Victim Culture

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  • sionisais wrote: »
    You may not have done anything "wrong" but you and your heirs and successors may have gained unjustly. Those from whom you gained should be compensated.

    The heirs and successors of those from whom you may have gained, surely?

    Which raises an interesting point - what happens when someone is both a beneficiary and a victim (by descent in both cases) of the unjust gains?
  • Understanding. Learning. Understanding others' experience in a real way takes work.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Wow, what an utterly junk piece of writing.

    Calling someone racist for writing about centuries of racism? Okay then.

    Dreher has made a sort of cottage industry out of columns attacking Coates as racist and saying he should just smile and shut up. For those unfamiliar with his work, Dreher vacillates between telling white people that modern society is horrible and they should just abandon ship now and telling non-white people that everything is great and they should shut up.

    For a pretty graphic illustration of how this works in practice, here are two bits of Dreher's "wisdom". The first concerns Brett Kavanaugh, a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Rod Dreher
    I do not understand why the loutish drunken behavior of a 17 year old high school boy has anything to tell us about the character of a 53 year old judge. By God’s grace (literally), I am not the same person I was at 17. This is a terrible standard to establish in public life.

    The second is about a 17 year old shot trying to steal a car.
    He did not have to shoot. He did. A thief died. It would have been better for all had the thief been caught and forced to stand trial. But honestly, I don’t care that this happened to the thief.

    So when you're a rich white guy from the mean streets of Bethesda Dreher has a lot of sympathy and who among us can judge teenaged hi-jinks like a little alleged sexual assault?

    If you're non-white and commit a property crime, Dreher seems downright gleeful if you're summarily executed.

    Or to put it more colloquially, [ white ] boys will be [ white ] boys, [ non-white ] boys will be shot.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Racist and entirely devoid of empathy. What a delightful example of humanity.
  • In my world, restorative justice is a criminal law concept; restitution and unjust enrichment are civil/private law concepts.

    It's a while since I've looked at them, but as I recall unjust enrichment and restitution are not straightforward concepts even in relatively simple private-law scenarios.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Dafyd wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    The usual notion of restorative justice is that the perpetrator is made to compensate the victim.
    The usual notion would be that the beneficiary compensates the victim.

    Not true. If I steal a tenner from you to buy my girlfriend a box of chocolates, then she has benefited and the shopkeeper who sold me the chocolates has benefited (profit on the sale). Neither of them would owe you anything. But I would owe you a tenner. And an apology. And maybe compensation for inconvenience caused.

    (X-posted with Marsupial - I'm open to be convinced that it is in fact more complicated...)
  • That said, making restitution can be one form of restorative justice in the criminal law context. But unlike restitution in the private law context, it's part of a wider policy-based framework, not something that independently justifies a transfer of assets from A to B.
  • Sorry to triple-post -- that was all supposed to be a response to the restitution vs. restorative justice issue at the bottom of the last page.

    I was reading this on my phone and I apparently got hopelessly lost as to where the end of the thread was...
  • Russ wrote: »
    Dafyd wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    The usual notion of restorative justice is that the perpetrator is made to compensate the victim.
    The usual notion would be that the beneficiary compensates the victim.

    Not true. If I steal a tenner from you to buy my girlfriend a box of chocolates, then she has benefited and the shopkeeper who sold me the chocolates has benefited (profit on the sale). Neither of them would owe you anything. But I would owe you a tenner. And an apology. And maybe compensation for inconvenience caused.

    First off, I suspect you gain whatever benefit (tangible or otherwise) derived from giving your girlfriend a box of chocolates.

    Or to take a non-hypothetical example, suppose you stole an impressionist painting which was then resold. Your position seems to be that the person stolen from (or their heirs) no longer has any legitimate claim to the painting, that it becomes irrecoverable by virtue of the sale.
  • Yes, you said that better than I was trying to write down @Crœsos.

    In the (ideal) real world, the thief of the painting would be caught and punished, as would a fence, possibly the auction house (at very least they'd likely lose any profit from the sale) and the eventual buyer would have the painting taken off them, losing whatever they'd paid for it.

    We wouldn't just shrug and say "oh well, it went to auction and was bought by someone else - so that's it. Nothing we can do."

  • We may well be on a bit of a tangent here, but I'm actually not following your reasoning.

    Suppose B steals something from A. Eventually a legitimate second-hand dealer E acquires it at fair market value in a good faith arms-length transaction and sells it to the ultimate purchaser F who also purchases under the same terms.

    Then we discover that A is the rightful owner, but B is nowhere to be found.

    Whatever happens, one or more of A, E, and F are going to be deprived of either the thing that was stolen or (at least some of) the money they paid for it. I'm not actually sure where the law lands on this issue -- I know there are older English contract cases that go several different ways -- but the ultimate issue, to which there is probably no entirely principled answer, is which innocent party should suffer when the guilty party is no longer around to collect from.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    It falls under the buyer beware concept, surely. If you've bought a stolen painting, even if you thought it was a legitimate transaction, it can be taken from you and returned to the rightful owner. You lose the item and whatever you paid for it.

