Tituba Shrugged

|

Salem, Massachusetts has learned plenty over the last few centuries. The city used to burn witches. Now it regulates them.

The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance last night to license palm readers and fortunetellers who have been in Salem for at least a year, pass a criminal background check, and submit a résumé showing at least five years of experience.

The witches have a posse, and—dramatic twist!—it's in league with the state.

[A] group calling itself the Witches' Public Awareness League, made up of several locals who have for years offered psychic readings for a fee, said the proposal isn't enough to stop interlopers who show up during the busy Halloween season and steal their business.

The league wants to limit the number of palm readers allowed at psychic fairs popular around Halloween. It also seeks to require that each purveyor of psychic services pay a fee of $25 per day during fairs.

Laurie Stathopoulos, a card reader for more than two decades, said that many depend on Halloween profits to get through the year.

"To put 40 psychics in the same street is outrageous," Stathopoulos said before the meeting. "We hold people's lives in the palm of our hand sometimes."

Little-known but true: hexes now come in the form of traumatic one-liners.

(Thanks to reader Dan Pawson.)

NEXT: A Series of YouTubes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m sure they saw it coming.

  2. How can you get 5 years’ experience at something that’s fake?

    I’ve been lying to people about stupid shit my whole life. Isn’t that experience enough?

  3. If I lived in Salem, I’d punch Laurie Stathopoulos in the taint.

  4. I smell the influence of evil Willow (when she was the Big Bad).

  5. Mark my words. In five years time these people will be accepting Medicaid payments.

  6. It’s the mixed economy: they’re just trying to strike the right balance. After all, show me a jolly fortune teller and I’ll show you a happy medium.

  7. I’m guessing this thread will easily surpass 100 comments – after all, for this crowd regulations are worse than burnings.

  8. I’m going to beat Thoreau to the punch:

    PLEASE don’t feed that troll.

  9. Um, I don’t think females HAVE taints…

  10. Well, when you pay $40 to have someone read your palm, you don’t want to get taken advantage of by some charlatan.

  11. Hecate Hunched?

  12. Well, Dan, even if you believe that it’s possible to craft sensible regulations that protect the health and safety of the populace, and to protect them from fraud – but if you do, the regulation to write is banning this shit outright.

    The idea that there’s such a thing as “experience” among fraudulent bullshit artists is offensive. The idea that the town can sensibly regulate between a good actor and a bad actor when the subject itself is fraud is offensive.

  13. Perhaps they can test the fortune tellers with a stringent licensing board made of angry skeptics?

  14. Um, I don’t think females HAVE taints…

    Adam,

    Wow. I can’t even figure out what direction to take any response I might give to that. Seek medical attention immediately.

  15. joe wins the thread!

  16. Salem obviously needs to build a WALL!

    Just say no to cut-rate foreign soothsayers! If the government of Connecticut wasn’t so corrupt, those inferior Torrington palm readers could make a decent living in their own back yard.

  17. This is just stupid. Mind reading and the sixth sense is something people are BORN with. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have doing it, If you can see the future you can see the future. Seeing the future for 5 years is no better than being able to see the future for one month.

    I decry the illogic of this government act.

  18. Adam W.

    When Geo. Carlin invented the taint back in the ’70s, he used the female anatomy to describe it. IIRC, it was on the “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” album.

  19. i always thought the feminine form of “taint” in english was “choad” but urbandictionary tells me i’m wrong. but on the other hand, they carry a lot of ads for stupid t-shirts, so

    also there’s a hilarious tangent to be made about the worst thing on earth is regulations concerning burnings and auto-da-fe proceedings and how this could only happen en masse when the would-be burners got in touch with the government regulators and all that but we’ve all been there. even t. nads.

  20. Psychic hotlines, palm readers, pagans, witches and warlocks, UFOs, alien abductions, conspiracy theory abounding all witness the foolishness of the ignoranct fringe of society. They are probably the lottery players. Well, after probably offending many of you, I will admit that anything I’ve said will be negated by simply rubbing salt in your hands and blowing it away with thoughts of my words blowing away. (that’ll be two dollars)

  21. This is nothing short of a War on Halloween?.

  22. Well, Dan, even if you believe that it’s possible to craft sensible regulations that protect the health and safety of the populace, and to protect them from fraud – but if you do, the regulation to write is banning this shit outright.

