Guess Who's Coming as Dinner?


Columnists at FindLaw and City Journal take it as self-evident that German cannibal Armin Meiwes should go to jail, with the latter calling the case "a reductio ad absurdum of the philosophy according to which individual desire is the only thing that counts in deciding what is permissible in society."

Me, I'm not so sure. The "victim" in this case, Bernd Brandes, was willing, even enthusiastic. And as City Journal's Ted Dalrymple notes, while the desire to have someone munch on him is, shall we say, suggestive that perhaps Brandes might've been in less than optimal mental health, it would be circular to insist that this odd preference itself establishes that he must've been mad absent other, independent reasons to think he was incapable of making a rational decision. So is it so clear cut that there's a crime here? Maybe Brandes' eagerness to be Meiwes' snack is bizarre, self-destructive, and kinda gross… but then, plenty of people say the same about smoking cigarettes. The obvious riposte is, of course "but this is really, really icky." And I'm inclined to agree. But to paraphrase an old lawyers' slogan, icky cases make bad law.