    The alternative is a system of finders keepers.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Ruth: There's nothing weird about governments paying money to redress wrongs: if a cop kills someone while on the job, the family can sue for wrongful death, and if they win, the local government will pay damages. The cop did something wrong while acting on behalf of and in the employ of the city, so the city pays if the cop fucks up.

    I thought the problem in the USA is that white cops get away with killing black citizens.

    Cops do get away with killing black citizens, and even more often they get away with beating the crap out of them, because these cases are almost never prosecuted in criminal courts. But the families of the deceased and the citizens who were mistreated but not killed sue the cities in civil courts. Juries award them damages, which the cities must pay.

    From the Los Angeles Times in 2017:
    Last year Long Beach paid $6.5 million to settle three separate wrongful-death suits filed by the families of unarmed men shot and killed by police officers in recent years.

    In July, the city agreed to pay $3 million to the family of Tyler Woods, who was unarmed and running from police when he was shot 19 times by officers in 2013.

    I didn't kill these men, but since I live in Long Beach, some of my tax dollars went to their families. This is how damages work in the US, and this is how reparations would be paid. According to a Washington Post reporter a few years ago, cities pay out millions of dollars in damages on a regular basis. Frankly, if a city like mine, with less than half a million people in it, can pay out almost $10 million in two years for wrongful death suits, we can dig up the money to redress the wrong done in shutting black people out of the housing market through racist policies and regulations at all levels of government: municipal, state and federal.
  • Shipmates, I must admit that I find this discussion somewhat hypocritical because we all know that reparations for the Triangular Trade and slavery in the Americas are not going to take place, as is the case with many other instances of historical wrongs, even those which were considered by many questionable at the time. Where wrongs are recent there might be a reasonable possibility that something can be done about it, but as in the case of Israel-Palestine the passage of time makes any resolution in the context of restitution increasingly difficult to achieve. Even the treatment of the Rohingyas is probably beyond redemption and the reach of any international criminal court etc..

    Meantime, we have so-called democratic societies which continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery, raising contemporary issues which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I was criticised earlier for suggesting that '"sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" on the grounds that to address them was little more than applying sticking plaster and avoided the root causes. Root causes, as with much social injustice, are part of a past that cannot be changed, so to that important extent all our efforts to do good and act justly are necessary compromised and unsatisfactory- it's called the human condition. The really dangerous aspect of the cry for tackling root causes is that it becomes little more than excuse for doing nothing. Consequently, conscience is satisfied but the problems remain. I don't get the impression that writers to this post are really on the cusp of taking action to address the wrongs they decry. My advice to the wronged is to organise and get as even as possible because the conscience-stricken of those who have benefitted from the wrongs done to your ancestors aren't going to do anything about it.
  • It's too hard and too old to even think about.

    Oh ok.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    The U.S. needs to have a conversation about its past and come to terms with it, or else we will remain a deeply racist society. Forever. We cannot just say, well, it's too far in the past, too late to do anything about it. Slavery gave way to Jim Crow which was followed by red-lining which was practically a blueprint for the shitty housing loans made to poor people that helped precipitate the sub-prime lending crisis that led to the Great Recession. We can't simply resolve to stop behaving badly from here on out and "do good and act justly" because we haven't faced the racism that causes us to do evil and act unjustly. If we do not face the underlying cause, we will continue to find new ways to fuck over people of color in the U.S.

    Also, I don't know why you're so sure the "conscience-stricken" aren't going to do anything about the wrongs done by our ancestors. Once there are enough of us, we will. From a Marist poll in 2016 on reparations:
    Millennials, 57%, are the least likely of the generations to believe it’s time to put the issue of slavery behind the nation and are the most likely to report that it is still a wrong that needs to be made right by the U.S. government, 40%.

    I'm curious, Kwesi, as to how exactly you think the wronged are going to get even through organizing, especially black people in the U.S. First, black people are a minority here, and not a growing one (12.something % in the country; under 6% here in California). They can organize all they want and not get anywhere all on their own; they need allies. Second, the wronged are many of them far too busy trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their children's heads to have time to organize. Third, the wronged don't tend to have access to great educational opportunities. Some individuals do surmount these obstacles, but upward mobility in the U.S. is a thing of the past, and people who were born to wronged parents tend to suffer in much the same ways their parents did.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    I think it is worth thinking and talking about the debt we owe others - even if it does look too complicated to resolve. Because listening, and thinking and understanding how different people's lives are different and the causes thereof is an important exercise to do.

    I think we should go wider; I believe much/most of British accumulated wealth was built off the sweat - and frequently bodies - of others. There is a debt and a guilt there - particularly when the tragic consequence of historic Britishness has been enforced poverty and war.

    It may be true that it is all-but impossible to put right.

    But we can't just sit here in our armchairs whilst other people live the consequences of our ancestors choices - waving them away as being too historic to matter whilst we order something else on Amazon or play with our newest gadget.

