Let me see if I can make you angry.
Michael Vick is an innocent man who is being persecuted by an unjust government.
...the NFL star agreed Monday to "accept full responsibility" for his role in a dogfighting ring and plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges.
The maximum term is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely would call for less. Defense attorneys would not divulge details of the plea agreement or how much time Vick can expect to serve.
However, a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms are not final, told The Associated Press that prosecutors will recommend a sentence of a year to 18 months.
The sport of dogfighting is disgusting, sick, immoral and even evil. To want to watch dogs rip each other to shreds is sadistic; it might be a sign of psychological problems. Certainly it is a sign of inferior imagination and sympathy to the suffering of man's best friend.
It reminds me of the spectacle of bearbaiting, which was popular in Shakespeare's day: dogs were loosed to attack a chained bear. In Merry Wives of Windsor Shakespeare has a moron speak with fascination about bearbaiting. Although both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I loved the sport, it is clear that Shakespeare was not a fan.
Michael Vick is like pornographers, drug dealers, flag burners, prostitutes, Leona Helmsly and Michael Milken: he is among the least defensible, most loathed people in America, whom the government feels confident to persecute even though they have done nothing that would be against the law in a truly free country.
The NFL has every right to ban Vick from the game for life for his participation in dogfighting. However, dogfighting should not be a crime. Animals have no rights, only humans have rights. To give animals rights means to violate human rights. If animals have rights, then one could argue that eating a hamburger and wearing leather shoes are crimes.
Let's take it to the absurd extreme. If animals have rights, then one could argue that any assertion of human will over an animal is a crime. No one asked my cats if they wanted to live with me. I asserted my will over them, bought them and took them home in a little cage as if they were, well, animals.
Animals do not have rights because they do not have the faculty of reason. They deal with one another using force, and humans have a right to initiate force against animals.
It comes down to property rights. If a person owns an animal, then he should have the right to dispose of his property as he wishes. Property rights are absolute; a free and just state should go out of its way not to violate them in any way. It should go so far to protect property rights that it errs on the side of going too far, if such is possible.
Men do not have property rights if they do not have the right to be immoral, stupid, unfair, whimsical and disgusting with their property. A proper government exists only to protect and defend individual rights, not to make sure people are fair, moral and intelligent. This is hard for many to accept in our age when the government routinely violates property rights in countless ways. This absolute, laissez-faire conception of rights is currently theoretical and unconnected to the reality of our mixed economy. It is, as Ayn Rand called capitalism, the unknown ideal.
(Incidentally, isn't it odd that people want to throw the book at Vick but they yawn when Mary Winkler, who murdered her sleeping husband -- a human being -- with a shotgun blast, is let out after 67 days?)
The proper punishment for one who abuses animals is social ostracism. People can voluntarily refuse to sanction irrational, destructive behavior against animals. If we had a free government, then our traditions and customs of volunteer, social punishment would be stronger and more effective, just as private charities flourished before the New Deal brought the state into the charity business.
I don't want to come across as a flower child but I personally think the sport of game hunting is a barbaric holdover from the middle ages. I think it is sick to spend one's leisure time killing animals. People can get much of the thrill of the hunt pursuing animals with a camera instead of a rifle and I believe this is psychologically better than some atavistic lust to butcher a beast in cold blood. But I recognize that hunters have a right to their kills. I hope that as reason spreads through our culture -- if that ever happens -- that the popularity of hunting will wane.
The better our culture becomes, the better our norms of treating animals will be, but our advancement is stifled and indeed retarded when the state assumes the role of our conscience and tells people what they should and should not do. As always, when the state intervenes where is ought not, then people forget their responsibilities and become like children who depend on adults to think and judge for them.
UPDATE: Took out one word, tyrannical; it seems an overstatement of the US government.