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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hey, Your Horse Lost Anyway!

Let's say you pay me $100 to go place a $1000 bet for you on your favorite horse. Instead of placing the bet, I have a night of expensive lap dances at the Hustler Club.

When you discover this, you are very angry, accusing me of stealing our money. I respond, "Hey, your horse lost anyway!"

Isn't it pretty clear that this is no defense at all?

Well, not to Will Wilkinson, who defends the Supreme Court against the charges of helping in a coup in Bush vs. Gore by noting that, "Mr Fallows seems to forget that George W. Bush actually won the 2000 presidential election," citing the fact that the recount Gore wanted actually would have confirmed Bush's victory in Florida.

Look, I don't frankly know if the Court's decision in that case was sound or not: I simply know far too little constitutional law to even have an opinion one way or the other. But I do know this: if the decision was bad, it provides no defense for the Court to point out that Bush would have won anyway. If I shoot someone dead who, as it happens, was, unbeknownst to me, dying of a heart attack at that very moment, I am just as morally blameworthy as if he had had ninety years to live, even though my action had no important practical consequences.

2 comments:

  1. That analogy has always interested me -- well, a similar one, anyway: Some guy sells raffle tickets, then apologizes to the winner and refunds his money, but keeps everyone else's because "they lost anyway".

    Obviously, you've wronged someone (or several people), but what *exactly* did you take/deprive them of? (No, I'm not trying to justify the practice, I just think it's an interesting exercise.)

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  2. The wrong is in the action itself, not the consequences thereof. I completely agree with you here.

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