    The idea that there’s such a thing as “experience” among fraudulent bullshit artists is offensive. The idea that the town can sensibly regulate between a good actor and a bad actor when the subject itself is fraud is offensive.

    Well, I’d agree with you except you’re begging the question when you simply assume that palm reading and similar techniques are bullshit by their very nature.

    They may be, but the fact that a market exists for such services does indicate that some consumers feel that they are worthwhile.

    And if I’m the kind of person who does feel that way (I’m not, BTW), I can see the logic of wanting to know if a palm reader I’m about to pay is someone who actually practices the craft or is just someone who has shown up in town to take my money.

  23. BTW (and this is true!), my son is double majoring in philosophy and astronomy. When asked what he’s going to do after graduation he says he plans to be an astrologer.

  24. D.A.R.

    awesome!

    he should minor as a macroeconomist, and he’ll have the entire spectrum 🙂

    Actually, you really need to have health regulations, because Madame Sosostris gave scores of clients her bad cold…

  25. I can see the logic of wanting to know if a palm reader I’m about to pay is someone who actually practices the craft or is just someone who has shown up in town to take my money.

    Ok, we need Urkobold.

  26. To whom it may concern:

    “if a palm reader I’m about to pay is someone who actually practices the craft or is just someone who has shown up in town to take my money.”

    If you can show me the difference between the person described before the “or” and the one behind the “or”, then I may conceed that regulations are in order.

    CB

  27. “Well, I’d agree with you except you’re begging the question when you simply assume that palm reading and similar techniques are bullshit by their very nature.”

    In other licensed professions [not that I support professional licensing, but we have to talk about them to draw the necessary distinction here], there is at least a plausible way to test for competence, and therefore justify granting some persons a license.

    The bar exam, the Series 7 exam, hell even the certification process for hairdressers, all involve a potential licensee successfully demonstrating knowledge of the field, capacity to perform the tasks required for the field, etc. There is no test that can be devised for fortune tellers that could do the same. If a test was devised to determine if someone was “really” a fortuneteller, all potential applicants would fail it.

    It’s not necessary to assume anything about fortunetelling. If we take a neutral posture and allow anyone who can prove that they can accurately tell fortunes to obtain a license, we haven’t begged the question on anything. We’ve just let the chips fall where they may.

    It’s possible that applicants would reply that “accurate” fortune telling isn’t really what they provide, but rather “entertaining” fortune telling. But if that’s the case then there’s no point in licensing the activity, since one person can provide entertaining fortune telling just as well as the next person.

    And your argument in favor of the experience requirement seems a bit silly to me. What difference would it make if the fortuneteller is a Salem resident or has driven into town for the day from New York? And the experience requirement also constitutes, in effect, a statement by the state that experience makes you a “better” fortuneteller. On what basis could it make such a representation?

  28. Why do I imagine that James Randi is yelling at his computer monitor as he reads this story?

  29. There is no test that can be devised for fortune tellers that could do the same. If a test was devised to determine if someone was “really” a fortuneteller, all potential applicants would fail it.

    But now you’re assuming again – maybe some people do have the ability to predict future events more accurately than the average person and perhaps there is a test that could be created that would distingush the difference.

    I’ll give you this, however. If the mystics of Salem want their government to license their profession, then they do need to come up with some objective way to determine who qualifies and who doesn’t.

    As for the experience factor, I don’t think it’s silly to at least give some credience to the notion that if the ability to palm-read does exist, that one might be able to improve and refine their skills with practice.


  30. Ok, we need Urkobold.

    ?
    ? ?special Urkobold? Symbol (notice the taint)

    Like the Bat Symbol, only cooler…

  31. Not that this is all that important, but, for the record, they never burned any witches in Salem, they just hung ’em. The Euros were big into the burning thing…

  32. Yep, joe wins the thread.

    And, to Dan T.:

    I said I’d try to cut you some slack, and assume that you weren’t just here to push our buttons. But then you showed up in a palm reading thread, of all things, to argue in favor of regulations?

    There are some instances where you can ask hard questions about the libertarian stance on regulations. Cases involving limited information, minimal transparency, inefficient markets, whatever. joe sometimes does an excellent job of identifying the hard questions and asking them. But this is not a case of hard questions. And if you simply show up to every regulation-related thread and mock us for being reflexively anti-regulation, you will never find the hard questions, because you’ll be too busy building and demolishing strawmen.

