Busting Myths: Can Jobs Be Stolen?

When dealing with issues such as immigration or unlicensed taxi services like Uber or Lyft, it’s not at all uncommon for people with full citizenship in a given country or a license to perform a given service to complain that their job has been stolen from them by someone who undercuts them on price. Be it an immigrant worker taking a job at a rate below minimum wage, or a ridesharing service driver operating without being government approved to offer the simple service of transporting someone from point A to point B, people who lose their jobs to this competition will be frustrated and upset over their job being “stolen”. While their frustration with losing their job is understandable, their moral indignation is not. Ultimately jobs are not property, and because they are not property they cannot be stolen.

A job is simply an agreement of exchange between two or more parties. For example, party A agrees to provide party B with X amount of widget Y in exchange for Z number of hours of labor. Now, where is the property here? There is an agreement for the exchange of certain properties, such as time, labor, and goods, but there is nothing in this agreement itself which is property, and so it cannot be owned by anybody.

By the same token, nobody really “creates a job.” They simply enter into an agreement to exchange one good or service for another. This is one of the problems of those who try to stifle competition from entering into their market. The taxi company that has gone through the bureaucratic channels to provide service with government licensing claims to have “created new jobs” for people willing to drive for a living, however they have not created anything, any more than I can create a house by acquiring a license as a construction contractor.

An agreement or contract can certainly be violated, but if my employer decides to terminate their agreement with me in order to pursue one along with someone else, they have not stolen anything from me any more than I would have stolen from them if I decided to leave one job to pursue another means of employment which I felt would be more beneficial to me. Theft can only occur by the means of fraud or force, and neither of these things happen when a party to a given trade decides to move on.

Jobs are not property, and since jobs are not property, it is impossible to steal them. Jobs are not creatable, they are simply agreements between two or more parties for exchange. If this were properly understood, everyone would prosper more. Rather than wringing their hands over losing customers to ridesharing services, larger taxi companies which formerly enjoyed government granted monopolies would actually improve the quality and quantity of service which they provide to customers. Persons banking on their citizenship as an assurance of job security would realize the need to provide better service to their customers, and proper, fair market competition would reign again. As always, more fair and open competition benefits everyone involved and ultimately leads to greater prosperity in terms of real property.


Is Collateral Damage An Acceptable Part of War?

Collateral damage to civilians is one of the most consistent elements of modern warfare. As bombing attacks continue to take deadlier and more impersonal forms, collateral damage is all but an assumed part of warfare, perhaps not celebrated, but at the same time not really regretted. In the context of foreign conflict, collateral damage is treated as something that simply happens, and no fault is attributed to the forces which cause civilian deaths and destruction to their property. This should not be, “collateral damage” in war is completely unacceptable in all circumstances.

So called “collateral damage” is morally unjustifiable because of the simple facts that civilians are not combatants, and they are not the property of the states which are warring with one another. The persons who are maimed and killed and their property which is damaged do not suddenly become part of either state which is at war simply because the governing body of the area in which they live has determined to battle with another state. These persons belong to themselves in the same way which they did in a time of peace, and have every moral right to their life, their freedom, and their property just as they did prior to the initiation of interstate conflict. Even if Nation A has a justifiable reason to go to war with Nation B, this does not justify causing harm (either intentionally or by neglect) to the citizens of nation B.

Who the specific target of an attack is is irrelevant to the question of whether civilian deaths are justifiable. It’s certainly the case that manslaughter due to neglect is less morally wicked than premeditated murder, but this does not mean that manslaughter is morally upright. Additionally it’s important to remember that the far and away majority of collateral damage in war is not entirely accidental. For example, Florin’s military identifies target X they wish to destroy in Guilder, but they realize they cannot deal with target X without harming bystanders Y, and they determine that destroying target X in Guilder is important enough to justify the harm caused to the civilians of Guilder. This ethical calculus is utterly wrong, however. There is no way to morally compare the value of or right to life of specific persons, each and every one has this right, and it is not suspended just because they find themselves in close physical proximity to an important person or place in a time of war.

It becomes far easier to accept the ethical calculus above when the issue is removed from our view, but what would our reaction be if it happened in our neighborhood? Imagine a police officer engaged in a high speed chase, following fast on the heels of a bank robber who was caught in the act. The police officer drives willy-nilly all over the road in pursuit of the thief, causing several traffic accidents. He still cannot catch the robber, so he begins opening fire on the car he’s chasing. He misses several times, and his shots accidentally kill two pedestrians. Finally one of his bullets takes out one of the tires of the car, and the bank robber is apprehended. Is the police officer a hero in our eyes? Of course not, he killed two innocent bystanders and caused massive property damage to persons who had nothing to do with the crimes of the robber. Change the players in this hypothetical to a terrorist being chased and a military following after him, and move the setting to the middle east, and all of the sudden we find it perfectly alright. There is a serious inconsistency here, and it needs to be addressed.

