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Zack Beauchamp’s Posts

Libya and Moral Responsibility

Much of the ongoing debate about Libya has rested on what I believe to the mistaken philosophical premise that the United States, or any other potential intervening party, becomes more morally responsible for the fate of Libya if it chooses to intervene than if it doesn’t.  Ross Douthat presents the most sophisticated defense in this post.  Most relevant line:

But America’s leaders are not directly responsible for governing any country besides their own, which means that almost by definition, they/we bear less responsibility for tragedies that result from our staying out of foreign conflicts than for tragedies that flow from our attempts at intervention.

Douthat here is equivocating two senses of “responsibility;” the first empirical, and the second philosophical.  It is true that the United States is only “directly responsible” for governing its own citizens in a contingent sense: the only people subject to U.S. law are, well, Americans.  But that brute fact says nothing “by definition” about who to whom the American government is morally responsible.  Douthat’s arguments rest on the foundation that empirical responsibility entails moral responsibility: that if we cause something, we are more morally responsible for it than we would have been otherwise.  But is this position defensible?

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Opt-Out Day and Consequences

Part 2 of 2 of a series on TSA searches and Opt-Out Day

The first post in this series argued that the TSA search policy violates a fundamental liberal right to sexual privacy.  However, the fact that people have a reasonable claim that their rights are being violated does not ipso facto make Opt-Out day a justifiable response.  The mere fact that citizens have a rights claim against a particular policy does not justify the citizens employing any available response to enforce that right.  Murdering TSA agents, for example, is morally out of the question.

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Opt-Out Day and Rights

Part 1 of 2 on the TSA and Opt Out Day


To say that the American Transportation Security Agency's new airport security policy requiring all passengers to either be scanned by a machine that sees through one's clothes or submit to an invasive pat-down by TSA agents has generated a great deal of controversy would be putting it mildly.  Fuelled by horror stories of TSA agents destroying a bladder cancer patient's urostomy bag and traumatizing rape survivors, a trickle of anti-search sentiment among security analysts has grown into a flood of public outrage.  

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