    If you don’t want me to regard you as a troll, you need to do more than say “Oh, you guys just hate regulations.” Find cases where maybe markets (arguably) don’t perform as our assumptions would suggest. Find cases where the questions of consent and information are difficult. Find cases where property rights aren’t well defined. Something.

    Don’t just show up to every frickin’ regulation-related thread and chastise us. It gets repetitive, and that jerking knee will prevent you from identifying harder questions.

    And, for God’s sake, at the very least don’t turn yourself into a strawman by defending palm reader regulations! Have some self-respect, man!

  33. Does Dan T. really exist, or is a fictitious creation of Reason’s editors, designed to automatically take a position directly opposite that of most Hit and Run readers, and thus provoke more comments from people who simply can’t refrain from feeding the trolls? I’ve never heard of anyone in real life holding the strange assortment of views that he has professed here, so I have to conclude that my explanation is the one that best accounts for the observed phenomena.

    Oh, yeah, and BTW, they never burned witches in Salem; they hanged them. Burning was the punishment in civil law countries, such as Scotland, not common law countries like England and its colonies.

  34. Listen guys, it’s pretty obvious that I, in fact, can and will argue damn near any position. If this thread doesn’t prove it, nothing will.

    I figure it’s all in good fun – you can either ignore me or engage me in a battle of wits or whatever. The whole point of taking politics is to debate ideas – that’s how we sort out the good ones from the bad ones.

    But what I don’t get is why I bother you so much. It’s not as though I’m uncivil or make personal insults or what not (in fact, I generally ignore the many that come my way). I thought libertarians were hardy, self-reliant types but many of you are seriously in need of an extra layer of skin if the mere presense of an opposing argument is enough to ruin your day.

  35. Thoreau,

    If you are truly dealing with a troll, nothing delights him more than you going on an extended rant about how this thread PROVES he’s a troll. That is the nature of trolls, as any Ibsen fan knows.

  36. Dan, there’s nothing wrong with exploring a contrary view as an intellectual exercise, and debating it to further that exercise. However, when you take your stances reflexively rather than thoughtfully you never get to anything interesting.

    And it bothers us because trolls have a way of sucking oxygen out of the room. It kills off what could have otherwise been an interesting debate.

  37. jimmydageek is the visually creative member of the Urkobold crew – did y’all ever notice that?

    How’s the t-shirt designs coming along, jimmy?

  38. Discourse-

    Agreed, but last week I said I’d cut him some slack after he promised to improve. Having made my promise, I feel that I should explain why I see the deal as broken. Not so much for his sake (he’s no doubt having fun with this attention) but rather as a matter of principle, and to avoid seeming capricious.

    Anyway, I think I’ve explained myself. Dan T. had his chance, he reverted to form, I’ve laid out why, and now it’s back to ignoring.

  39. Listen guys, it’s pretty obvious that I, in fact, can and will argue damn near any position.

    I’ve yet to see you really argue any point Dan. You mainly throw bombs and mock libertarian positions in some weird attempt to engage someone.

    If you want to argue some other position, then actually posit that position and justify it.

  40. Yep, joe wins the thread.

    I agree, although I’m going to pretend I came in place or show.

    Seamus:

    Various theories exist regarding the fabled Dan T., his (her or its) origin and essential nature. Some think he’s Cavanaugh taunting his old place of employment from afar. Others believe Dan T., like John the Baptist, is merely part of the cosmic scheme sent to earth to prepare for the coming of URKOBOLD. Still others think he may be a deep cover mole from a conservative blog notorious for not permitting reader comments, but that’s largely considered a Corner Solution to the question.

    Whatever the answer, we know that he will always “be all around in the dark – [he’ll] be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, [he’ll] be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, [he’ll] be there. [he’ll] be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. [he’ll] be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – [he’ll] be there, too.”

    I’m sure we all take great comfort in that.

  41. highnumber…

    t-shirt design is almost complete…really just have to add text below the picture and put it on cafepress…

    however, i am a little inspired to make an addition to the design…incorporating a baby pacifier…

    soon, hopefully 🙂 (if the fiance quits bugging me so much) lol…

  42. Astrologers = Evil douchebags who prey on and take money from stupid people and control their actions through lies.

    City officials = Evil douchebags who prey on and take money from stupid people and control their actions through force.