Even though it is clear that collateral damage is completely unethical and unacceptable when removing the personality of individuals from the scenario, this cannot be done in the real world. Every civilian who dies due to collateral damage of an attack is a human being, one who has rights to his own life, one who has friends and family, one who has his own life to live that is completely separate from interstate conflict. The poor man whose situation requires him to live in a bad neighborhood is no more consenting to be mugged by a common thug than the civilian who lives in a region whose government is at war with another is consenting to be killed by a member of a military.

So called “collateral damage” causes the loss of real, human lives, and damage to the property of real human beings. Turning questions of how to wage war into a moral budgeting spreadsheet where the only goal is to make sure you kill more actual bad guys than you do civilians is not the solution. One civilian casualty is infinitely too many, and there is no moral justification for collateral damage in warfare.

Love God And Do What You Want

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” This text from 1 Corinthians is definitely in the running for the most ripped out of context and misused verse in the New Testament. It is often (mis)used in order to condemn any number of acceptable Christian practices, from alcohol consumption, to eating genetically modified foods, to smoking tobacco, etc. The text is also used as more generally as a proof text for why Christians ought to exercise, eat healthy, and care for their bodies well out of an obligation to God.

While one could make the case that there is some level of obligation for Christians to pursue good health, there is no biblical support for a mandated form of Christian asceticism in order to maintain bodily health. That is not the main issue in this text, and it’s time to stop ripping it out of context and using it to promote this idea. This quote is from the end of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6 regarding sexual morality, this argument being particularly focused against the Corinthian believers who were continuing to visit temple prostitutes. If we wish to use this text to forbid a particular bodily sin, perhaps we should, you know, use it to forbid sexual immorality. Crazy idea.

Using Paul’s injunction against sexual immorality as a means to forward one’s particular hobby horses is a bad, bad idea. Olympic weightlifting is a wonderful sport, but I would have a very hard time convincing you from this text that you should learn how to perform a technically proficient snatch, because Paul is not commanding anything, he’s forbidding sexual immorality. Avoiding drunkenness is a good and biblical idea, but you’d have a terribly hard time supporting avoidance of alcohol from this text, particularly in light of the rest of the testimony of scripture regarding it. Why? Once again, because it’s not what Paul is dealing with here. Context is important.

The body of any Christian is truly the temple of the Holy Spirit, and to deny that would be completely contrary to the testimony of scripture. However, to use this text as a means to create some sort of ascetic understanding of the body, diet, and exercise is completely outside of the purpose and usage of the text. Using this text as means to forbid various bodily pleasures also goes completely against the surrounding context of Paul’s continued argument against the gnostic heresy which was present and taking hold on some of the church at Corinth. Don’t be a practical gnostic. Love God, and do what you want. If what you want is smoking tobacco, drinking wine, or eating french fries, then do so. If what you want is to lift heavy things, run marathons, or simply enjoy a recreational sport, then do that. God gave you these things to make your heart glad. The point Paul is making in this text is not specifically for or against any of these things, he’s just against visiting temple prostitutes. Love God, do what you want, and stop ripping bible verses out of context to further justify your lawful hobbies or condemn the lawful hobbies of others.

Why A Curfew In Ferguson Is The Wrong Choice

Governor Jay Nixon has instituted a state of emergency in Ferguson, Missouri, and enacted a curfew between the hours of 12 and 5 am. This is completely unacceptable, and a furthering of the brutality which we have already seen since Mike Brown was killed last week. Recognizing that there has been looting, rioting and vandalism, these crimes are specific to those that have committed them, and if the state wants to punish them, they should not punish others as well. Not only this, but they have no right to constrain persons to specific locations without first getting a conviction.

If Governor Nixon is intent on punishing the looters, the vandals, and the rioters, so be it, but only through the appropriate means of due process of law. Innocence until proof of guilt is still a fundamental right, and that doesn’t change just because Governor Nixon and his subordinates have woefully and abusively mishandled this situation from the beginning. The rights of the people in Ferguson (both those who have committed crimes during the protests and those who have not) don’t cease to be because it’s a certain time of the day, nor because the situation is difficult for the state to handle. In the entire course of human ethics, ends have never been a justification for means, and that hasn’t changed over the course of this week.

Morality is not about producing the “best” result, it’s about doing the right thing. Using and initiating unlawful force isn’t okay in the interest in preventing other unlawful force, and that doesn’t change because the governor of some state signed a slip of paper. Enforcing a curfew under threat of violence, kidnapping, or fine is a claim to own the persons placed under the curfew, which the state has no right to. Just like any person anywhere else, the people in Ferguson have a right to their own persons and property, and have a right before the state to dispose of these things however they wish, at whatever hour they wish to. If Governor Nixon is interested in resolving the mess which his administration has both caused and made worse through their brutality, he’s welcome to do so, but not through further aggression.