    At very least we should listen, understand, and feel the shame.
  • Russ wrote: »
    Dafyd wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »
    The usual notion of restorative justice is that the perpetrator is made to compensate the victim.
    The usual notion would be that the beneficiary compensates the victim.

    Not true. If I steal a tenner from you to buy my girlfriend a box of chocolates, then she has benefited and the shopkeeper who sold me the chocolates has benefited (profit on the sale). Neither of them would owe you anything. But I would owe you a tenner. And an apology. And maybe compensation for inconvenience caused.
    I think if you've bought the chocolates you count as the first beneficiary. And if you don't have any money of your own, I am at least entitled to the chocolates.

    The potential for abuse in claiming that only the perpetrator should restore is considerable. Let's suppose Mr Dashwood in his will intends to split the estate between his three grandchildren. His son Henry forges the will so all the estate goes to his son James. Just because James is innocent of the forgery does not mean that he is entitled to keep the entire estate as Henry wishes.
  • EliabEliab Shipmate, Purgatory Host
    edited September 2018
    Dafyd wrote: »
    I think if you've bought the chocolates you count as the first beneficiary. And if you don't have any money of your own, I am at least entitled to the chocolates.

    That's not actually the case in E&W. The law would analyse the transactions in terms of who can give good title - and it treats stolen money differently from a stolen painting.

    The money-thief owes the victim what is in effect a debt. He doesn't have to return the particular ten pound note that he stole, he has to reimburse him with ten generic pounds. Thus, because the true owner has no particular claim to the tenner that the thief handed over to the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper gets good title to the money and the thief gets title to the chocolates. The thief makes a gift of the chocolates, as he is entitled to do, and the girlfriend gets good title to them. The victim of the theft never has a claim to the chocolates at any stage, or a claim against any person but the thief.


    The stolen painting is different. The owner has a right to have that particular painting returned, not to have a generic painting (even a more valuable or otherwise better one) supplied in restitution. Therefore the thief can't give good title to a purported purchaser because nemo dat quod non habet (no one can give what they don't have) , who therefore can't himself give good title to someone buying from him. Each purchaser has a debt claim against the person they bought from (because they will be taken to have given a warranty that they could give good title). The original owner has no debt claim against anyone (at least as long as the painting is recoverable) but does have a right to the return of his physical property.

    And in either case there's usually a six year time limit for the original owner to assert their claim. A subsequent possessor who displays the painting on his wall for most of his life and then leaves it to his children is not in any real danger of having that bequest set aside.

    The case for reparations for historic wrongs isn't supported by the approach taken by the law to stolen property in my jurisdiction. It relies on entirely different principles to those which the law currently applies.

    That doesn't mean that the case for slavery reparations is bad, of course, just that (in England and Wales, at least) an argument that this is basically what we do for the victims of other property crimes is misconceived. We don't.
  • Eliab wrote: »
    The case for reparations for historic wrongs isn't supported by the approach taken by the law to stolen property in my jurisdiction. It relies on entirely different principles to those which the law currently applies.

    Yes, and as you allude to above there have been cases around historical reparations (WWII) which have used different principles where the crimes in question have been ultimately committed by states.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Croesos:
    First off, I suspect you gain whatever benefit (tangible or otherwise) derived from giving your girlfriend a box of chocolates.

    In that example, I as the guilty party gain an intangible benefit, yes. The point is that innocent parties benefit. Innocently.
    Or to take a non-hypothetical example, suppose you stole an impressionist painting which was then resold. Your position seems to be that the person stolen from (or their heirs) no longer has any legitimate claim to the painting, that it becomes irrecoverable by virtue of the sale.

    Money has only exchange value. Paintings, heirlooms, etc are different in that they have additional personal value to the owner.

    Suppose that in order to buy chocolate I steal Dafyd's watch and sell it to you for a tenner.

    If you bought it from me knowing it was stolen, you share with me the moral responsibility for the crime.

    If conversely you bought it from me in good faith, then the restitution that I as the guilty party should make is either
    - to compensate Dafyd for the full loss that he has suffered, not just the current monetary value, or
    - to buy it back from you at whatever price you will sell it for so that I can give it back to Dafyd.
    Those are the just outcomes.

    You may think that Dafyd stealing the watch back from you would be a second-best outcome. But I think you're then into "two wrongs make right" territory.



  • This seems to be moving swiftly in the direction of justifying paying compensation to slave-owners rather than reparations to former slaves after slavery was abolished in the British Empire.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    This seems to be moving swiftly in the direction of justifying paying compensation to slave-owners rather than reparations to former slaves after slavery was abolished in the British Empire.

    I can think of some people who would, on principle, approve of that.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    This seems to be moving swiftly in the direction of justifying paying compensation to slave-owners rather than reparations to former slaves after slavery was abolished in the British Empire.

    Why? It was the enslaved people whose labor and liberty was stolen, not their captors'. They were never the "property" by modern standards, only dehumanized as such.
  • amybo wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    This seems to be moving swiftly in the direction of justifying paying compensation to slave-owners rather than reparations to former slaves after slavery was abolished in the British Empire.

