1) Does it matter if the product is actively harmful?
Depends. If a consenting adult wants to smoke (tobacco, pot, crack, whatever) in the privacy of their own home, their body belongs to them, let them do it. But They cannot ask others to pay for their medical care from the medical problems they will inflict on themselves.
Since secondhand smoke does seem to pose a problem (although probably not nearly as bad as the anti-smoking zealots claim), a case may be made for some regulation. As to what or how much, I don’t have an answer.
Smoking crack (or drinking booze) and driving a car puts others at risk, so the law can intervene.
When children are involved, everything changes. Children can’t make some choices for themselves, so if their adult guardians make decisions that are actively harmful, the state can step in.
Indirectly harmful (by discouraging the customer from seeking something else that isn’t BS or leading them to make bad decisions based on bogus information)? Absolutely harmless? How direct does the harm need to be to matter?
I think education, not legislation is the best solution. There will never be a 100% safe society where 100% of the people make 100% of the correct choices 100% of the time. No matter how hard we work to educate people about such BS, there will always be some statistically significant amount of people who choose to do stupid and dumb things. The inherent nature of some nanny-state people (on both the left and the right) to try and force these people to do what they think is right for them will always backfire with unintended consequences. See Prohibition and the War on Drugs as an example from the Right and Obama’s Health Care mandates now causing insurers to raise prices and drop many insured as an example on the left. At some point, we have to say, “We’ve tried our best to educate people, but some people just don’t want to learn.”
If a tarot reader tells someone they are going to die of a horrible fatal disease soon and they kill themsleves to avoid this fate, is there any culpability here?
Depends on the case and all the factors involved. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Are there any problems you would see as legitimate with making the genuineness of the purveyor’s faith in their BS the deciding factor in distinguishing fraud, which presumably should be illegal, from honest stupidity?
Yes. As I mentioned above, when it comes to children. When the parents pray for their minor child to be healed from bronchial pneumonia (or whatever) instead of getting antibiotics, then the law can step in to save the child and punish the parents.
There are probably others that would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
As I suggested above, I’m not sure we can ever really know for sure how genuine someone’s belief is, so is this a problem?
Yep. It’s a problem. A problem that there probably is not a solution to. Like I said, we can’t expect 100% in things like this.
3) Could there be a reasonable standard for what someone should be expected to know is true or false?
Yes. But you know as well as I how well the human mind can be fooled on certain things. So once again, I hate to sound like a broken record, so each case would have to be looked at individually based on many variables.
So should the average person selling products or advice based on BS they genuinely believe in be held to any standard at all? You seem to place the burden on the consumer to know when what they are buying is BS but no responsibility on the seller to know what they are selling is BS.
If it can be proven in court the person is peddling BS, then they can - and should be - held accountable. I still think a 10 buck a pop tarot reader probably believes (to some extent) that it is true, or is more of an “entertainer.” No conman worth their salt would waste their time for 10 bucks. You know as well as I that most people who try for Randi’s challenge are the self-deluded type, not the outright frauds. The same holds true across the board. How do we deal with people who believe they have powers and others who believe them? You can pass all the laws you want, but it won’t make people smart. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, Education not legislation. And expect that some people will always fall through the cracks. It’s sad, I know. But unfortunately, it appears to be human nature.
Do I still sound like a fundamentalist nut-job? :-)
I apologize to anyone who thought I may have come across as harsh. But I’ve had a long week. I’m just passionate about liberty. And then you throw in the mix, these idiots who read tarot and those who go to them, and you realize that there is no helping some people. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.