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This is a comment on Dan Ariely’s article. It became a little long and I decided to post it here.
The original article is: How to Stop Illegal Downloads
That’s a great article, but I think there might be a line missing there. If the transgression is against some obviously reasonable rule (this is my pen, it’s really not ok for you to just take it, or this is the book I wrote, it’s not ok for you to download it illegally), it’s highly likely that the transgressor knows he is wrong. Regardless of how well one can rationalize, there’s a logical limit to it. However, if the rule is arbitrarily imposed by an authoritarian instance, transgression may be self-represented as either heroic or simply justified. After all, the RULE is irrational. It is only rational to transgress it. You mentioned the case of sports doping. First: no athlete has voted on this. The rule was imposed by fat blazer-men about which most educated sports professionals at least suspect of a hidden agenda (such as pharmaceutical company allies and political interests). Second, it makes no sense for a rational individual that chemical performance aids are forbidden while equipment aids to performance, manufactured by the Olympic games sponsors, are not. After all, everybody knows equipment provides much higher performance enhancement than chemical substances. Third, any minimally smart person can deduce that the reasoning behind drug testing is logically viral and, if taken to coherent depth, would limit food, mental tools for performance enhancement and other strategies. The only “fair” competition would be between naked, univitelline twins fed the same diet all their lives. In this case, transgression is inevitable. As is the case with recreational drugs, about which there are so many intellectuals providing the arguments in favor of legalization that one doesn’t even have to go too far to find a nice and round rationalization for his/her use. My point being: dishonesty might have more to do with the transgressor’s first motivation for transgressing (whether he originally conceived himself as transgressor or hero), his first self-representation in the act of transgressing, than what comes after. BTW, I illegally downloaded my favorite powerlifting movie because there was no way to get it where I was (Brazil). As soon as I managed to buy the legal copy, I bought two: one for me, one for my best friends. Not even the retaillers (who is the author’s good friend) understood it at first. But we’re a closed community…