Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The difference between "LEGAL" and "RIGHT"

I found this graphic over at Blue's Blog.

That's a really important point, particularly when our 'ruling class' uses the law to legitimize actions that are anything but right.

Consider it like this.  Congress can pass a law tomorrow that says the sky is red.  From then onward, it'll be legal to say that the sky is red.  It can even be declared illegal to say that the sky is anything but red.  Nevertheless, the sky won't actually be red.  The law may declare it so, but the law is visibly, demonstrably, empirically wrong.

The same applies to many things that are legal, but are not right by any mainstream moral or ethical standard.  To name just a few:

  • A drug manufacturer can sell a medicine here in the USA for six figures for a year's supply.  The identical medication may be available in India for less than $1,000 for the same quantity - but it's illegal under US law for a patient to buy the drug there and import it (not for resale, mind you - for his own personal use).  How can that possibly be ethically, morally right?
  • There are protections for individual privacy in the US constitution.  They're implicit rather than explicit, as noted in Roe vs. Wade and other court decisions, but the right is real.  How, then, can it be constitutional for laws to be passed allowing government agencies and businesses to ferret through our every conversation in electronic form, record them, analyze them, interpret them, use them to target us for advertising, and so on?  The laws of this country allow them to do so - but are those laws right?
  • There's an explicit protection against religious discrimination in the US constitution's First Amendment.  However, businesses and individuals are being targeted by laws protecting certain minority groups and/or orientations, even if their religious views conflict with the latter.  How can one law be more 'right' than another?
  • It's legal for federal officers to lie to suspects in their investigation of a crime;  but it's illegal for suspects to lie to federal officers.  (That's the main reason why Martha Stewart went to jail.)  What's sauce for the goose is emphatically not sauce for the gander.  How can this be right?

The list is endless, and never seems to get any shorter.  I've come to regard it as a litmus test for a statist.  If their approach to such issues is to shrug and say, "But it's legal!", they're likely to be statists and enemies of freedom.  If they ask "But is it right?", they might be worthwhile human beings (all other things being equal).



Old NFO said...

Good point, and that whole medication thing is out of hand... From $3 a pill to over $700 is RIDICULOUS!

Coconut said...

I've got a law textbook that says laws are a minimum bound on morals; "you must be at least this ethical to live in our society".

Have my doubts about certain things, but for the most part...

It's probably easier to keep things ticking along when you've only got four million people in the whole country, though.

@NFO: Apparently it's a pill barely anyone ever uses, though. Obsolete or something.
Most medical prices are R&D related, IIRC - something about all the bribes you have to pay and the hoops you have to jump through to get a medication certified as safe to use.

Kentucky Packrat said...

Number One Son was taking Colchicine to combat the symptoms of Familial Mediterranean Fever. A company did one study to "prove" a 2000 year old medicine was safe, and that $4 bottle of medicine went to $500. We purchased the same medicine for $50 from Canada. We're lucky that No. 1 Son outgrew the FMF.

It's decisions like this that make me think people need to be hanging from street lamps in Washington and NYC....

Unknown said...

I had a law professor in grad school who made a point of saying, "The law is the floor, ethical behavior is the cieling. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right."

Bill said...

I'm a cop, and I have always known that the bad guys can lie to me. Everyone lies to me - that is my assumption - except for two things that I can think of. You can't lie to me about a motor vehicle accident that I am investigating, and you can't lie to me and lead me to believe that SOMEONE ELSE has committed a crime. You can lie and say it wasn't you, but you can't say "He did it" while pointing to an innocent party.

I have always been suspect of the Federal Laws regarding lying to a Federal Agent.

I wonder if those laws have been challenged at the Supreme Court?

Anonymous said...

Age doesn't make a medicine safe.

It is generally accepted that the Qin Shi Huangdi died fairly crazy from the mercury he was using medicinally.

The current theory is that if you have a lot of statistical data on toxicity and efficacy, you can make an educated judgement about how safe a drug is. Then you compare both to other drugs that treat the illness, and the dangers of the illness.

Problem is that a whole lot of statistical data is needed, because people are complicated, people are diverse, and we are really ignorant compared to the scope of the problem.

Furthermore, because we know so little, we make potential drugs that suck up a lot of testing money for every one that makes it across the finish line. So a drug company has to make a lot of mildly poisonous substances that don't quite pass muster for every one the FDA will let them call a drug. These failed attempts suck up quite a lot of money, and so the economics of drug discovery are terrible.

Governments of third world and other countries intervened, and wouldn't let the drug companies charge enough to recover their investment in those markets.

US drug prices are driven by the need to essentially fund drug discovery from a single market. The US is subsidizing the world. The US government doesn't go ahead and outright do what the other countries have done, because they want the drug companies to cooperate. If there is no incentive to work with the FDA, maybe drug discovery returns to the old way it was done, before the Pure Food and Drug Act made it illegal.