    Why? It was the enslaved people whose labor and liberty was stolen, not their captors'. They were never the "property" by modern standards, only dehumanized as such.

    I was making a comment on the direction of Russ' argument.

    But fwiw they very much were considered property at the time - and as such the owners lost out when slavery was outlawed and demanded compensation for their losses.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    This seems to be moving swiftly in the direction of justifying paying compensation to slave-owners rather than reparations to former slaves after slavery was abolished in the British Empire.

    I can think of some people who would, on principle, approve of that.

    Russ, apparently, being one of them.

    I stand ready to be corrected and await with baited breath to hear how That Was Different.
  • Russ wrote: »
    Suppose that in order to buy chocolate I steal Dafyd's watch and sell it to you for a tenner.

    If you bought it from me knowing it was stolen, you share with me the moral responsibility for the crime.

    If conversely you bought it from me in good faith, then the restitution that I as the guilty party should make is either
    - to compensate Dafyd for the full loss that he has suffered, not just the current monetary value, or
    - to buy it back from you at whatever price you will sell it for so that I can give it back to Dafyd.
    Those are the just outcomes.

    You may think that Dafyd stealing the watch back from you would be a second-best outcome. But I think you're then into "two wrongs make right" territory.

    The interesting thing is that, according to this, Dafyd no longer has any legitimate claim to his watch. By laundering it through a sale the thief has created what you regard as legitimate ownership of what used to be someone else's property. There's no way Dafyd can legitimately reclaim his property except through the intermediate action of the original thief. That's pretty remarkable!
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Crœsos wrote: »
    There's no way Dafyd can legitimately reclaim his property except through the intermediate action of the original thief. That's pretty remarkable!

    Clearly Dafyd can regain his property by negotiation with you. He may offer you for its return a price that you can both agree represents a fair split between you of the sum that I owe in restitution...

    And in the absence of such agreement, when you die, he has greater claim on it than your heirs do.

    You may think my view eccentric. Or just plain wrong. If so, do please explain what moral rights you think Dafyd has in this hypothetical situation. Does he have the right to trespass on your land to retrieve his property, for example ? What alternative view are you recommending to me ?
  • Russ wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    There's no way Dafyd can legitimately reclaim his property except through the intermediate action of the original thief. That's pretty remarkable!
    Does he have the right to trespass on your land to retrieve his property, for example ? What alternative view are you recommending to me ?

    Usually property disputes are adjudicated and enforced by the state. One could even argue that "property" as a category does not exist without "property law" and, by implication, the state. Some would argue that resolving property disputes is why the state exists in the first place.

    An interesting implication if we assume your assertion that only private actions are a possible remedy in this situation is that there is either no remedy if the thief is caught with the watch before selling it (since I still wouldn't be permitted to trespass on his property under your "two wrongs don't make a right" principle), or the act of theft causes the thief to forfeit his other property rights at the discretion and judgment of the theft victim. Or anyone who claims to be a theft victim for that matter.
    Russ wrote: »
    Clearly Dafyd can regain his property by negotiation with you. He may offer you for its return a price that you can both agree represents a fair split between you of the sum that I owe in restitution...

    And in the absence of such agreement, when you die, he has greater claim on it than your heirs do.

    You may think my view eccentric. Or just plain wrong.

    Both. You're asserting that a thief is empowered to assign property rights to someone by virtue of possession. After all, if I have to negotiate the return of the property that means it belongs legitimately to Dafyd, not me. And if that's the case why can't the thief assign those property rights to himself?

    Except they're not quite property rights, since Dafyd seems to have a lot of restrictions placed on the enjoyment of "his" property that don't usually apply to our understanding of property. For example, he can't grant it in a will to his heir. But what if he decides to give it away before his demise? Or sell it to someone other than the original owner? Or wants to be buried with it?
  • Russ wrote: »
    If conversely you bought it from me in good faith, then the restitution that I as the guilty party should make is either
    - to compensate Dafyd for the full loss that he has suffered, not just the current monetary value, or
    - to buy it back from you at whatever price you will sell it for so that I can give it back to Dafyd.
    Those are the just outcomes.

    You may think that Dafyd stealing the watch back from you would be a second-best outcome. But I think you're then into "two wrongs make right" territory.
    You're begging the question by assuming that I would be stealing the watch back rather than reclaiming it.
    From the point of view of the original owner of the watch, the just outcome is the one that restores the situation before the crime was committed: namely that the owner gets the watch back from whoever has it. Since that's the only perspective from which an injustice was committed or rights breached, that's the just outcome.
    If the purchaser of the watch is actually entirely innocent (rather than merely not asking too many questions about which lorry the watch fell off the back of) then they can claim compensation from the thief who sold it to them. Why don't you consider that option?
    Russ wrote: »
    Crœsos wrote: »
    There's no way Dafyd can legitimately reclaim his property except through the intermediate action of the original thief. That's pretty remarkable!

