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Below are the 3 most recent journal entries recorded in Weasel Boy's LiveJournal:

Thursday, January 29th, 2004
1:24 pm
Monogamy is immoral.
When a company says to its employees, "You cannot work for any other
company, even in your spare time", that's immoral.

When a woman says to her friend, "You cannot be friends with anyone
other than me, even when it doesn't affect me", that's immoral.

When a man says to his girlfriend, "You cannot sleep with other men,
even when it doesn't affect me", that is equally immoral. The
only difference is that there is a much stronger biological imperative
to stop your partner having other mates than there is to stop your
friend talking to other people.

The only difference.
Monday, April 14th, 2003
4:07 pm
Uncomfortable thought.
I had a thought the other day about laws and game theory.

You don't need to know about game theory that much except to know that there's a concept called an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy, which is the state of affairs where one individual who acts the opposite of how everyone else does is penalised. For example, in a population of violent muggers, a pacifist is penalised. Likewise in a population of policemen, a violent mugger will be penalised, since the first time he mugs anyone they'll call for assistance and he'll be arrested. And in a population of pacifists, a policeman will be penalised, since everyone will be going about their business and the policeman will be too busy looking for muggers to earn any money. In each of these scenarios there's a risk attached to each action - a mugger will get money from a pacifist, but be arrested by a policeman; a pacifist will be mugged by a mugger but will earn money otherwise; and a policeman will be rewarded by the citizenry fr arresting a mugger but will starve otherwise. Game theory can take a population of muggers, policemen, and pacifists, and predict what the eventual population will be. The eventual, stable population is the one where no-one can change their behaviour and profit.

So, what society does is to choose the Evolutionary Stable Strategy it wants and makes laws to penalise actions it wants to discourage. The penalties should be equal for everyone, otherwise you're effectively encouraging a certain class of people to act against the grain. But the same punishment applied to two different people will not yield the same penalty — an executive on a salary of £500,000 will have a smaller incentive and a greater relative punishment than a homeless jobless drug addict if they both steal someone's wallet. Since the same effort is put into tracking both people down, the drug addict is effectively being rewarded for stealing a wallet.

This makes me very uncomfortable for two reasons: one, there's no reason for the example to be that obvious — the same logic applies to any disparity, so it's a justification for sentencing black criminals more harshly than white criminals (assuming that most criminals are black, which I believe I've read but would be very happy to be corrected on). Secondly, it destroys the ideas of someone controlling their own destiny, which I think is a fundamental pillar of any civilised society — while we may not have it it's an ideal to strive for.

The solution to this is to look at rewards as well as punishments, and this works better, in my opinion - the welfare state goes some way towards this, but it goes too far in some directions, and not far enough in others, because it's not a complement to the legal system, it's pretty much unrelated.

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, March 19th, 2003
1:31 pm
me-first vs. freedom of speech
Three years ago, Demon paid Dr. Laurence Godfrey damages and costs after not removing a defamatory post on a newsgroup. This was widely thought of as a "wrong" decision: ISP's should not be held liable for content that they merely carry, rather than generate.

This morning, amazon were selling an iPaq for £7, approximately 5% of its value. I was told about this by three different people, all of whom suggested that I buy one. Despite people obviously realizing it wasn't a correct price, they still suggested buying one, just in case amazon had to honour it.

How are these two reactions mutually compatible? If ISP's aren't responsible for content that they carry (a major part of their defense is that it was impossible to monitor all the newsgroups they carried), neither are amazon responsible for errors in their pricing (there are likewise far too many prices on amazon to check by hand). While I've heard people say "I don't expect to get one, I just ordered one anyway," I don't think that's a moral position; every order will lend weight to a claim that amazon should honour the price, and every order is a lot of paperwork for amazon, and no hassle for the customer, effectively penalizing amazon either way.

Personally, I think that if people see obvious mistakes, they should e-mail the site in question and point this out; taking advantage of other people's mistakes is neither moral nor a good survival strategy for a society.
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