Ill-Gotten Gains: Evasion, Blackmail, Fraud, and Kindred Puzzles of the Law

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University of Chicago Press, Apr 15, 1996 - Law - 293 pages
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The law is full of schemes that use subterfuge and circumvention. Clients routinely ask their lawyers to help them find a legal way around the law; and lawyers routinely oblige them, saying things like: "You would like to make a movie with lots of steamy sex and not run the risk of an obscenity suit? Well, why don't you load it up with some important social message, and that way it no longer qualifies as obscene!" Or: "You would like to reduce your taxes? Well, why don't you consider the following ridiculous-sounding investment ..." When, if ever, are such schemes wrong? When does tax avoidance become tax evasion? When does a hard bargain become blackmail? And even if an action is legally sanctioned, could it still be morally wrong? In Ill-Gotten Gains, Leo Katz leads us through a tangled realm rife with puzzles and dilemmas to find the underlying principles that guide not only the law but our moral decisions as well. Mixing wit with insight, anecdotes with analysis, Katz uncovers what is really at stake in crimes such as insider trading, blackmail, and plagiarism. He then goes on to reveal their surprising connections to cases where someone tries to evade the law by finding refuge in it, from the convict who staves off execution by rendering himself incompetent with mind-altering drugs, to companies that sell strategies to beat the SAT test. Ultimately, Katz argues, the law, as well as our conscience, is surprisingly uninterested in final outcomes and astonishingly sensitive to how we get there, which is why sins of commission are so much more weighty than sins of omission. Among the more peculiar implications of this phenomenon is that much behavior we intuitively judge to be devious, Machiavellian, or downright diabolical is in fact perfectly moral; and that much behavior which, in a free society, we consider the very model of morality is in fact quite the opposite. Ill-Gotten Gains draws on a wide range of examples, from Jesuitic advice on how to kill someone with impunity, to Hemingway's observations on bullfights, and the Scott-Amundsen race for the South Pole. With its startling conclusions and myriad twists along the way, the book will fascinate all those intrigued by the often perplexing relationship between morality and the law.
 

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Ill-gotten gains: evasion, blackmail, fraud, and kindred puzzles of the law

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Criminal law performs two useful functions: it defines certain conduct as so harmful to the individual or the community as to justify society's forbidding that conduct, and it provides a method of ... Read full review

Contents

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About the author (1996)

Leo Katz is professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Bad Acts and Guilty Minds, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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