The Instigator
ToastOfDestiny
Pro (for)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
pcmbrown
Con (against)
Winning
26 Points

The U.S. Government Ought Not Sell the UnaBomber's Possessions

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
pcmbrown
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/9/2009 Category: News
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,017 times Debate No: 8575
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (7)

 

ToastOfDestiny

Pro

http://www.cnn.com...

Resolved: The U.S. Government ought not to sell the Unabomber's possessions without permission from the Unabomber.

I just saw this on CNN and was wondering if anyone would like a friendly debate on the subject. Be forewarned, this debate isn't about semantics or legal precedent. I'm looking for a debate on morals - basically: should the government be able to sell a criminal's possessions without permission?

If either side makes arguments concerning legal precedent/semantics those arguments are to be discarded.

Con can post arguments in R1, or we can both wait until R2; it doesn't matter to me.

With all of that said, let the debate begin!
pcmbrown

Con

I accept, and would like to make an observation regarding the resolution. The resolution refers to his possessions, not his writings, although that is the central focus of the linked article. Therefore, I do not need to support the sale of his writings, but instead, the amount of material possessions which are necessary.
Debate Round No. 1
ToastOfDestiny

Pro

I'll quickly analyze what Con said before going on to my case.

Con claims that he doesn't need to support the sale of the Unabomber's writings. However, the Unabomber kept journals. How are these any different than a television or furniture? His writings are definitely part of his possessions. Con says that he must support the sale of material possessions - diaries, diagrams, and writings are all material possessions.

With that said, I will examine a decision to sell the Unabomber's possessions without permission through Kant's Categorical Imperative.

The Imperative basically states:
1) Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
2) Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.
3) Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.

Or more simply:
1) Act how you wish everyone would act.
2) Never use humans as a tool to achieve something; always treat people as the end result. Try to improve this end result.
3) Only act in ways that would comply with the end.

Selling the Unabomber's possessions without his permission would definitely be immoral for the U.S. government. We are not focusing on what 'must' be done or what is done - rather, what 'should' be done. Also, we are examining the morality such a decision without permission from the Unabomber.

A) Conflict with the First Maxim
-Selling the Unabomber's possessions includes confiscating and selling his writings. If the government were to sell his possessions, they would have to universalize this standard. That is - they would will it be that all criminals' possessions be confiscated and sold regardless of their wishes. Such actions would conflict with First Amendment privileges, which prevent the government from "abridging [their] freedom of speech". Writings, which are a part of speech, are protected under this amendment. Confiscating them in order to raise money is an encroachment on this right.

B) Conflict with the Second Maxim
-Selling the Unabomber's possessions reduces him as a means to an end. We would be disregarding his personal rights and wishes in order to raise money. The bomber is not treated as an end in any way.

Alright - that's the Pro case. I look forward to the rest of this debate!
pcmbrown

Con

Alright, to start off, both of my opponent's points are derived from the deontological philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Note that Kant's beliefs are not universally accepted as morally correct, nor did they have any bearing upon the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution relies on utilitarian principles (which directly contradicts Kant), and the philosophy of John Locke. I will demonstrate that, a) the resolution adheres to the principles upon which our Constitution was formed, and b) the resolution does not contradict the U.S. Constitution.

First, my opponent's case:

A) Kant's first formulation dictates that the maxim to be universally applied is "an action paired with its motivation". [1] Therefore, I hold the maxim in question to be: "A criminal's possessions ought to be sold in order to provide civilly rewarded restitution to said criminal's victims". This is perfectly acceptable under the Constitution, and under the moral philosophies on which it is based. My opponent argues that the maxim violates the First Amendment, which I'll address later.

B) Kant's second formulation, firstly, has no ground in this debate, as it is not reflected in the U.S. Constitution, nor is it the widely accepted basis for all morality. Secondly, the Unabomber used many persons as means to an obscure and fanatical end. Thus, by refusing justice to the victims, they are further treated as means. Essentially, if the second formulation were applied in the manner my opponent proposes, the involuntary imprisonment of rapists and murderers would be morally incorrect, and ought to be discontinues.

First Amendment: The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, I fail to see how the sale of the Unabomber's writings violates this basic right.

My own case:
As previously stated, the Constitution, the basis for United States law, is based on Locke's philosophy. This includes social contract theory, which essentially states: as a function of being subject to the protections of a state, one's life and possessions are made forfeit to the state in consequence of violation of the law. Thus, the Unabomber's actions leave any and all of his possessions forfeit to the state. The United States has rightly determined that, given the Unabomber's lack of funds, his possessions should be sold in order to compensate his victims, who are well deserving of restitution.

