Monday, August 23, 2010

That slippery slope

Pearls Before Swine

Sorry for the light posting--August is always a busy month. I have a post planned for this week about the problem with framing the debate about torture around the definition of torture.

In the meantime, Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine shows, in the comic linked above, what can happen when you give governments the power to torture. Okay, it's humor, and I don't expect librarians to torture people who turn in books late--but that's the problem with granting government the authority to do evil: there's no guarantee that the evil will never be done to you.

We've already heard about pro-life activists placed on government "watch lists" for peaceful protesting and other free-speech activities. And I've read, on other blogs, calls for American prisoners--that is, American citizens arrested and charged with crimes--to be tortured in order for the truth about the crimes to be discovered.

This is why it's important to oppose torture even when the arguments are that it is necessary for American safety, will only be used against foreign criminals and terrorists, etc. Because once the government has the power to torture anybody, there's no guarantee that they will restrict this evil to foreign prisoners, or criminals, or terrorists. None whatsoever.


  1. What if the librarian had simply pulled out a rope and hung the pig?

    Are we to likewise oppose hanging because there's likewise no guarantee that the state will restrict this evil to pigs with overdue library books?

  2. Well, I would certainly oppose any hanging without due process, wouldn't you?

    I'd then oppose Pig's hanging even after due process, because I don't think it's necessary to use the death penalty except in extremely rare instances--and certainly not because some idiot decided to make returning books late a capital crime.

  3. Red Cardigan writes : " Well, I would certainly oppose any hanging without due process, wouldn't you?"

    No. We can hang pigs, and eat pigs, and turn them into footballs.

    But if it were you, I would oppose the penalty even if there was due process, because the process would be unjust regardless of the verdict because the penalty is unjust because it's excessive.

    Which is really the point, isn't it? It's not fear that the state could act excessively, (that's always a risk because of fallen nature), but that the act itself is by nature excessive regardless of how the state chooses to act.

    The argument of fear that it could be turned on Joe down the street, is not unlike your example of those who defend traditional marriage because it likewise unintentionally grants tacit approval by applying torture to a false standard.