Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fraud- the definition

When I talk about "fraud" I am referring to the use of lies or other forms of deception in order to facilitate an interaction when the truth would have caused one party to refuse to participate. It may not "initiate force", but it is still wrong. It is something I know I should not do to other people, and if I do I deserve to have the same done to me.

Fraud- however it is classified, it is still wrong

Fraud- however it is classified, it is still wrong

As I discussed in an earlier column, the Zero Aggression Principle doesn't cover everything that would be wrong for me to do. There is another "code" that hasn't really been put into words as far as I know, and I have no intention of trying to do so now.

This "other code" that goes along with the ZAP still follows "do unto others...", maybe it should be called the "Zero Initiated Deception Principle". I don't know what you'd call it. I can still see fraud as "initiation of economic force/coercion" pretty easily, even though I'll back off and let L. Neil Smith have the last word on the ZAP.

However you want to describe it though, I understand that fraud is not nice. It is one of those things which I realize that I should not do to other people because I don't want it done to me, and that by doing it I open myself up to justified retribution.

Now, I also think it is fine and noble to lie to someone who has initiated lies, or is credibly threatening coercion. Would I lie to protect "Jews in the attic"? Absolutely. And if that didn't work, I'd kill to protect them. Is it wrong to lie to a liar or an attacker? I don't think so. Is it wrong to cause harm to an innocent person? Obviously it is. However you slice it, fraud is an economic lie and it causes harm to innocent people.

If someone paints a passable copy of the Mona Lisa, and signs it with da Vinci's name, and then offers it for sale- caveat emptor. Da Vinci is dead and probably isn't too worried about his "Intellectual Property".

If you only want the Mona Lisa because you like the way it looks, then a copy is fine. That is why prints sell. If you buy the original Mona Lisa you are attempting to buy more than just its physical appearance, You are wanting to buy its history and its ..... aura. That may be a stupid desire, but it's your choice.

For the seller to set the price based upon the pretense that a copy is the original is to sell something that isn't really a part of the package. You are not getting everything you are paying for. In the case of the copy there is no "history" going along with the painting. Leonardo's hands did not touch the actual, physical item you hold, and if that is part of why you want it, you have been cheated. I state again: caveat emptor, but to fall for a fraud isn't wrong any more than being the victim of a mugging would be. I know that to cheat people is wrong, even if they are gullible.

Now, what kind of "action" would be justified? Restitution. And if the defrauder refuses, then shunning and public airing of the fraud would be appropriate. I wouldn't be comfortable with saying that a person who defrauds you is fair game for you to shoot in self-defense. Although, depending on the circumstances, I might not judge against him if I were the arbitrator.