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Practical Ethics: Poaching

HM Solomon I


This part of a new series called Practical Ethics, which will be about the ethics of affairs across the Cyberverse.

This entry will be on poaching, which for the purposes of this article is defined as soliciting a member of a foreign alliance to join your alliance without that alliance's explicit permission to do so. The question is whether this is ethically permissible. This is actually a rather complicated question because for many the gut reaction is to say no, but it brings up issues of consent, ownership, and even the nature of alliances themselves.

What does it mean to be a member of an alliance? Does being a member give that alliance exclusive rights over you? It seems that the answer is yes. Joining an alliance does mean giving up certain freedoms, and it certainly gives alliances the right to a level of control over you and your nation, but the interesting question is where does this end? How much control is really turned over upon joining? There must be a limit as nations can and do leave alliances and join others. Certainly there is a limit to be found there. That limit is that alliances can never really possess ownership. Alliances never own their members, which means that those members don't give irrevocable exclusive rights to the alliances that they join. Because of this, nations can revoke those rights and grant them to another. By virtue of this, can others solicit nations to exercise their ownership?

While nations possess a right of revocation, if you will, this doesn't necessarily mean that foreign alliances can solicit its use. For one, only the nation can exercise it and until they do, the alliance it is currently in possesses exclusive rights, that, while revocable, are valid until revoked. So do alliances have as one of these exclusive rights the right to exclusive communication with their members? It seems difficult to justify this because a right to exclusive communication hardly seems necessary to the functioning of an alliance, and nations really only grant those rights which are truly necessary to the functioning of an alliance when joining. Any rights that are not necessary are never granted by implication, they must be explicitly granted by a given nation, and are not automatically provided upon joining. To state otherwise would be to violate principles of consent by assuming too much without reason to do so. No reasonable nation would assign rights beyond which are necessary for membership itself since it can be assumed that reasonable people will want to reserve as many rights to themselves as they can.

If alliances do not normally possess the right to exclusive communication, then other alliances would be within their rights to message nations with solicitations of membership. However, there is a massive caveat to this. If alliances do not possess this right, then nations do, which means that they must, by implication, have the right to control communication with themselves. So they can decide not to accept such solicitations, and alliances should respect this stance because to do otherwise would be to harass, which by definition is unwanted communication. I think we can all agree that harassment is something that is not ethically permissible.

What it comes down to is this: poaching is allowed in the sense that alliances do not really have the right to control who their members communicate with, but that said nations do have such a right and thus nations, and not alliances, decide when poaching is over the line and when it isn't. By default (i.e., in the absence of a nation deciding to exercise its rights over who may communicate with it), poaching is ethically allowed as there is nothing inherent to alliance membership to indicate otherwise, and there would have to be if it was by default not ethically permissible.


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I have had some experience with this topic on both sides of it. I think the bigger issue isn't the poaching that happens between friends (i.e. MF telling me just to get SRA to merge into R&R: what is clearly a dig at somebody for the purposes of sport, which both parties go along with as sport isn't the issue). What is, however, a problem, is when the poacher(s) are unwilling to listen to No answers or are using the idea of poaching as a form of espionage. Even then, I think the former is worse than the latter.

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What about when someone makes a Blog post on the CN forums asking for people to recruit them?

Like a giant "Please recruit me," thread. Followed up by ranking the messages this individual receives.

Is it rational to expect an alliance leader to drop everything they're doing IC and OOC to stop a problem until then they didn't even know existed? Is it this alliances fault that this user suddenly doesn't want to be messaged and continues to get messages despite no indication (including in his blog where the original soliciation existed,) that he was "done," receiving messages he asked for?

Is it ridiculous for that person to create an OWF thread complaining that they received just a couple more messages about being recruited when they specifically asked for them -- and how long should that person hold a grudge for a "problem," (I use this loosely, because I can't conceive of how deleting an in game message or closing a query tab, or even using an ignore function,) they created?

All very interesting questions

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I agree that it is a semantic change, but semantics can and often do matter. To say a nation is "giving up rights" to an alliance by joining is placing the power in the hands of the alliance power structure over the individual nation. Of course the people holding power in an alliance make this claim because it allows them to decide NOT to keep their end of bargain (i.e. in this example to keep individual nations from being spammed) by telling the member that when he/she joined he/she agreed to give up certain "rights" and place the decision of what's best to do with the leadership. If the leadership choses not to do what the member wants, "tough" goes the arguments by the leadership - that's what "you" agreed to when "you" joined "us" - aka: the alliance. However, if one looks as the relationship as an exchange (ie.e "I'll protect you from spam and you protect me from spam") then it's easy to see that if the "leadership" refuses to do something about ending the messages there is no longer any obligation on the part of the member to stay with that alliance. The deal was broken. IF more individual nations looked at it this way, Planet Bob would be a very different place.

I'm not giving up any rights. I'm exercising my right to make deals with other nations for mutual protection. If at some point the other nations fail to meet the deal we made, I can exercise my right to do whatever I think makes sense to me to fix it. If I fail to keep my deal with them, they can do whatever they feel is necessary to fix it.

I think you have a unique perspective also. Ever think about inviting some of your friends from that other world over here to bring a bit more of the "dynamism" that you're talking about. This world seems "dreadfully dull" because for anyone other than the leadership of alliances who can engage in the "politics" of this world, it is often dull. Some alliances try to do things internally to change that and some don't - but in terms of interacting here, it's far more fun if you're a leader than a regular member.

The usual excuse here is "well, it is what it is" and people sometimes advertise the lack of action as being a plus - i.e. "it doesn't take much time out of you day to play." Now doesn't that just make you want to jump in and join the fun :D

I'm curious - how many people are playing that other game vs. this one?

Most just aren't interested in spreadsheet games anymore and the few that are have been playing for awhile now anyways. So it's sorta just left to this community to mend if anything is to be done about breathing life into the game again.

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