    City licensed astrologer = Even more evil douchebags who take money from stupid people and share with city officials.

    Solution: Set fire to entire city. (It’s the only way to be sure we get them all.)

  43. man, t. nads is starting to get emo again. that’s not cool.

    one cannot troll too long, because then one becomes the troll, and the troll is thee, and thee is thou and that leads to all sorts of bad renaissance faire jokes. don’t get me wrong, bodices and beer sound like a real nice combination but (t)ain’t my scene.

  44. If you want to argue some other position, then actually posit that position and justify it.

    Well, in this thread I’ve made a case for why the request for palm readers to be regulated in a particular town isn’t unreasonable.

    Not a great case, I admit, but the subject matter doesn’t exactly give me a whole lot to work with. But I like the challenge, and it’s not as though I’ve ruined some serious debate on this thread as therou has accussed me of.

    It’s true that sometimes I just like to make fun of the more extreme elements of libertarianism, but it’s usually tongue-in-cheek you must admit, and sarcasm seems to be welcomed in this forum. Certainly nothing I’ve said about libertarians contains anywhere near the vitriol that commenters regularly offer towards the government or people who are in favor of using government to improve society.

  45. I have to say, once again, that the standard around here for what constitutes “trolling” is really, really low.

    If I adopted my “Aintitcoolnews.com” persona and showed you some real trolling, I think it would be IP ban time and that right quick.

    Dan and Joe, if trolls, are the most mild-mannered trolls I’ve ever come across. Sure, Joe can get Jennifer all hot and bothered, but I’m sure there’s some kind of junior high school romance budding in all of that, so we shouldn’t get out of sorts about it.

    I personally think both of them are necessary to H&R if only as foils. It would get very boring if everyone agreed all of the time.

  46. dhex,

    What are you on today? And can I have some?

  47. Fluffy,

    joe is not a troll. He seems to have positions that differ from a lot of folks here. I do too, and I’d like to think that I argue them from conviction rather than assholery. Dan T., OTOH, pretty much defined trolldom up there by admitting he doesn’t believe half the shit he argues.

  48. Fluffy,

    You’re right. They aren’t really trolls. Dan T. is just a lazy contrarian and anyone who calls joe a troll cannot be taken seriously.

  49. Dan T., OTOH, pretty much defined trolldom up there by admitting he doesn’t believe half the shit he argues.

    Oh, the horror. My cruelty knows no end.

  50. “What are you on today? And can I have some?”

    three hours of sleep because some enterprising young man thought he could drive through the garbage truck making pickups last night at two in the morning.

    besides, i’d never waste drugs on work. though i imagine that ambien and graphic design go well together.

  51. Not a great case, I admit, but the subject matter doesn’t exactly give me a whole lot to work with.

    That’s because it’s the same case you make every time. It’s like you have some kind of mad libs script and you just fill in the blanks with different words. There are some entertaiing trolls out there, but they’re not predictable and boring like you.

  52. As for the origins of trolldom, itself, here (or, as the deutsche Herren in these parts like to say, hier) is some pre-internet proto-trolling, professional division.

  53. What is it with you libertarians anyway? So the city wants to make sure that people don’t get fleeced by some fly-by-night con artists. Is that really a reason to go overreacting to more “government intervention”?

    Christ, take a pill.

  54. SOMEONE OBVIOUSLY FORGOT TO PICK UP CLEAN TROUSERS AT THE CLEANERZ….

  55. To try to get to a more serious point:

    Let’s say that psychics, fortune tellers, etc. start getting Official Approval as people who offer Quality Work. Are they assuming any liability here? If the law is going to distinguish between qualified and unqualified psychics, will the law then distinguish between psychics who performed their job well and those who didn’t? Can somebody sue a fortune teller whose predictions turn out to be false? Or whose advice has bad consequences?

  56. Oh, the horror. My cruelty knows no end.

    Actually, it’s good that you admitted to being a troll cuz now I can ignore you from now on, and not take a single thing you say seriously. I don’t care if you’re practicing for debating class or to be a politician–if you don’t argue with conviction, anything you say is worthless. I will join the growing chorus of people who are tired of your trolling, you’ll get less and less attention, and eventually you’ll seek it somewhere else. Everyone wins.

