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Post 40

Friday, September 1 - 10:30amSanction this postReply
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There is aanother angle to defamation that is implicit in all the verbiage I've spent on this so far. It relates again to vandalism.

 

One time I was trying to get a ranch listing in Wyoming, next to a ranch I had listed and sold a month before. I was still new to the area.  I encountered the established local broker, with whom I was competing for this business, driving down the mountain road out of the area, as I was driving in. He had just met with the seller that I was headed in to try to see. The other broker recognized my vehicle; we didn't wave.

 

When I talked to the seller, he revealed that the other broker had claimed to have sold the neighboring ranch. "No, I sold that place," I explained. He just nodded and said nothing more about it. I didn't get the listing, but I did learn more about the other broker.

 

That is a kind of fraud, claiming an achievement not earned as an inducement to signing a contraact, and thereby implicitly stripping me of my own achievement. That is defamatory. Defamation is the act of negating an important aspect of the victim's past achievements. The aspect that is negated is, for lack of a better term, "conditions" of the perceptions of other people about one's moral standing.

 

Those conditions are an important part of what one struggles to achieve in work and in other aspects of life. The conditons, if positive, have economic and moral value that one must earn. They are valuable, because people rely on those conditions in deciding whether or not to have dealings with the individual who caused the conditions. If positive conditions are negated, then those values owned by the achiever have been wrongfully taken. If they are wrongfully taken, then opportunities that the achiever would otherwise have access to are also taken away, not to mention other costs.  Because the achiever has been deprived of his right to peacefully pursue opportunities to survice and flourish, as the result of defamation, his rights have been violated.

 

Does the achiever own the conditions others rely on to judge him? The conditions are scarce--only one broker could sell the neighboring ranch, only one artist could paint a particular scene, etc. The conditions, distinct here from the actual achievements, are also valuable: in pursuit of productivity, love, etc. Ownership pertains to scarcity and value. But still, does one own one's record of achievement? I don't know.  

 

I suspect the confusion stems from a fuzzy definition of "conditions." What has been negated is public perception of one's record. There is probably no such thing as a floating "condition" out there in the ether. There is what one does, and there is what others believe one has done. Nothing else.

 

If so, then I am back to square one. Comitting fraud against people who believe the lie about some poor sap is wrong. But the poor sap doesn't own the ideas of other people, even about his personal record. So if other people choose to believe false charges or implications about him, and do not concern themselves with the reliability of the claimant and the basis of the claims, then the victim of defamation is a casualty of poor thinking. He can seek to demonstrate the charges are false, thereby justifiably hurting the repuation of the liar. But is bad thinking by other people really a violation of the rights of the defamed?

 

As you can see, I'm genuinely confused about all this.   

 

 

 

 

 

  



Post 41

Friday, September 1 - 12:19pmSanction this postReply
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Mark,

 

I won't get into many of the details of your last post.... not now.  But, I'll just say that if the property of another has been taken (or destroyed) by the act of another that involves initiation of force, threat to initiate force, fraud or theft, then we know that an individual right has been violated and all such acts should be given definitition in law - to create a complete criminal code. 

 

Other things, where an individual right may not have been violated could still be things that should be litigated under civil code (e.g., legitimate contract disagreements or damage to private property that might not fall under criminal statutes). 

 

And there are yet other acts that don't fit either civil court or criminal proceedings..... things people can do with impunity despite being immoral.  That's just the way it is.  If someone lies about their achievements, but doesn't defame you or take away from your achievements, they may gain a competititive advantage with that personal puffery.  They are sleazy, immoral, dishonest, but it is up to the wisdom of the market and the buyers to ferret out the lies.  It isn't up to the law (criminal or civil) to right all wrongs.

------------------------------------

 

"...is bad thinking by other people really a violation of the rights of the defamed?"

