hope it moves and you don’t kill the driver/passengers in two cars. Which is the right answer?

Put more bluntly, the software choice is:

  • (a) save the passengers/fuck the kid, better luck next life
  • (b) save the kid/fuck the passengers
  • (c) endanger innocents to try to save the stupid kid?

The truth is self-driving cars will likely reduce these kinds of accidents because they are more attentive at our worst times, and faster reacting, but even better is not perfect. Momentum and coefficient of friction is going to make this a decision cars have to make at some point. And at first, or probably forever, the computer is not as good at judging in an instant how well the opposing drivers are paying attention, how big the tree is (will it kill us, or just hurt a lot), and what our motives are (are we willing to endanger ourselves or others, to try to save the kid or not). And my point is, who owns that decision, once you take it from the driver?

NOTE: To me the proper answer is have it a software selector (and indemnity is granted for the driver, no matter which they select). The driver is not the cause of the outcome, the kid is. Period. But many are going to advocate the state (NHTSA, or company), gets to hard code that. And the companies will want to removing that choice, because people don’t want to think about it, and certainly don’t want to think about the car making that decision for them. They are choosing fascism/collectivism over individualism, whether they realize it or not.

More than that, some of the lowest of the lawyers are going to get excited at the thought of the first accident with these cases. If there’s no pre-defined precedent for computers, that means they get to invent ethics (and liability) based on the gullibility of the first Jury. Does the grieving Mom get millions from the evil/rich car company, because a cars computer chose to save the life of the asshole/drunk behind the wheel or not? (Not to mention the better, from a ambulance chasers point of view, if the car swerves into oncoming traffic, and other driver does not swerve as well). With people, we think, “accidents happen”, but since this was programmed in advance, it’s a conscious decision.

Right to die

Now let’s bring this to current events, instead of near future hypotheticals: End of life (right to die / euthanasia), abortion, vaccinations.

Right now, we take away the choices of individuals involved for euthanasia. We assume that life is so precious, that even people that want to die, should not be allowed to. (We should leave it up to doctors or the state). Part of that is because old people can be manipulated, and we don’t trust families who may have a vested economical interest in the elderly dying to make those decisions. But a lot is just historical superstition and biases: God makes those decisions, not mortals. Thus we criminalize dying with dignity (as if there is such a thing).


Abortion is messy ethics too.

I support the choice of an individual to murder potential life, but not actual life. e.g. until the baby is viable outside the womb (say 20 or so weeks), I might not like it, but I think the Woman gets the choice until viability. At viability that’s not longer a potential life, but something that could self-sustain, thus killing it at that point, is murder. But I understand it’s a grey area, and others disagree. And this is drifting away from pure one or many ethics decisions, and more about who should have the most say in the decision: the victim, the perp, or the state.

Charlie Gard and Single-Payer "Healthcare"

Charlie Gard and Single-Payer "Healthcare"
Charlie Gard.jpg more...


But in all these cases it's still not whether one is more than many. For me, it's should the state decide for everyone where the lines should be drawn, or should we leave it to individuals?

I lean towards individuals... mostly.

  • In the case of a full term baby, the baby deserves rights, so it’s a lot more than a casual choice — and since the state exists to preserve natural rights (including the right to life), it must protect the viable child.
  • In the Right to life/die, I leave it to the individual and not the state. I can't judge another persons pain versus will to live -- and it's their choice to make. It can be abused (by pressuring the feeble of mind). And I would choose to take care of a sick loved one, over killing them for the good of the many (like the Socialists sell the public on whether during a Star Trek Movie or Nazi Germany).
  • Charlie Gard is the better example: He might have died anyways, he might not. But the moral dilemma is once you take away the choice of parents (to pay for the healthcare they want), you own the consequences of that one-size-fits-all solution. Without authority comes no responsibility (and with authority comes the responsibility). Since the Parents had no authority over what the state would do, they own no moral responsibility for what happened -- but the state does. Since the state stole the liberty/decision away from the parents, they own the outcome/consequences of that decision/delay just as sure as if they threw the switch on the electric chair, pushed the button on the lethal injection, or guided the abortionists cannula.

In all these cases it's about whether you should get to make the choices for others (even if you think it's in their own good). And I can agree with those folks mathematically, just not ethically. I would rather let people make the wrong choices for themselves and learn and grow from them (as can others/society), than force people to do something they don't agree with (even if it's for their own good). In the latter case, they and society don't grow... or more accurately, they only grow to resent the system/voters that took their liberty/choices away. And we become a more divided society.