Another Quick Reply to the Roanoke Argument

I know: I’m obsessing. But leftists really think they’ve hit upon a genius line of reasoning here, and they need to be told ad infinitum that they are wrong.

This time around, I’m going to use moral philosophy to refute the Roanoke argument. Alas, I can’t claim that the theme of this post is a Stephanie original; I’m actually pulling these ideas from a recent article Ismael Hernandez wrote in the Catholic Crisis Magazine. However, I’m going to try to simplify Hernandez’ argument as much as possible so that anyone can understand it.

Consider the following situation: Tom works at an auto parts store. On a typical business day, he sells a woman a bottle of antifreeze. Unfortunately, said woman has a nefarious goal in mind: She plans to poison her husband by mixing the antifreeze into his favorite jello. Days later, Tom reads in the paper that a neighbor has died unexpectedly, and the local Dr. G has found evidence of antifreeze poisoning in his kidneys. Question: Should we accuse Tom of being an accessory to murder? After all, his antifreeze was the murder weapon.

The obvious answer to that query, of course, is no. Tom had no way of knowing how his product was going to be used. Similarly, while the government does maintain the roads, the postal service, the Patent Office, the international ports, etc., it has no earthly way of knowing what each American citizen will do with those resources; therefore, we cannot hold it responsible for the remote effects of its activity. If we’re going to credit the government for a man’s prosperous business, shouldn’t we also credit the government for the Unabomber? After all, Ted Kaczynski used the postal service to kill his victims.

No — the only person responsible for the actions of Ted Kaczynski is Ted Kaczynski. It doesn’t matter which government services he used to perpetrate his crimes. In like fashion, the most morally relevant cause of a business owner’s success is the initiative and hard work of the business owner.

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