  57. NEENER NEENER. THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

  58. So when do the RLUIPA suits start on this one?

    The people on here who call tarot fraud are entitled to their opinion, but I’ve learned that that there is far, far more to the life experience than what we expereince in the four physical dimensions. And none of that is on point to the issue anyway.

    The problem here is that Salem is trying to regulate free speech and free contracts, and the only reason is that the locals don’t like the outside competition at Samhain. Usually those who follow the Rede are libertarian and don’t even realize it since the Rede and the LP Pledge are extremely similar–both refute the use of force on others while acknowledging free action and belief. I think in this case the WPA needs to remember that licensure is the first step towards forfeiture and incarceration–in other words, another Burning Times. They have become part of what they abhor. They would deny the freedom thay have long sought and appreciated to others who also seek it, which is ironic considering the local infamous history. WPA needs to revisit the past and remember that they too were once the outsiders.

  59. I believe that Seamus is correct. I’ve had the same thoughts before, about Dan T. being something created by the Reason Blog Master.

    At first, I thought the same thing about joe. But then I realized… I’ve never seen a posting with joe in it, at the same time as a posting with… wait for it… Al Gore in it. I’ve decided… joe IS Al Gore.

    I mean come on. joe admits that he used to ‘work in government’, but doesn’t any more. And who beside Gore himself could have such unadulterated adulation for Gore? And who beside Al has enough time on his hands (or paid staff) to spend as much time as “joe” does, responding to H&R bloggers? And who, besides Al, has such utter contempt for EVERYONE who doesn’t agree with him. Who, resides Al, is consistently so socialistic (Joscialistic?) in his beliefs?

    Face it… joe is Al Gore. or Al Gore is joe. Same thing.

    CB

  60. if you don’t argue with conviction, anything you say is worthless

    Logically, that is incorrect – the truth or value of a statement does not depend on the state of mind of the person who offers it.

    Besides, if we all adhered to that philosophy, wouldn’t most of the H&R threads go uncommented upon? Do any of us really care that much about the possibility of palm-reader regulations in Salem, Mass?

  61. Well I with you to agree, excluded you the question ask, if you assume simply that palm measured value and similar techniques bulletin hit are by its nature. They can be, but the fact that a market exists for such services, indicates that some consumers believe that they are worthwhile. And if I the kind of the person, who believes in such a way (me are not, BTW), I can see the logic of the Wunschs, be known am, if palm a reader, who I am, in order to pay, someone am, which really practices the talent or someone is fair, which above showed my money in the city for taking.

  62. I went to that fortune teller in Kakariko Village last night and she told me there was a magic bottle somewhere near Zora’s Waterfall. So I went over there and, nothing! I am so suing.

  63. The problem here is that Salem is trying to regulate free speech and free contracts, and the only reason is that the locals don’t like the outside competition at Samhain.

    First, I don’t think there is any regulation of free speech here, and regulation of contracts and commerece is a valid purpose of government.

    Basically, it really does come down to whether or not palm reading and other forms of mysticism are legitimate services or just “entertainment”. If they are legitimate services (and I don’t think they are but am open to the possibility), then as a consumer I am benefitted from the fact that a licensing system will give me some assurance that the mystic I’m patronizing is actually able to provide the service that they are promising.

  64. Ah, the Dan T. dilemma . . . I think it is wonderful that we are sydicating this dilemma. Views such as his are welcome, as they force our brains to contort and manuever in unexpected and ultimately very healthy ways . . . it is akin to exercising long dormant muscles. The initial pain that is felt is no doubt very unpleasant, but in the long-term, the movement and strengthening of these mucles is good for the entire body, brain, etc.
    It is rather obvious that he is not a creation of the HitandRun mad scientists, but a rather self-deliberate foil to the generally held assumptions of core libertarians. Dan T, I applaud your frequent assaults on reason and I encourage you to continue! It is good for us!

  65. I think you mean “Dan T, I applaud your frequent assaults on Reason…”

  66. Palm reading is regulated in Dan T.’s hometown, but that’s only because of the required, pre-reading shave.

  67. I will continue to run a shadow-government under the slogan “DA Ridgely wins the thread.”

  68. Mr T . . . nah, I meant reason, with a small “r”.

  69. I’ve been lurking here for a coupla’ years and also have noticed the exagerated, knee-jerk responses to Dan T’s posts. There are others who post stuff just as inflamatory who are merely ignored, but let Dan T post something and its like a race to see who can reply with the snarkiest slam first. It seems to make no difference if his post has validity or not, he will be slammed soon and hard.

