Bryan Caplan  

The Book Mike Huemer Should Write

Is There a Right to Immigrate?... A Trillion Nazis Versus the Tr...
Here's a note I just sent Mike Huemer:
Your latest essay is so wonderful that it gives me an idea:  You should write a book on applied ethics, with the immigration essay and the gun control essay as models.  Instead of the usual litany of silly trolley problems, how about a book that tackles and answers a dozen major moral issues?
If Huemer writes this book, what moral issues should he cover?  Good topics should be easy to answer with Huemer's trademark common sense and common decency, but controversial with the general public.  Your suggestions?

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COMMENTS (17 to date)
Marcus writes:

Animal rights.

Jayson Virissimo writes:

The obvious one would be government drug prohibition. Less obvious cases would involve vigilantism and abortion.

Christiaan writes:

The myth of animal rights?

Is paying taxes immoral? I've always thought so, but some good logical reasoning could always come in handy.

I thought the essay on immigration was very insightful, something book length and just as well written would be worth the read. It will certainly be more interesting then something by Julian Baginni.

And what about democracy. Does a popular vote make the application of force moral?

Brad Taylor writes:

Behaviour which imposes risks on others but doesn't necessarily harm them, like drunk driving.

I'd also second democracy.

H writes:

Child pornography.

Steve Miller writes:

Is there a right to discriminate against others based on race/gender/sexual orientation?

Arare Litus writes:


Moral "Duty" [is it morally wrong to engage in, or tolerate/ignore, evil if it is the staus quo, or you would be at risk if you did something]

Punishment & Law

Chad Van Schoelandt writes:

I second drug prohibition, so 'Is There a Right to Use Drugs?' and would add 'Is There a Right to Sell Sex?'.

Also of interest is 'Are There Rights to Marriage?' in which not only gay marriage and polygamy can be discussed, but also whether there should be any state marriages at all. Many reasons are put forward for the state to have marriage (e.g. encourage procreation) and these reputedly lead to specific claims about what marriages are valid (e.g. hetero), but these arguments are often terrible (e.g. if marriage is for procreation, then the sterile should not be allowed to marry, and gay couples who use various other means to produce children should be allowed to marry). Overall, I think the questions are readily answerable: 1) if there is a state marriage contract it should be available to all consenting adults of any sized group and composed of any genders, 2) there should absolutely not be rights of marriage involving children below some age or animals, 3) there should not be special benefits from the state to entering the property contract that may or may not be called "marriage". Huemer of course may disagree, but whatever the answer is I would be interested to read a chapter on this should he write the book.

Zac writes:

I would certainly be interested in a book by Huemer along these lines, perhaps entitled "Ethical Answers" (a title that would shock the field perhaps). My suggested topics are "is there a right to exact justice" (vigilantism), "is there a right to abortion," "is there a right to use drugs," "is there a right to trade." All answers need not be 'yes,' I also would like "is there a right to tax." Perhaps a discussion of the right to have strange preferences ("mental illness"), and the differences between the rights of adult humans and children or animals.

John Jenkins writes:

Free Trade. It's controversial among most people (actually, more than that, I would say the vast majority of people are outright protectionists). It might be too close to the immigration issue, though (free flow of people v. free flow of goods).

Capital Punishment. We know that it simply does not deter the marginal killer (who, when he kills, is not weighing the chance of his getting caught, convicted and executed). We also know that the system imposing it is not ideal as evidenced by the people who are exonerated on a fairly regular basis. Nonetheless, the death penalty remains politically popular.

Some people advocate higher taxes to pay for their pet projects but don't maximize their own contributions to those projects. Most of those people are utilitarians of one kind or another, so they do not recognize the existence of supererogatory actions. Is their position morally tenable? (Okay, so most of those people don't know what supererogatory means, but they are committed to a belief system that denies the existence of supererogatory actions.)

Fenn writes:

"Silly trolley problems?"

Wasn't it just a coupla days ago you were talking about Nazis and defending this kinda thing as the philosophical equivalent to controlled experiments?

Fenn writes:

Oh, gotta have a fun chapter: the ethics of infidelity and maybe lying in general

Fabio Rojas writes:

Topic: Should you force people to be educated?

Mike Huemer writes:

Wow, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. And thanks to Bryan for his blog entry. FYI, the drug article is already done:

Mark Bahner writes:

"Your suggestions?"

Paying militaries in dictatorships (e.g. Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Uzebekistan, etc.) to (non-violently) overthrow their leaders, and set up democracies.

Steve Sailer writes:

Bryan has already written a book about how the ignorant shouldn't have a say on topics they don't know much about. So, why should anyone listen to Bryan on the topic of immigration, a subject where his factual knowledge is largely limited to what he gleaned years ago from a few Julian Simon books?

Zac writes:

@Steve- You claim that Bryan is ignorant of current research, but you have yet to produce anything that contradicts his claims. You are going to need something pretty convincing if you expect anyone to believe that the hard facts of the effects of immigration have changed in the past few decades.

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