I'll explain any unclear points in the next round.
Thanks for posting.
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
ToastOfDestiny

Pro

I'll go Con, then Pro.
<>
-It is natural that a view on morality is not universally accepted. You'd be hard-pressed to find a moral theory that nobody objects to. Utilitarianism and Locke's Social Contract are also not universally accepted as morally correct.

<
-Where are some of these principles? I know I can find places where the Categorical Imperative was used. Granting the right to vote to people of all race, and then to both genders is a clear application of the First Maxim (act only if you can universalize). The U.S. government universalized the right to vote. Even then, just because utilitarianism had some role in drafting the Constitution we don't have to throw away the Imperative.

<<...and the philosophy of John Locke>>
-Are Locke's philosophy and Kant's incompatible in criminal justice?

<>
-It is better to show that the resolution adheres to our current Constitutional principles.

<>
-I accept that my maxim was not specific enough, but this maxim is not either. The maxim should be "A criminal's possessions can be sold without his/her permission in order to provide civilly rewarded restitution to said criminal's victims". We are focusing on selling possessions unwillingly.

<< the Unabomber used many persons as means...>>
-That just means the Unabomber's actions were immoral. How does that have a bearing on anything else?

<< if the second formulation were applied in the manner my opponent proposes, the involuntary imprisonment of rapists and murderers would be morally incorrect, and ought to be discontinues.>>
-While the involuntary imprisonment may be 'immoral', it is not 'unjust'. There is a difference between morality and justice. They may lead us to similar conclusions in some places, but different conclusions in others.

<< The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, I fail to see how the sale of the Unabomber's writings violates this>>
-There is absolutely no warrant here. Con says that there is no First Amendment violation here because he doesn't see one. There is no analysis or reasoning behind this claim.
-The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" (the omitted portion is about religion). Confiscating and selling writings, which are considered speech, abridges the Unabomber's freeom of speech. In a legal sense, abridge is defined as "to reduce or lessen in duration, scope, authority, etc.; diminish; curtail" (http://dictionary.reference.com...). When the government confiscates his writings without permission and sells them, they are abridging his freedom of speech.

<>
-While the social contract theory does say that rights can be compromised when a law is violated, that does not mean that it can justify any rights lost. A violation of a law does not lead to a criminal forfeiting all of his rights, only some of them. You don't say "someone broke the law, therefore we shall void all his rights". A violation of the contract does not lead to a violation of all rights. In this case, we are talking about abridging one of the Unabomber's most fundamental rights: speech.

I forgot to source the Categorical Imperative last round, so here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org...

Resolution Affirmed.
pcmbrown

Con

Same order.

-While utilitarianism and the social contract are not universally accepted, they do have bearing upon the United States Constitution, while Kant's theories do not.

-Framers of the Constitution acknowledge Locke as an influence. He is widely recognized as providing a large portion of the ideology on which the Constitution is based. Kant...did not. The principle of equality is one which can arise independently, without the application of the First Formulation. Was murder first viewed as evil due to the application of deontological philosophies, or more obvious, basic moral principles? Further, my main point of contention is with the Second Formulation, which certainly does not apply to U.S. legal documents, Constitution or otherwise. Social contract theory is far more applicable, as it constitutes the basis of the Constitution.

-Locke and Kant are entirely incompatible. Locke's theories have a utilitarian basis. Kant's theories have a deontilogical basis. Utilitarianism and deontology are opposites (justification through ends vs. means).

-We retain many of the original Constitutional principles. However, feel free to demonstrate the effect of the Second Formulation on our "current Constitutional principles".

-Of course we are discussing the sale of items without permission.

-The immorality of the Unabomber's actions justify his treatment.

-Involuntary imprisonment is just, as is the sale of possessions in order to reimburse victims. The justice system, which is the acting body concerned, ought to uphold justice.

-The resolution does not violate the First Amendment. The Unabomber is free to express his ideas as he wishes, this freedom is not restricted. In fact, he is free to restate the ideas detailed in his writings before the national press. The confiscation of assets, which happen to include writings, does not constitute a violation. In fact, these actions do not abridge anything, per my opponent's definition.

-We are not violating freedom of speech.

My opponent has dropped all points regarding his possessions as a whole, and therefore concedes these points. His only remaining case regards the First Amendment "violation", which I have refuted.
Debate Round No. 3
ToastOfDestiny

Pro

Con, then Pro.

<>
-Again, regardless of the principles the U.S. was founded upon, Kant's philosophies can apply to it. It doesn't matter what moral system someone or something uses; any moral system can be used to judge actions. Some moral systems are more applicable in some cases. In this case, we can't look to Utilitarianism/Social Contract, as they don't consider the rights of the individual. When you look at actions that are being taken on an individual, you need a moral system that gives his or her rights consideration.

<>
-Again, regardless of founding principles, the Imperative can be used to evaluate actions.