    Oh, and whoever makes the rules to the Reason drinking game — may I humbly suggest a drink is mandated whenever someone opens a post with “I can’t believe I’m siding with Dan T on this, but…”, or “I usually don’t agree with Dan T on anything, but…”, or some other such similar statement. People occasionally do agree with him, but I can’t recall anyone ever doing so without prefacing their remarks thusly.

  70. No now the free will disputant? So as for the city we would like to verify that the irresponsible artist of some person where the people cut the sheep is not obtained. As for that exaggerating, many “government inclusions” not to lie it is the reason which goes?

    Christ’s acquisition pill.

  71. Regulating palm-readers? No . . . that’s not a good idea. It’s simply meddlesome and a tired attempt to insinuate government into another corner of our already cramped existence. Now unicorns and fairies . . . that’s another matter.

  72. They license chiropractors, right? Is this any crazier?

  73. I went to that fortune teller in Kakariko Village last night and she told me there was a magic bottle somewhere near Zora’s Waterfall. So I went over there and, nothing! I am so suing.

    Did you have the ladder equipped? If not, your case may be groundless.

  74. highnumber . . . the answer is yes. Chiropractors can break your back. Palm-readers will break your wallet and little else.

  75. To the point about licensing of witches (er, palm readers) and the contention that you can’t evaluate what they say, my rejoinder is my two predictions:
    1. you will die
    2. you will pay taxes

    please mail me my palm reading license. Personalized e-mail readings are 50$ a word.

  76. Spook,
    I don’t buy that difference. Faith healers could cause you bodily harm, too.

  77. I don’t buy that difference. Faith healers could cause you bodily harm, too.

    Faith healers cause harm by omission: you need to have certain medical work done, but instead you just sit on your ass and pray. Chiropractors can cause harm by action: your back was fine until the chiropractor broke it.

  78. Sorry, by faith healers, I meant all practitioners of alternative medicine who are not currently required to be licensed. Some of them do stuff to people beyond prayer. Not helpful stuff, mind you, but they do touch you.

    VM, go to your bunk.

  79. My parents were friends with a “faith healer” back in the day. I was 13 and broke my leg during a basketball game on Christmas day. I told them my leg was broken…the faith healer friend, who was hanging out with them (among others – at relatives’ place) for xmas celebrations, said it only appeared to be dislocated. He (faith healer) proceeded to sit me down, rub Bengay on my leg, and try to pop the bone back into place. Agony ensued (for over an hour it seems). My parents took me home, and I fell asleep (from shock I think). Next day, leg swollen to the size of an elephant’s leg…go to hospital…sure enough, broken.

    So, long story short, fucking faith healers sure as hell can hurt you!!

    Is there a time limitation on filing suit for something like this?? Just thinking about the pain still makes me wanna cry 🙁

  80. Gee, when last I checked libertarians were supposed to believe that on of the few instances where government interference is justifiable is to prevent the “initiation of force or fraud.”

    Despite the fact that such abilities do not exist; palm readers, faith healers, mediums, tarot readers, so-called psychics, and other professional con-artists are NOT frauds? It’s perfectly kosher for rat fuck bastards like John Edward and Sylvia Browne are allowed to bilk fortunes out of the gullible and desperate to preserve some absolutist notion of free enterprise?

    There are moments where I fear that the statists might be right about the amoral nature of libertarianism. This is one of them.

  81. EDIT: …John Edward and Sylvia Browne to bilk…

  82. Also let me rephrase my last sentence:

    There are moments where I fear that statists might be right that libertarianism is an amoral philosophy. This is one of them.

  83. Akira-

    If they were treating fortune tellers as frauds you’d have a point. Instead they’re giving licenses to restrict competition. It’s about protecting favored frauds from competition, rather than protecting consumers from fraud.

    Besides, IMHO fraud should only be illegal in cases where a reasonable person ought to know better. Secretly rolling back the odometer is less transparent than claiming you can read the stars.

    Maybe there’s no difference in principle, but in practice one seems to be more dangerous than the other. And a certain amount of caveat emptor seems reasonable here.