    Clearly Dafyd can regain his property by negotiation with you. He may offer you for its return a price that you can both agree represents a fair split between you of the sum that I owe in restitution...

    And in the absence of such agreement, when you die, he has greater claim on it than your heirs do.
    This doesn't make sense. Either it is Croesos' property to dispose of or it is not his.
    If so, do please explain what moral rights you think Dafyd has in this hypothetical situation. Does he have the right to trespass on your land to retrieve his property, for example ?
    Suppose you haven't sold it on. I presume you don't think you have any rights over the property you stole, and that you have a duty to return it. Do you think I have the right to trespass on your land to retrieve it in that case? Or to retrieve the compensation you owe me? If the answer is the same as if the watch is in the possession of a purchaser then what is the relevance of the question?
  • Part of my problem with a number of the well-meaning posts in this thread is that they depict African-Americans and other black communities outside the ‘dark continent’ with their roots in slavery as the objects of white interests and actions, denying them the dignity of possessing the capacity to be active authors of their own destiny. The consequence is to perpetuate the notion embedded in slavery of a dependent passive diaspora whose fate is determined by the whims of whites to be either victims of racism or recipients of benefits bestowed by the benign. If blacks outside the African continent are to wait for a recognition by others of their just rights they are going to wait until eternity, and the hope for unrealisable reparations is an even more cruel deception. Where in all the posts in this thread is a recognition of action taken by black individuals and organisations, political and religious, to confront slavery and racism? Let Rosa Parks insisting on sitting where she wanted bear witness.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    Is that what I'm doing? I thought I was agreeing with Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose writing convinced me on the subject of reparations, and with John Conyers, who repeatedly introduced a bill in Congress to form a commission to study the effects of slavery and discrimination and suggest ways to redress those wrongs.
  • With respect to those arguing over paintings, watches, and boxes of chocolates, it's also worth pointing out that these are objects and property. We can argue all we like over who is entitled to what in various sets of circumstances with such objects. The cash hypothetically changing hands is also an object and property.

    The problem here is that, legal structures operating outside morality notwithstanding, human beings are not, and have never been (morally speaking) objects or property. My fear is that, by using items like cash and property to "compensate" (as if that were possible) victims for the loss, over many generations, of victims' lives, labor, rights, freedoms, and dignity, the establishment ends up perpetuating victims' objectification. The US needs to undertake something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa before any attempt at reparations based on land or cash. Let the ruling elite first get a full understanding of what they-we have done. Otherwise , I fear, they-we'll just imagine we're paying hush money to shut victims up.


  • Ohher: The US needs to undertake something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa before any attempt at reparations based on land or cash

    I have much sympathy with this sentiment, although I suspect reconciliation i.e. improved race relations will not be enhanced by the transfer of substantial financial resources, reparations, from one race to another.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    From the point of view of the original owner of the watch, the just outcome is the one that restores the situation before the crime was committed: namely that the owner gets the watch back from whoever has it. Since that's the only perspective from which an injustice was committed or rights breached, that's the just outcome.

    Thus speaks Victim Culture - the only perspective that matters is the perspective of the person you judge to be the victim.

    If on the other hand we consider everybody's rights, we see that the thief potentially owes restitution to two people:

    The original owner of the watch has a right to his property back. As long as he doesn't have that, he has a moral claim against the thief for restitution or compensation.

    The innocent purchaser of the watch has a right to fulfilment of the deal that was agreed - ownership of the watch in exchange for the money paid. As long as he doesn't have that, he has a moral claim against the thief for restitution or compensation.

    If the thief is unavailable, any transfer of money or property between the other two parties is substituting one debt for another, taking one person's situation further from the just outcome in order to bring the other person's situation closer to the just outcome.
    ...they can claim compensation from the thief who sold it to them. Why don't you consider that option?

    I'm not ruling it out. That's the short-term outcome that is most favourable to the original owner. Doing nothing until the thief is apprehended is the short-term outcome that is most favourable to the innocent purchaser. Both of these extremes push onto the other party the burden of securing restitution from the thief.

    Intermediate short-term outcomes that share that burden are possible (e.g. the original owner gets the watch back but compensates the innocent purchaser by half of the purchase price). If the two parties both consent to an outcome, pending restitution from the thief, that's fine. If they cannot agree, then the situation is more difficult.

    But that's really a bit of a tangent. Because that's the case where what is stolen is an identifiable object which may be worth more to the owner than its monetary value. Croesus raised that case in order to try to cast doubt upon the simpler case when it is money that is stolen. When it is clear that the moral obligation to make restitution follows the perpetrator rather than follows the money through any subsequent transactions.

  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Ruth wrote: »
    There's nothing weird about governments paying money to redress wrongs: if a cop kills someone while on the job, the family can sue for wrongful death, and if they win, the local government will pay damages. The cop did something wrong while acting on behalf of and in the employ of the city, so the city pays if the cop fucks up.