<>
-Just because the Categorical Imperative and equality have different names does not mean that they aren't similar. What Kant did when writing the Imperative was combining many moral values, creating a system that encompassed them all. The Categorical Imperative is a conglomerate of many basic values (treat others how you would like to be treated, treat people as people, not tools, strive to better humanity, etc.).

<>
-Amendment 13 (abolished slavery): prevented U.S. citizens from using each other as means.
-The principles of liberty and equality are applications of the Second Formulation
-Legal protections make people the 'end', or the goal, so to speak. By giving people protections, we are bettering humanity.
-For the Second Formulation to have an effect on our principles, congressmen don't have to say 'the Second Formulation bids us to pass this law'. People unconsciously use the Second Formulation in their day-to-day life, when they protect and stand up for one another. The Second Formulation isn't a foreign principle to humans, but a basic moral instinct put into words.

<>
-His actions do not justify violation his First Amendment rights.

<>
-We are talking about morality, not justice. Again, we are not talking about what is just, but what is moral. There is a difference.

<>
-The Unabomber obviously does not want to express the speech in his diaries. He is objecting to their sale, and therefore doesn't want these ideas to be expressed. By selling them, the government is preventing him from doing so, from expressing his ideas the way he wants. This is no different from preventing him from speaking. Selling his writings without his permission is forcing his ideas into the public against his will.

<>
-We are abridging freedom of speech, however. The Unabomber's freedom of speech is "lessened in scope" (see the definition above) when his writings (speech) are confiscated and sold without his permission.

Voting Issues:
1) Selling the bomber's possessions, especially his diaries, without his permission abridges his right to free speech. By making his writings available to the public, the government is forcing him to express certain ideas, removing his choice to express his ideas as he wishes.
2) The Categorical Imperative can be used to evaluate the U.S.' government's actions. Although the Constitution may have been written based on the Social Contract, we can still evaluate actions through the Imperative. Here's an analogy: a person decides how he acts based on Utilitarianism. Someone else decides to evaluate his actions. They can use whatever moral system they want to draw their conclusions.
3) Using Utilitarianism to judge the Unabomber's actions leads to undesirable results. He could be forced to do any number of undesirable tasks, as long as two or more people would benefit. Because Utilitarianism compromises the rights of the individual, we cannot use it in this case.

Thank you, and please vote Pro!
pcmbrown

Con

Constitution-Of course Kant's philosophies can be applied to an action. However, the U.S. Government ought to adhere to its Constitution, which does not reflect a Kantian ideology. My opponent cannot simply state that the justice system should behave in compliance with Kant's Formulations. The Constitution contradicts these principles. As the Constitution provides the basis for the U.S. legal system, it should be prioritized when in conflict with an independent moral theory.

Kant's impact-Yes, Kant encompasses many basic morals with his Formulations. However, he had no impact upon the framers of the Constitution. Obviously, some of his principles, e.g. liberty and equality, are present in the Constitution due to being basic moral values. However, my opponent is suggesting the absolute application of the Second Formulation, which directly contradicts the Constitution. To see heinous criminals solely as "ends" is not a basic instinct.

Morality versus justice-We are not talking about morality. We are talking about what the government/justice system ought to do. The justice system ought to pursue what is just, as the application of the Second Formulation...would make all punishment immoral.

Freedom of speech-Freedom of speech guarantees ones ability to say anything, to express anything they wish. However, it does not grant them the ability to contain their speech. Also, note that my opponent brought this argument up in the final round.

Voting Issues:
1. My opponent has not shown that this action violates the First Amendment.
2. The United States must act upon the Constitution, which contradicts Kant's theories. We are not arguing morality, but whether or not the U.S. should do a certain thing. Of course, the justice system should follow the Constitution, and do what is just.
3. Individual rights can be compromised, under Social Contract theory (basis of the Constitution), if it betters society. Violation of the Social Contract is just cause for punishment.

Thanks for the debate, thanks for reading, vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by ToastOfDestiny 7 years ago
ToastOfDestiny
I'm not saying that the U.S. government should make a decision on morals - they do have laws to follow. But I clearly stated that I wanted to debate whether their decision was moral.
Posted by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
but in this case, your application of morality is impractical
Posted by ToastOfDestiny 7 years ago
ToastOfDestiny
I was just saying that your second voting issue is not valid - this debate was supposed to be about morality.
Posted by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
the US should adhere to its own morality, not one independent of itself. the debate concerns morals, but the ultimate question is whether the act is moral or not.
Posted by ToastOfDestiny 7 years ago
ToastOfDestiny
"We are not arguing morality, but whether or not the U.S. should do a certain thing."

Yet in R1, I say "I'm looking for a debate on morals...".
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
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