    Now, if they start getting licensed, and bragging about how they are Official Certified Real Fortune Tellers, it will be interesting to see what happens if somebody sues for malpractice.

  84. If they were treating fortune tellers as frauds you’d have a point. Instead they’re giving licenses to restrict competition. It’s about protecting favored frauds from competition, rather than protecting consumers from fraud.

    But once again this begs the question. You can’t assume all mystical types are frauds just because some are.

  85. Rhywun — It’s in the fishing hole, talk to the ducks in that area. 🙂

  86. A libertarian solution…. once a fortuneteller has successfully predicted a non-trivial future event, then the government should grant them a license. Until a fortuneteller has a license, the government should prevent them from practicing.

    Problem solved.

    CB

  87. Well, it doesn’t look quite like we’re going to hit 100 comments but I wasn’t off by much!

  88. Besides, IMHO fraud should only be illegal in cases where a reasonable person ought to know better.

    But we DO know better. Science has debunked this bullshit a long time ago. Are we going to allow blatent criminal activity

  89. Whoops! Hit the wrong button! Let’s try that again.

    Besides, IMHO fraud should only be illegal in cases where a reasonable person ought to know better.

    But we DO know better. Science has debunked this bullshit a long time ago. Are we going to allow blatant criminal fraud just because a large portion of the population is still stupid enough to believe it?

    I refuse to believe that justice should be decided by the lowest common denominator.

  90. A libertarian solution…. once a fortuneteller has successfully predicted a non-trivial future event, then the government should grant them a license. Until a fortuneteller has a license, the government should prevent them from practicing.

    Forget licensing, if these slime-balls can show that they have any power what so ever under proper testing conditions they could get so much more.

  91. Wha? Why didn’t my link work?

    http://www.randi.org/research/index.html

  92. But we DO know better. Science has debunked this bullshit a long time ago. Are we going to allow blatant criminal fraud just because a large portion of the population is still stupid enough to believe it?

    Hmm…so suddenly the free market is not good enough and people are suddenly not smart enough to know when a service they purchase is benefiting them?

  93. You can’t assume all mystical types are frauds just because some are.

    Yes, we can, because there is nothing “mystical.” No Gods, no spirits, no fairies, no ghost, no souls, no psychics; nothing but the reality of a materialist universe.

    Deal with it.

  94. Akira-

    Thanks for spotting my typo. IMHO, fraud should only be illegal in cases where a reasonable person wouldn’t know better. I apologize for the mistake.

    Since any reasonable person ought to know that this is BS, the presumption should be that people paying fortune tellers are paying for entertainment.

    Besides, the issue of fraud is not the one that Salem is addressing. Rather, they’re addressing the issue of competition. They want to protect established charlatans from competition, rather than protect consumers from fraud.

  95. Since any reasonable person ought to know that this is BS, the presumption should be that people paying fortune tellers are paying for entertainment.

    But that’s the problem, the fortune tellers (or psychics, or mediums) DON’T pass this off as entertainment and the superstitious buffoons that go to them think they are getting something real.

    Besides, the issue of fraud is not the one that Salem is addressing. Rather, they’re addressing the issue of competition. They want to protect established charlatans from competition, rather than protect consumers from fraud.

    I take your point, T. This IS a case of one group of charlatans trying to get a monopoly over another group of con-artists.

    It still doesn’t change the fact that they are con-artists and should ALL be rotting in a jail cell.

  96. Akira-

    If the fraud is transparent, and only the willfully gullible would ignore ample information and fall for it, then wouldn’t incarceration of “psychics” be about protecting adults from themselves?

    If somebody puts false or misleading label on a product, and I have no easy means of seeing through the deception, then prosecuting the person who sold it to me is protecting me from him. But if I have easy access to abundant information on how something is BS, and I pay for it anyway, isn’t it the case that I’m just hurting myself? Or at least that I’m a willing accomplice in the harm done to me?

    I’m not interested in protecting adults from their own stupidity.

  97. Yes, we can, because there is nothing “mystical.” No Gods, no spirits, no fairies, no ghost, no souls, no psychics; nothing but the reality of a materialist universe.

    Actually, the “reality” of the material universe is every bit as unprovable as those other things you mention.

