James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, April 10, 2009

The one-question political quiz

First, read this story: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Bidens-Puppy-Breeder-Never-never-never-again.html?yhp=1

Then the one-question quiz: Who are the villains in this story? Check all that apply:

a) Joe Biden
b) the breeder who sold Biden the puppy
d) the people who issued death threats
e) the dog wardens

Biden may be a villain in every other aspect of his life, but in this case, he was acting within his rights. The breeder was acting within her rights. The anti-dog-breeding crowd has yet to put forward a compelling argument that persuades the masses that dogs have the same rights as humans, that they should not be placed into arranged mating situations, and that breeding should be banned. Until that happens - and it won't happen in this world until the lion lies down with the lamb - those who engage in and patronize this industry are acting within their rights.

(Personally, I didn't know that animal-rights people thought the dog-breeding industry was immoral. And in order to criticize Biden, they have to think the industry in general is immoral. Otherwise, it makes no sense to criticize Biden. In these tough economic times, it would seem good and proper for rich people to support the industry. If not the rich, who will?)

Even if Biden and the breeder were exercising their rights, they could still be criticized by those who don't like dog-breeding. PETA expressed an opinion about the morality of their transaction, which it has a right to do as an organization. And it, like any group, has the right to organize boycotts and shun people they don't like. They would be exercising their rights.

And you know what? Even if PETA's condemnations were so over-the-top that they used "hate speech" and "incited" those who issued death threats, it was still acting within its rights. Laws against "incitement" are at war with all logic. They deny the individual self-responsibility of those who actually commit crimes. The only reason for incitement laws is to frighten people into self-censorship. But to "incite" is part of our freedom of speech. If I say "Go!" you are not compelled to go. You are still free to do as you please. If I say, "commit a crime" you do not have to commit a crime.

So Biden, the breeder, and PETA are all innocent parties in this affair.

Then there are those who issued death threats on Biden and the breeder. Threatening force is a violation of rights.

And then the state's dog wardens invaded the breeder's business for a politically-motivated inspection and issued pointless citations forcing her to spend $4,000 in legal fees. These inspectors and the boss who ordered them violated her rights.

Criticizing other people who do nothing but exercise their own rights is something all of us have a right to do. But I'm becoming less and less inclined to do so. My feeling is, if they are exercising their rights, why should I let their actions bother me? Don't I have better things to do than be angry about what other people do with their own lives?

It also seems to me we would have greater civility throughout society if people just respected each other's rights rather than condemn and criticize each other all the time. From pointing out fashion disasters of celebrities, to mocking earnest and well-intentioned movies, to condemning people with odd lifestyles but who don't harm anyone else, it seems to me all this negativity makes us more ill-mannered toward each other and more depressed internally.

But when rights are violated, by either private criminals or State agents, I think it's appropriate to stand up and condemn the guilty - such as death-threateners and government agents who harrass and steal from the innocent. Those who resort to force in order to stop what they perceive to be merely immoral are, themselves, the biggest threats to freedom and civilization. If we can't reject aggression first and foremost, how is any moral standard possible at all?

Those who want further elaboration by what I mean by "rights" can consult my essay Rights and Wrongs and Murray Rothbard's book The Ethics of Liberty.


  1. An excellent story. But this sentence does not make sense:

    But I'm becoming less and less reluctant to do so. (criticize . . .)

    It would make sense if you said:

    But I'm becoming less and less inclined to do so.

  2. Thanks! I mixed up "increasingly reluctant" with "less and less inclined." Change made.

  3. Interesting take on the story, James. As long as PETA's advocacy is peaceful. I don't have a problem with it. If they can persuade more people to adopt shelter dogs, good for them. But death threats and thuggery by the dog wardens are beyond the pale.

    I agree that we shold be more tolerant, except of intolerance. Those who would compel others to act as they wish are fair game for criticism.