Simple Liberty  



Reflections From The Front Porch

Black and White or Gray?

Written by Darrell Anderson.

Humans are complex social creatures. Many people believe that life is mostly a case of black and white where most disputes should be easily resolved. Although often true, there are nonetheless many gray areas of human interaction.

Additionally, there are many people who believe that in a world without statism, where true free association and voluntary exchange is the preferred philosophy, that disputes would be resolved even more easily than today. Perhaps, but would such a social system provide avenues to portray the world in black and white?

Suppose we lived in a world where statism did not exist, where free association and voluntary exchange was by far the dominant philosophy regulating human interaction.

Imagine the following three scenarios.

Scenario 1

You are a talented actor and you decide that you will provide your income streams by acting on the various walkways of the downtown business district. None of the business owners mind your presence, and actually enjoy your performances as much as customers. They also realize that you are good for their business.

You assume various characters and different roles, enough so that most people would not witness the same performance more than handful of times per year if they watched you regularly. You keep a hat nearby and ask for voluntary contributions from passers-by. You experience a comfortable income, you enjoy your vocation and art, and many people apparently do too based upon the income you receive for your sidewalk shows. Everybody knows you are a street actor and no pretense is made otherwise. All in all, a win-win situation for everybody around.

Now change the situation. You again are a talented actor, but instead of offering a variety of characters you dress solely as a beggar. You bear a scar on your face and wear uneven shoes to provide a limp to your gait. You wear ragged clothes and with the help of some coal dust, appear to not have bathed in weeks. You maintain a tin cup for receiving alms. For entertainment value you recite classic efforts of literature, thereby providing an impression to people that your are well educated but for some reason experienced tragedy in your life that required you to beg for sustenance. Your effort is flawless and you experience a comfortable income. Nobody knows, however, that you are an actor, and everybody believes that you are indeed an individual of unfortunate circumstances.

Although people provide you alms freely and voluntarily, have you trespassed against others by committing fraud?

Scenario 2

Same world of free association and voluntary exchange. Bill Gates is still one of the world’s richest people by operating a software company. Although alternate computer operating system solutions exist, Mr. Gates has cornered much of the market as he has done in the current world.

Copyrights still exist in this world of free association and voluntary exchange, but unlike political copyrights, in this world copyrights are protected by contract and license, not political privilege.

Mr. Gates’ recent computer operating system release, Windows XP, is the same as witnessed in today’s world, with lots of nefarious programming code to spy and “phone home.” Despite alternate solutions, many people are upset with Mr. Gates’ recent effort. Some people are exploring their options, but as might be expected, many people also find changing their ways difficult. Most people therefore tolerate Mr. Gate’s shenanigans and keep using his products.

You are a talented programmer working for Mr. Gates and have access to the Windows XP source code. You take a copy of the source code home, delete the unpopular nefarious and buggy sections of code, and release the revised code into the public domain. The resulting software is stable and dependable, but no longer implements Mr. Gates’ questionable philosophies.

Most people appreciate your effort and many people obtain copies of this cleaner version of Windows XP and are satisfied with the changes.

There is little debate that you have stolen the property of Mr. Gates and have violated your non-disclosure agreement. Mr. Gate obtains sufficient evidence that you are the individual who stole, revised, and released the updated code. He sues you using accepted legal processes and you are found guilty of trespass in the form of theft. You also are found guilty of copyright license violation and are ordered to provide restitution.

Although many people agree that your intention was noble, they also agree that you trespassed and must be held accountable. However, you refuse to provide restitution. Mr. Gates then exercises his only peaceable remedy and submits a public plea for people to ostracize you. However, most people like what you have done because Windows XP now contains no nefarious code and with the source code released into the public domain, probably always will remain that way. Additionally, with the code now public, many other programmers are quick to study and provide superior solutions based upon that code. Thus, most people refuse to ostracize you.

Is there a remedy to this situation?

Scenario 3

You are a famous consulting detective hired to help prevent the marriage of a young naive daughter to a well-known con artist. The con artist is financially rich, smooth talking, handsome, and knows how to soften female hearts.

Although never convicted, this con artist is known, after taking advantage of many unsuspecting women — including their virtue, to have defaced, ruined, or murdered those women. Thus, this young lady is nothing more than another conquest in a string of many. You fear for her health, in more ways than one. You were secretly hired by this lady’s father to discover any information that might dissuade the naive young lady from marrying this man.

After interviewing surviving victims of this man’s nefarious ways, you learn that this con artist maintains a scrapbook of his conquests. The book contains photographs of all the women he has conquered and destroyed. Like so many of the criminally minded, this con artist enjoys stroking his own ego.

To date, no argument, discussion, or pleading has persuaded this young lady to break her engagement. You decide that if you can obtain this scrapbook you might be able to convince the young naive lady to reject her engagement.

From a previous victim you discover where the con artist stores his ego-stroking scrapbook. However, the con artist is rich and maintains a security system to his house, and of course, he is not going to simply hand over the scrapbook upon request.

As a skilled detective, you possess knowledge of burglary skills. Fortunately for the general public you do not exercise those skills for nefarious gain, but you nonetheless easily obtain access into the con artist’s house.

Unbeknownst to you, on the night of your burglary, the previous victim who informed you of the scrapbook follows you. In her unfortunate relationship with the con artist, he had splashed acid on her chest and breasts and disfigured her for life. Tonight, she intends to get revenge.

During your intrusion the con artist discovers you and holds you at gunpoint. As you are staring helplessly at his gun, this lady runs into the room and splashes acid on the face of the con artist. He immediately drops the gun and begins screaming in terrible pain. You respond quickly, open the bookcase, grab the scrapbook, verify its contents, and escape with the stolen scrapbook. The lady follows you, although you are not concerned about her at this moment. You had no knowledge of her intentions, despite being grateful for this unusual turn of events.

You show the naive young fiancée the scrapbook and reveal to her the true nature of this con artist. She renounces her engagement, her father is relieved, and you are handsomely rewarded for your efforts.

The con artist is now disfigured for life.

You committed obvious trespass in the nature of burglary and theft. The con artist demands you return his property and help pay for his medical expenses. You refuse.

Is justice served?


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