Saturday, February 11, 2012

When Is It Your Responsibility?

In last night's kind of long comment thread on the President's "compromise", commenter Doug Indeap asks an interesting and kind of deep question:
How long do you suppose a dollar remains Catholic after a religious employer uses it to pay others and they use it to pay others, etc? At some point, some might rightfully regard that dollar as theirs to do with as they will--without regard to the religious views of others who once had it in their hands a transaction or two earlier.
By analogy, let's say Fat Tony thinks Joey Bagadonuts needs to be whacked, but doesn't want to do it himself.  Instead, he pays Guido the Neck to kill him.  Is Tony responsible?  Our legal system would say that Tony is a murderer.  If a bunch of mafia Dons thought Joey needed to be whacked and they all kicked in money, would Tony still be responsible?  I believe the answer is yes.

This is one level away.

Now, let's say that the money Fat Tony paid came from his honest dealings as a concrete overshoe contractor.  Is the person who paid Tony for concrete work culpable in any way?  I believe the answer is no.  If they paid Tony with no knowledge the money would be used to whack Joey, and didn't intend for it to be used that way, the trail of responsibility stops with Tony.  

So it stops at one level.  Usually.  If someone paid Tony knowing and intending for him to use the money to put a contract on Joey, then I think they're responsible, too.  But I don't know of any examples of something like that.
So the culpability for paying someone to perform a criminal act for you probably depends more on your intent than a simple transaction count. 


  1. So, where do we stand if Joey tells Tony he _must_ pay or be whacked himself, Tony knowing his money will be used to whack someone? If he doesn't want anyone whacked, but knows his money will be used for that, he has a choice: pay and be responsible, or get whacked. Or maybe he simply needs to whack Joey.

    Isn't that what the Catholics face? Forced to pay their share of the premiums used to pay the insurance for those who want to kill their unborn babies, or to abort a brand new zygote (morning-after abortifacients)?

    At some point we have to say "No" or we have to accept responsibility. That includes me, of course, who hasn't said "No" yet, either.

    I'm getting damn close, though. Off topic, but were I to be present when some JBT began whacking the hell out of an unresisting person on the ground, moving in to kick him (or her) in the head and stomping on his head and neck or joints as I've watched on YouTube and various news feeds, I know I will be unable to simply film it. I will intervene, probably at approximately 900 fps, until the mag runs dry of those big, fat, slow interventions or I go down from other JBT responding to my actions.

    I realize that sounds extreme, but I am too old and weak to go hand-to-hand with some beefy punk wearing a badge. At some point they need to understand there are consequences, and since the DA's and prosecutors and courts refuse to rein them in, it falls to us. Having been a peace officer - responsible for protecting civilians, not beating and "taseing" and killing them - I will not be able to stand by while LEO's go beyond the pale in hurting citizens needlessly. Seeing it second hand, via the 'Net, fills me with rage. I know it will be worse if I see it in person.

  2. This is actually a deep question, and I make light of it. Of course, I tend to make fun of most things...

    But where do you draw the line? In the case of the what they did to the Catholic church, I argue it's paying money out of their right pocket (insurance costs) instead of their left (direct costs). The belief that money paid out of different pockets is different is a belief pushed over on everyone by lawyers and the IRS. In our case, where do you draw the line when your tax money is being used for things you don't approve of?

    You and I pay for "taxpayer funded" abortions every day. We both pay for things we'd never approve of - although those may be different things for you and I. At what point does it become our responsibility to stop it? I think we're long past the point where voting for the right half of the same party matters. And no, I haven't said "No" yet either. We both know that ends up death.

  3. True, SG. I'm not being macho or flip when I say we all owe a death. Can't get out of that one. If I were still in my twenties or thirties, with a family and a life still ahead of me, I know I could not easily make the choices I can make now. I don't expect to die of old age - I'm surprised to have lived this long - and the thought of doing some good, even in a very small and local fashion, has a measure of appeal. As opposed to dying in bed of cancer or heart disease.

    Swapping my life for one or two bad people no longer seems that bad a deal. I had that mind set when I was a peace officer, although it was my plan that training and skill would prevent my death. As a citizen that mind set continues, as I approach the end of things.