I came across this very disturbing court trial involving a young woman who is accused of encouraging a young man to commit suicide, which he eventually did.
You can read Chateau Heartiste’s “Game” interpretation of their relationship here, but what I want to address is the libertarian angle of this alleged crime.
Assuming she did what she is accused of, did it violate the NAP?
Before we answer that I think we need to put aside any emotional entanglements and remind ourselves that the NAP deals with coercion or aggression. Unless she used either of these to result in the young man’s death, then it was not.
Again, we’re not examining the moral of her conduct.
If what the reports say is true, parts of her behavior violated the NAP. For one, she engaged in fraud by mounting a fundraising tournament afterwards claiming she tried to talk him out of killing himself. No one would have participated if they had known the truth.
She also allegedly lied to the police and the parents about the boy’s whereabouts while he was killing himself but while this is deplorable I’m not sure if this is a violation. The boy didn’t commit a crime so she wasn’t covering up a crime. Suicide may be regarded as a state crime but I don’t. It’s one of those rare acts where the victim consented.
However, what she is being charged with is manslaughter.
On that, it does not appear that she violated the NAP.
I’m sure this might elicit outrage from some. But we have to remember that what we find grotesque and despicable is not always a violation of someone’s rights.
However, only an autistic libertarian would leave it at that and insist on no further discussion.
Libertarianism only deals with the use of coercion and aggression. But while it doesn’t prevent people from encouraging others to commit suicide it also doesn’t prohibit social and cultural norms from reining in such behavior.
A normal healthy society would recognize that although this isn’t a crime, allowing it to go on without extreme social repercussions will lead to enormous instability and chaos.
One of the consequences would be the destruction of a person’s reputation and public image. Public shunning by the community at large is enough to cause most sane people to pause.
We also need to account for the context in which this happened.
The young man who killed himself apparently came up with the idea. She encouraged it but did not inspire it. He could have cut off communication with her and not further entertained these ideas. He could have also gone to others and sought help. He voluntarily communicated with her and ultimately listened to her without being coerced.
According to the Washington Post story, he had had other suicide attempts before.
Granted I’m not fully informed about all the facts, but if someone has tried to kill themselves repeatedly and yet can communicate on their cell phone with a girl about doing it again for an entire week without notice is suspicious at best.
In other words, there were clearly other problems that inspired this act that if properly dealt with would have neutralized this whole affair.
Blaming the girl for the boy’s actions is to argue the boy lacked the moral agency to decide for himself what to do.
Personally, while I find the girl’s behavior disgusting and evil I think it is dangerous to put her on trial for merely telling someone to do something.
At what point is a person responsible for another person’s actions?
Unless coercion and aggression is involved, the correct answer is never.
This is why it is so important to recognize libertarianism is not, nor is it intended to be, a complete moral theory. Certainly her actions need to be addressed but not politically.
Libertarianism does not specifically address how to curb such behavior. It is here we acknowledge its limitations.