    Just to say that it seems to me entirely right that government bodies are held to account for their actions, in the same way as private bodies. A compensation claim based on specific actions of the state seems to me much better founded than one based on generalities of how society operated in the past.

    The difficulty there seems to me in separating out the action and agency of the individual employee from the action and agency of the corporate body.

  • Russ wrote: »

    The difficulty there seems to me in separating out the action and agency of the individual employee from the action and agency of the corporate body.

    When an agency employs an individual, doesn't she or he, while in that agency's employ and on that city's s dime/time, represent and act for the agency? When a plow driver in Boston knocks down a pedestrian during a blizzard, who is liable for the injury?
  • Under UK law, a seller cannot give legal title to stolen goods that they are selling, so the innocent purchaser doesn't have any right to those goods legally. That's why there's a warning of caveat emptor - buyer beware. Basically buying things off the back of a lorry gets the buyer what they deserve and may well leave them with no rights to the purchased goods. (There used to be an exception with market overt but there are very few markets for which that still applies.)
  • Ohher wrote: »
    Russ wrote: »

    The difficulty there seems to me in separating out the action and agency of the individual employee from the action and agency of the corporate body.

    When an agency employs an individual, doesn't she or he, while in that agency's employ and on that city's s dime/time, represent and act for the agency? When a plow driver in Boston knocks down a pedestrian during a blizzard, who is liable for the injury?

    The driver, since he is not employed to mow down pedestrians and in doing so was acting outside his agency.

    If his negligence was in part caused by a lack of training or suitable safeguard which the authority should have put in place, it may (in the UK) be subject to a prosecution under H&S legislation. I don't know about civil liability at that point; IANAL etc.
  • Russ wrote: »
    Dafyd wrote: »
    From the point of view of the original owner of the watch, the just outcome is the one that restores the situation before the crime was committed: namely that the owner gets the watch back from whoever has it. Since that's the only perspective from which an injustice was committed or rights breached, that's the just outcome.

    Thus speaks Victim Culture - the only perspective that matters is the perspective of the person you judge to be the victim.
    You used to say you believed that the ends didn't justify any means. Now you're saying that the view you formerly professed - that if an action contravenes someone's rights that is sufficient to decide the question, and the only perspective that matters - is the Big Bad Bogeyman Victim Culture. And that ownership rights may be overruled as a means to the end of a 'just outcome' for other parties.
    The innocent purchaser of the watch has a right to fulfilment of the deal that was agreed - ownership of the watch in exchange for the money paid. As long as he doesn't have that, he has a moral claim against the thief for restitution or compensation.
    If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you - literally according to you. You're arguing that if you sincerely believe that I have a bridge to sell you then I am indeed able to sell you that bridge. According to your argument, your perspective in which you've handed over £10000 and acquired legitimate title to the bridge is just as valid as the perspective of the civic authority that think they own the bridge.
    If you've been foolish enough to hand over money to a conman for a bridge or to a fence for a watch, then you do indeed have a claim on the conman or fence to get your money back. What you have not acquired is any right over the bridge or watch, since the conman or fence has no moral ability to transfer that right.

    What you're arguing for is that possession is all ten tenths of the law, that the status quo justifies whatever means were taken to get to it. Not so much victim culture as viae victis culture.(*)
    Croesus raised that case in order to try to cast doubt upon the simpler case when it is money that is stolen. When it is clear that the moral obligation to make restitution follows the perpetrator rather than follows the money through any subsequent transactions.
    I think that's an achievement: every statement in your paragraph is wrong. It was you who raised the case of the watch, rather than Croesos. Money is a more abstract commodity than physical goods, and therefore the case is less simple. And you're using 'it is clear' to mean 'it suits me to assert but I do not have an argument'.
    (*) What the conqueror says goes.
  • Dafyd wrote: »
    You used to say you believed that the ends didn't justify any means. Now you're saying that the view you formerly professed - that if an action contravenes someone's rights that is sufficient to decide the question, and the only perspective that matters - is the Big Bad Bogeyman Victim Culture. And that ownership rights may be overruled as a means to the end of a 'just outcome' for other parties.

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Take these two examples.
    Russ wrote: »
    Not true. If I steal a tenner from you to buy my girlfriend a box of chocolates, then she has benefited and the shopkeeper who sold me the chocolates has benefited (profit on the sale). Neither of them would owe you anything. But I would owe you a tenner. And an apology. And maybe compensation for inconvenience caused.
    Russ wrote: »
    If the thief is unavailable, any transfer of money or property between the other two parties is substituting one debt for another, taking one person's situation further from the just outcome in order to bring the other person's situation closer to the just outcome.

    <snip>

    Intermediate short-term outcomes that share that burden are possible (e.g. the original owner gets the watch back but compensates the innocent purchaser by half of the purchase price). If the two parties both consent to an outcome, pending restitution from the thief, that's fine. If they cannot agree, then the situation is more difficult.