Maybe we should be investing less in drug discovery. Maybe if we first stopped the socialists from mucking up the economy, we'd generate enough wealth that the costs would be more reasonable. Maybe we shouldn't try to go to Mars until we've shut the left up, and stopped their whining about poverty. :)

It'd be easier to switch to a mystical bullshit theory of medicine. A bullet in the neck is a sovereign remedy. Being an effin hippy is a debilitating psychiatric condition, that needs treatment for the safety of others. XD

bob the fool

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Reasons Why "The Law Is An Ass"?
Insensitive. Unaccommodating. Inflexible. Unrealistic. Myopic.

JK Brown said...

Well, to really mess up the paradigm, there is law and there are statutes. Of course, now we regulation, etc. All designed to undermine the individual liberties, but hey, it's all very Medieval.

How many of us have ever formulated in our minds what law means? I am inclined to think that the most would give a meaning that was never the meaning of the word law, at least until a very few years ago; that is, the meaning which alone is the subject of this book, statute law. The notion of law as a statute, a thing passed by a legislature, a thing enacted, made new by representative assembly, is perfectly modem, and yet it has so thoroughly taken possession of our minds, and particularly of the American mind (owing to the forty-eight legislatures that we have at work, besides the National Congress, every year, and to the fact that they try to do a great deal to deserve their pay in the way of enacting laws), that statutes have assumed in our minds the main bulk of the concept of law as we formulate it to ourselves. I guess that the ordinary newspaper reader, when he talks about ‘laws" or reads about "law," thinks of statutes; but that is a perfectly modem concept; and the thing itself, even as we now understand it, is perfectly modem. There were no statutes within the present meaning of the word more than a very few centuries ago

Popular Law-making: A Study of the Origin, History, and Present Tendencies of Law-making by Statute
by Frederic Jesup Stimson (1910)

So we find ourselves in this situation

But no one, I think, has ever called attention to the enormous differences in living, in business, in political temper between the days (which practically lasted until the last century) when a citizen, a merchant, an employer of labor, or a laboring man, still more a corporation or association and lastly, a man even in his most intimate relations, the husband and the father, well knew the law as familiar law, a law with which he had grown up, and to which he had adapted his life, his marriage, the education of his children, his business career and his entrance into public life -- and these days of to-day, when all those doing business under a corporate firm primarily, but also those doing business at all; all owners of property, all employers of labor, all bankers or manufacturers or consumers; all citizens, in their gravest and their least actions, also must look into their newspapers every morning to make sure that the whole law of life has not been changed for them by a statute passed overnight; when not only no lawyer may maintain an office without the most recent day-by-day bulletins on legislation, but may not advise on the simplest proposition of marriage or divorce, of a wife's share in a husband's property, of her freedom of contract, without sending not only to his own State legislature, but for the most recent statute of any other State which may have a bearing on the situation.

Anonymous said...

Very good discussion going on here - thank you for beginning it. Your third point of religious discrimination is so true. The Kentucky clerk who has been accused of not doing her job is no less legal than the law enforcement officers who do not detain ILLEGAL aliens when caught. And when those officers tell their subordinates to not arrest as well, how is that any different from the Kentucky clerk instructing her employees of doing the same.

Nate Winchester said...

Yeah, there is a saying in software, manufactoring, etc... that goes: "Quality Product, Fast Delivery, Cheap Price - Pick 2."

In more than one way, drugs are in the same boat. People want Effective, Safe and Cheap - pick 2.

As for the rest, anyone here (even the blog lord) read "3 felonies a day"? It's a book I've always wanted to but curious as to some people's opinion on it. If it's accurate, and a person can't hardly live (much less operate a business) without breaking the law, then that's a legal set up that just ain't right.

Scott H said...

The reason that the drugs are so cheap in India is that the Indian government has allowed local companies to violate the patents on the drugs, so they can be bought for the cost of production rather than the cost of production plus the cost of R&D both for the drug and drugs that did not pan out. Canada does the same thing.

As the foreign bought drugs are effectively stolen from the US developers, it is perfectly right to forbid their importation or re-importation here, just as you are not permitted to buy an illegally copied DVD abroad and bring it back here.

Anonymous said...

Unknown's explanation fits my memory.

The FDA also regulates manufacture, and they obviously cannot do that where they have no jurisdiction.

The inert filler in the pill can have huge effects on the active ingredient's bio-availability. This means that the same chemical can have hugely different medical effects.

Then there is stuff like stereoisomers. Whenever you have four different groups hanging off a carbon, there are two different configurations they can have. The standard way of telling them apart is which direction they rotate in polarized light. These can have very different chemical properties. Unless you do something special with the synthesis, you get an even mixture of both. They can be very hard and difficult to separate. It is not unusual for one or more of the stereoisomers of a drug to be seriously toxic.

bob the fool

Anonymous said...

Preacherman, if companies can't patent their drugs, so they can sell it for a profit, no one will invent new drugs and thousands of people will die!

Other countries use price controls, which cripple drug development.