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Blundering Ethicists


Circumstantial evidence suggests that The Ethicist(tm) might be listening to my advice (or Paperwight).

Still, I’m not in the mood to be terribly magnanimous. The first two “corrections” offered this week deal with private property as opposed to other social goods. First, he reassesses his views on the ever-crucial question of the mutilation of Medieval texts (doesn’t he know there’s a war on?), and then he turns to library access codes. In both cases, suggests that the interests of society manifested in some way or another ought to trump private property rights. I think he’s right (about library access, at least; I can’t be bothered to have an opinion on the finer points of collecting mutilated Medieval texts), but he makes no effort to explain why he went wrong, or why he’s right now. For all but the purest and most dreamy of the communists and anarcholibertarians, of course private property claims have to be weighed against various other social goods. If he’s going to purport to write an ethics column, the least he can do is gesture toward a hint of an outline of a decision rule to figure out how to actually do that weighing.

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