    The moral questions involved with theft seem to revolve around whether or not what was stolen is a liquid asset, which seems like a very strange peg to hang a moral point on. If a liquid asset is stolen the (allegedly) unknowing trafficker in stolen items has no moral obligation to the victim (bad word! :frowning: ) of the theft. Stolen illiquid assets, like a watch or an impressionist painting, for some reason creates a moral obligation on behalf of the ultimate purchaser towards the original victim (bad word again!) in a way that doesn't seem to apply to the shopkeeper selling chocolates. It also imposes a moral requirement that the watch's original owner to buy back his property (or, in Russ' estimation, his former property) and to accept the new "owner's" claim as valid.
    Dafyd wrote: »
    Croesus raised that case in order to try to cast doubt upon the simpler case when it is money that is stolen. When it is clear that the moral obligation to make restitution follows the perpetrator rather than follows the money through any subsequent transactions.
    I think that's an achievement: every statement in your paragraph is wrong. It was you who raised the case of the watch, rather than Crœsos. Money is a more abstract commodity than physical goods, and therefore the case is less simple. And you're using 'it is clear' to mean 'it suits me to assert but I do not have an argument'.

    My original example, from real life, was an impressionist painting. Russ preferred to stipulate a watch, perhaps because justifying Nazi art theft as moral, provided there's a later sale with plausible deniability, was a bridge too far even for him.

    BTW, the Bridge Too Far is priced to move, so act today!
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    you're saying that the view you formerly professed - that if an action contravenes someone's rights that is sufficient to decide the question, and the only perspective that matters - is the Big Bad Bogeyman Victim Culture. And that ownership rights may be overruled as a means to the end of a 'just outcome' for other parties.

    It is indeed a question of rights. The owner's right of ownership and the purchaser's right to fulfilment of the promise that was made in his transaction with the thief. And how the two parties should go about dealing with those two rights, which are irreconcilable where there is a single identifiable item that is the object of both of them.

    Hope you don't mind if I make passing reference to the original topic as we go along ?
    You're arguing that if you sincerely believe that I have a bridge to sell you then I am indeed able to sell you that bridge. According to your argument, your perspective in which you've handed over £10000 and acquired legitimate title to the bridge is just as valid as the perspective of the civic authority that think they own the bridge.

    The civic authority has not lost ownership of their bridge. But it's hard to possess a bridge as distinct from owning it...

    If I promise to give you a watch, or a painting, I have a moral obligation, a moral duty, to keep my promise. So you have a claim on me in natural justice, a moral right against me, for the promised item. Rights being the flipside of duties.

    If I promise to give you a watch in exchange for £100, that doesn't limit your rights against me to return of that £100. If I come back to you the next day and proffer the £100 and say "I'm sorry Dafyd, looks like I can't get you that watch after all, please forgive me and release me from my promise" you may well do so, being a decent chap. But that would be mercy - you don't have an obligation in justice to do so. You are within your rights to hold me to my promise. Or set a higher price as the level of compensation you'll accept, related to the pain that not having the promised item would cause you.

    In a similar way a contract may have a non-delivery penalty that is higher than the price paid for the goods. Your assertion that the purchaser's moral right is limited to return of the sum paid is not correct.
    What you're arguing for is that possession is all ten tenths of the law, that the status quo justifies whatever means were taken to get to it.

    No, what I'm arguing is that promises are to be taken seriously, and innocence respected, that an innocent purchaser is in a different situation from an accomplice of the thief. Innocent people have not forfeited their rights. And so morally the owner has to negotiate with an innocent party instead of taking back their property from a guilty party.



  • Russ wrote: »
    No, what I'm arguing is that promises are to be taken seriously, and innocence respected, that an innocent purchaser is in a different situation from an accomplice of the thief. Innocent people have not forfeited their rights. And so morally the owner has to negotiate with an innocent party instead of taking back their property from a guilty party.

    Indeed. According to you they've actually gained rights to property that they didn't have before, granted by someone who had no such right or authority himself. All the city can do is ask politely for the new "owners" to take down the new toll booths on the bridge. They lack any power, right, or authority to do anything else.
  • Paying 100 quid (or any other amount) cannot give you any rights that the person you are paying doesn't have the right to transfer.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    Ohher: The US needs to undertake something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa before any attempt at reparations based on land or cash

    I have much sympathy with this sentiment, although I suspect reconciliation i.e. improved race relations will not be enhanced by the transfer of substantial financial resources, reparations, from one race to another.

    They weren't improved for the labour of one race being used to create wealth for another.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Russ wrote: »
    Dafyd wrote: »
    you're saying that the view you formerly professed - that if an action contravenes someone's rights that is sufficient to decide the question, and the only perspective that matters - is the Big Bad Bogeyman Victim Culture. And that ownership rights may be overruled as a means to the end of a 'just outcome' for other parties.
    It is indeed a question of rights. The owner's right of ownership and the purchaser's right to fulfilment of the promise that was made in his transaction with the thief. And how the two parties should go about dealing with those two rights, which are irreconcilable where there is a single identifiable item that is the object of both of them.
    You talk about a 'right to fulfillment of the promise that was made in the transaction with the thief'. Note the passive construction, which avoids drawing attention to who made the promise, namely the thief. The right to fulfillment of the thief's promise is a right against the thief who made the promise only. Nobody else has any inherent reason to respect that promise.
    You're arguing that if you sincerely believe that I have a bridge to sell you then I am indeed able to sell you that bridge. According to your argument, your perspective in which you've handed over £10000 and acquired legitimate title to the bridge is just as valid as the perspective of the civic authority that think they own the bridge.