  98. It doesn’t actually matter if the prognosticators are legit or accurate or even coherent. THAT is a side issue. (not necessarily a pointless one, but a side issue none the less)

    As has been noted, some people WANT to spend their money in this way. It’s not our business to judge their spending. They are adults and can waste their money on tarot readers, booze, pogs, tahitian nose whistles or whatever the heck else they want to buy. It’s their money.

    For the sake of argument, let’s call it ‘entertainment’. Like stage magicians or Paris Hilton’s music album, it doesn’t have to be ‘real’ to be popular.

    Given that, is this regulation any more than thinly-veiled (hahaha) protectionism for the established few against their transient competition?

  99. Actually, the “reality” of the material universe is every bit as unprovable as those other things you mention.

    Spare me the post-modernist bullshit, Neo. You’ll find out that there really is a spoon after I shove it up your ass, fucktard.

  100. I’m not interested in protecting adults from their own stupidity.

    Even when that stupidity threatens civilization for everyone else? I don’t want to live in a world where creationism is taught in our public schools, or faith healing is offered in our hospitals. These dip-shits vote, they write their senators, and they educate their children to believe the same and will carry on the tradition of credulous non-thought.

    We’ve fought our way out of the fucking Dark Ages. I have no intention of allowing anyone to drag us back!

  101. Particularly bothersome is that grandfather clause. Does any new licensee have to get those 5 years of experience in another town? Or are they allowed to count 5 years of working in town for free?

  102. Spare me the post-modernist bullshit, Neo. You’ll find out that there really is a spoon after I shove it up your ass, fucktard.

    Well now, I guess some of us aren’t as enlightened as we thought! But please, enjoy living in your materialist world, it probably feels safe and comfortable.

  103. Akira, the issue at hand here is fortune tellers operating on private property, not creationism in public schools.

    And while hospitals don’t generally offer faith healing, many of them do offer the services of chaplains, and yet somehow the leaches have been kept at bay in favor of modern surgical tools.

    Try to keep a sense of perspective. When you equate every single instance of supernatural belief with impending theocracy, your thought processes are operating in a manner analogous to the people who see every single Arab as a possible Mohammed Atta.

  104. Yeah, you better keep an eye on those Christian folk. Cause the moment you turn your back and stop expecting it… BAM! Spanish Inquisition!

    MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    And if you’re not careful, one of them might just come up to your children and wish them a Merry Christmas! And then your kid might ask who that Christ person was and then they’re as good as baptized!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

  105. “I think you mean ‘Dan T, I applaud your frequent assaults on Reason…'”

    Nope. reason. small “r”.

  106. There may in fact be genuine fortune tellers, people who can in fact predict the future. If so, they’ve cleaned up at the horse races or the stock market or whatnot, and are emphatically not in some booth at a podunk county fair.

    But if they want to get licensed, so what? They’re already fleecing the gullible, and to get certified by politicians who are also fleecing the gullible on a larger scale is irony writ large. Now, if they next try to use legislation to force an insurance company or whatnot to pay for their services — then it’s time to get riled up.

  107. The problem isn’t licensing fortunetellers (all fakes). It’s the question of government licensing anything.

  108. One can devise a simple test for “psychics”:

    Set up two platforms rigged trapdoors over a snake pit. [A lake of molten lava will also do.] There should be no other place to stand or hold on.

    Have the trapdoors controlled by a gieger counter near a beta emitter in such a way that one or the other trapdoor will open at random at random intervals with a statistical average period for one of them opening every fifteen seconds.

    Any psychic still alive after an hour gets his/her license. So does any psychic who accurately predicts when he/she will plunge into the pit.

    Of course, those who can levitate or control snakes would have an advantage…

  109. For the sake of argument, let’s call it ‘entertainment’. Like stage magicians or Paris Hilton’s music album, it doesn’t have to be ‘real’ to be popular.

    In places where palmistry and other fortune telling are illegal (on the kind of consumer protection grounds that some people here are citing), the “psychics” typically evade the law by providing a disclaimer in their ads saying they are offering an entertainment service only. I wonder how the government would monitor fraud in that case. (“No, I’m sorry, that session wasn’t really entertaining, so I’m going to have to issue you a citation.” Actually, come to think of it, that might work at some comedy clubs. And it would certainly put mimes out of business.)

  110. The criteria by which some here would ban fortune telling would work the same for just about any religion. And the justification for allowing religions works for allowing fortune telling.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.