 

Thinking can never be a violation of the individual rights of another - it can not be the kind of action, by itself, that deprives the other of choice in the way that initiating force, threatening to initiate force, stealing, or depriving a person of property by orchestrating a fraud.  John Doe could think about stealing from you, but until those thoughts take some form as action they shouldn't be criminalized.

 

For the most part, there is an overall average level of moral character and of intellegence in the people of a culture.... and we are stuck with it - which is unpleasant when it is is so much lower than we'd like.  There are far too many stupid, gullible people who seem predisposed to believing badly of others - without evidence, and far too many people who derive joy from feeding dirt to those fools - to say nothing of those who make shoveling dirt part of how they make money.   That old saw: "People get the government they deserve" is matched by: "People get the culture they deserve."  Like Harry Browne intimated in his "Finding Freedom in an Unfree World" book - You can whine about this and that being unfair, or try to change others so they won't behave unfairly, or focus on being happy and successful in the world as it is.



Post 42

Friday, September 1 - 9:05pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, your comment was right on target and exactly what I've been thinking today.

 

Probably we think differently about defamation, because now I'm back to thinking it is not a violation of individual rights. I wanted to construct a theory explaining why it violates rights--it seems so obviously wrong--but I can't. My "distinction" is empty, since "conditions" don't exist anywhere, but in people's minds. One doesn't have a right to clear thinking by other people, even when they withhold cooperation based on lies and inspired by their feelings--as opposed to facts. Also, my claim that defamation is a kind of fraud doesn't add up to a violation of anyone's rights, because there would have to be a quid pro quo, which almost never takes place. 

 

So I now think defamation is bad behavior, like spousal verbal abuse or animal cruelty. It's just talk, and people have a responsibility to think for themselves. Lies can be refuted and the liar outed.

 

People do suffer unfairly from defamatory lies, but they are casualties of an irrational culture. In a rational society, defamation wouldn't get out the starting gate. That's my fifty cents worth, after a lot of time spent chasing my tail. Don't be in a hurry to respond, although I look forward to reading whatever you have to offer. 



Post 43

Saturday, September 2 - 5:00pmSanction this postReply
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Like Harry Browne intimated in his "Finding Freedom in an Unfree World" book - You can whine about this and that being unfair, or try to change others so they won't behave unfairly, or focus on being happy and successful in the world as it is.

 

Steve, I have added this book to my reading list.  Thank you for the reference



Post 44

Tuesday, September 5 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
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Mark,

 

It is a difficult issue to parse, but I still think that either malicious intent, or an unreasonable amount of carelessness, in conjunction with trashing a person's reputation, is violating property rights. 

 

You said, "I now think defamation is bad behavior, like spousal verbal abuse... It's just talk..."  Both fraud and yelling fire in a crowded theater are "talk" but they have consequences.  Those consequences should be actionable under law.  The fraud deprives a person of choice as they lose property - that is clearly a rights violation. 

 

A person who is trampled in the theater stampede would have a case if the person who yelled "fire" was being careless or malicious.  (On the other hand, if they had reason to think that there was a fire, it is a different story.)

 

None of that answers the question of how a property right to a reputation exists but sometimes you just have to shift to 'common sense' and ask how could a capitalist society exist where everyone is intertwined with everyone else (buying-from/selling-to/employing/employed-by/investing-in/etc.) unless they rely on people not trashing their reputation - where not have a terrible reputation is precondition for the absolutely necessary interacting with others.  I'm going to hold it in my head, for the time-being, as defamation is a kind of fraud (the person defamed loses his good reputation by the false reality purposely created by the malicious, or criminally careless defamer).    I may not be able to define with adequate precision what the property (reputation) is, but I have no problem imagining what it would be like to be falsely accused of something, in a very believable way, that made one like a leper and seriously damaged their ability to interact in a free society.



Post 45

Tuesday, September 5 - 1:55pmSanction this postReply
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Korben,

 

I would certainly recommend Harry Browne's book - very highly!



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