Honi‘s recently article about The Pirate Bay has prompted me to wonder; is freedom paradoxical? People should have the freedom to write, think and do whatever they please, right? Our ability to subject ideas to ruthless debate is what makes our society so much better than hellish dystopias like Panem, Oceania and North Korea. But think about what happens when one person’s freedom impinges on the freedom of another. This is a point of subtlety and complexity that I feel is often overlooked by Libertarian/Anarchist types.
Should people have the “freedom” to steal? What about the “freedom” to view autopsy photos of murdered children, or the “freedom” to posses Intuitively, these don’t feel like freedoms, and I think there’s a logical basis for this gut feeling. For each “act” that we want to classify as a freedom, I propose a simple test. First, consider the rationality behind the act; is it a reasonable thing for a moral person to want to do? Second, consider the impact of the act; what effect does it have on others?
By balancing these two factors against each other we can quickly discard the “freedoms” of murder, theft and autopsy photo viewing (seriously, why?). The remaining things, like film piracy and the religious instruction of children are the things we should be arguing about.
In the case of piracy, I think the solution is relatively clear. We need to increase the availability of high-quality, low-cost media. Until I can buy the latest episodes of UK shows for a couple of dollars on the day they’re released, I will remain an enthusiastic torrent fiend (albeit slightly conflicted).
Michael Sproul, Science III