Thursday, August 23, 2007

Megan on Torture

Megan McArdle's blog has a new home over at The Atlantic, and I think with the new gig comes a mandate to be more prolific, which is a good thing. She wrote yesterday about the relative strengths of different arguments for outlawing torture:
Which is why many people, I assume Matt included, make what we could call the "weak case" against torture, which is that it generally isn't that effective. But I don't think that this is a very good argument to deploy if your goal is, as mine is, a legal ban on torture by the US government. The weak case doesn't prove we shouldn't use torture; it just proves that we should limit it to cases, such as the above hypothetical, where there is a reasonable likelihood that it will be effective. I doubt the rules for doing so would be as complicated as, say, the New York City building code.

The other problem with the weak case is that torture can theoretically be made more effective. ... If you cannot make the case against legal torture without resorting to efficacy arguments, what the hell do you do if it becomes pretty damn effective?

My position is that even if it is 100% effective -- in the sense of producing only true information -- we should ban it. I don't trust anyone, not myself and certainly not the state, with the power implied by sanctioned torture. I don't want to live in a state that tortures people. And I don't think you need an efficacy argument to make that case.


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