    The civic authority has not lost ownership of their bridge. But it's hard to possess a bridge as distinct from owning it...

    If I promise to give you a watch, or a painting, I have a moral obligation, a moral duty, to keep my promise. So you have a claim on me in natural justice, a moral right against me, for the promised item. Rights being the flipside of duties.
    You're evading.
    The crucial point here though is that the person to whom the promise is made has a claim on the person making the promise. But not by that simple fact alone on anybody else.
    What you're arguing for is that possession is all ten tenths of the law, that the status quo justifies whatever means were taken to get to it.

    No, what I'm arguing is that promises are to be taken seriously, and innocence respected, that an innocent purchaser is in a different situation from an accomplice of the thief. Innocent people have not forfeited their rights. And so morally the owner has to negotiate with an innocent party instead of taking back their property from a guilty party.
    The innocent party ceases to be innocent as soon as they become aware that the watch was not the thief's to give them.
    Let's suppose the watch hasn't been stolen yet. A protestor outside a bank promises an uninvolved and innocent passer-by a watch identical to the bank chairman's. According to the principles you're laying out, if the protestor then refers the passer-by to the bank chairman the bank chairman has to take that promise seriously by negotiating with the innocent party for the watch.
    I don't think you're going to defend that position, any more than you seriously addressed the example of the bridge.
    So what's the difference? Simply that in the case you are defending, possession of the watch has been transferred. You are arguing that possession overrides moral rights.
  • It's perfectly simple: you can't sell something legally if you have no legal reason to have it. There is no enforceable contract - legally or morally - if you try to sell something you shouldn't have in your possession. The end.
  • sionisais wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Ohher: The US needs to undertake something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa before any attempt at reparations based on land or cash

    I have much sympathy with this sentiment, although I suspect reconciliation i.e. improved race relations will not be enhanced by the transfer of substantial financial resources, reparations, from one race to another.

    They weren't improved for the labour of one race being used to create wealth for another.

    My point was: transferring resources from an ingroup to an outgroup (at least insofar as I understand the US situation) can only make things worse for the outgroup until or unless a significant (large? majority?) of the ingroup can be brought to some understanding of its own direct, personal contribution(s) to the outgroup's misery.

    Reparations to the Japanese operated somewhat differently than reparations to Native Americans or African-Americans could. First, The People had the government to point fingers at; they could (emotionally, at least) divorce themselves from the crimes committed against this group by saying "the gummint did it, not me." Second, the crimes were more public, more sudden, and carried out more abruptly than actions against the other two major reparations-deserving groups. Crimes against the Japanese hadn't been gradually inserted into and then ossified into legal and social structures over centuries; they were more clearly departures from the ideals the US claims it holds. Third the so-called "logic" behind these crimes was perhaps more easily swallowed by the (white-elite-ruling) public in the first place following the shock of the Pearl Harbor attack.

    The so-called "logic" behind the treatment of Native Americans and African Americans was rooted in the (white-elite-ruling) group's belief that these people were subhuman beings -- a breed apart, so to speak, and any recognition that these outgtroups had rights or entitlements was a minority view.

    Given recent evidence (if one reads comments on Facebook posts or news stories, as I so unwisely often do) that continues to be a significant (though hopefully small) percentage of the (white-ruling-privileged) US population which actually subscribes to the "subhuman" theory, and that an even larger, even majority, percentage of same subscribes to the "I didn't do this and have no responsibility" theory, attempts at real, non-symbolic reparations are either doomed or likely to lead to riots in the streets.



  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    It's perfectly simple: you can't sell something legally if you have no legal reason to have it. There is no enforceable contract - legally or morally - if you try to sell something you shouldn't have in your possession. The end.

    Indeed. The unwitting recipient of goods to which the seller had no title has a claim against the one who purported to sell them to him, but no title nor right to the goods themselves. It is an unfortunate situation because crooked sellers rarely have active and effective customer services departments, but that's how it is. And has to be, really - if someone nicks my bike and flogs it to someone else I am and should be entitled to get - not negotiate it - back again. I am not wronging the unwitting recipient - the thief or his fence did that.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    I'm not even sure one can enforce contract rights on a criminal if one is a unwitting buyer.

    If you are a farmer and buy a flock of sheep that have been stolen, you stand to lose both the sheep (to the rightful owner) and the money you paid for them.

    The chances are that the money will already be gone once the rustlers are caught, but I don't think the buyer in this scenario is considered a victim - because of the abovementioned maxim buyer beware.
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