Complaining to Mary:
Should Christian Libertarians Defend Blackmail?

Libertarians — By on March 11, 2005 at 1:37 am

The medieval monk and scholar Caesarius of Heisterbach tells of hearing a lay brother praying to Jesus: ‘



  • http://www.intheagora.com/archives/2005/03/a_christian_lib.html In the Agora

    A Christian libertarian examination of blackmail

    Joe Carter asks an intriguing question: “Should Christian libertarians defend blackmail?” Since Joe threatens me with blackmail if I don’t answer, I might as well comply. As an outspoken advocate of Christian libertarianism, I’ve previously offered thi…

  • Pamela

    Individuals–Christian or not–do not determine what is or is not a crime. In theory, the society determines what it wishes to criminalize or not, as reflected by the laws passed by elected officials. The laws are, in theory, consistent with the Constitution.
    The New Testament of The Bible doesn’t speak much to what should or should not be legal. Christians are to submit to society’s laws and authorities so long as doing so does not cause one to sin.
    Romans 13:1
    [ Submission to the Authorities ] Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
    Romans 13:1-3 (in Context) Romans 13 (Whole Chapter)
    Hebrews 13:17
    Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
    Hebrews 13:16-18 (in Context) Hebrews 13 (Whole Chapter)
    1 Peter 2:13
    [ Submission to Rulers and Masters ] Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,
    1 Peter 2:12-14 (in Context) 1 Peter 2 (Whole Chapter)

  • Ezekiel

    Where is the consideration? The Blackmailer is offering silence. Is that adequate consideration? If there is no consideration then it would be a violation of “just weights and measures”.

  • Terry

    I wouldn’t call myself a Christian libertarian but I suspect Joe would.
    Blackmail is a voluntary transaction. Some voluntary transactions are okay and some are sinfull for one or both parties. Blackmail becomes a sin when the goal of one or both parties is selfish, regardless what the law says may or may not be a prosecutable offense.

  • http://unitelater.com gaw

    Causing another person to relinquish their property by threatening them with harm is robbery. How a libertarian can reconcile that with scripture, alas, I can’t say.

  • Chris Lutz

    Why should the conjunction of such otherwise legal acts have an entirely different legal status?
    First, Walter Block’s statement above doesn’t hold water. I can drive my car legally. I can go out and get drunk legally. I can do both at the same time and get arrested. The sum of the acts is what makes something illegal, not its component parts. Mr. Block needs to go back and think some more.
    How can blackmail be considered a sin that should not also be classified as a crime?
    From a Christian viewpoint, blackmail is obviously a sin because it violates treating your neighbor as you would want to be treated. I don’t think anyone wants to have money extorted from them.
    I don’t see why it shouldn’t be criminalized. First, it’s not victimless. The victim wouldn’t give up the money unless threatened.
    Second, blackmail is a form of extortion. We don’t let people threaten to harm you physically for money, why should we let them threaten to harm your reputation for money?
    Finally, what if the information is false but true enough that it is hard/impossible to disprove? Is it wrong then or does the information have to be completely true?

  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com John

    Very interesting. I will think about this and try to respond after work today. As it happens I also have to work on an article comparing libertarianism and Marxism. This is a WAY too libertarian weekend.

  • http://www.pseudopolymath.com/archives/2005/03/morning_links_3_6.html Pseudo-Polymath

    Morning Links 3/11

    Links for today: Redhunter on the Anglosphere. He asks for comments. Mr Chrenkoff notes we’re living on borrowed time. Joe Carter considers blackmail (not doing it, but the idea). Mr Volokh admits he will never be able to get a…

  • maryellen

    the blackmailer could have just given the offending material without consulting the “victim” at all and there would be nothing illegal in that. it seems to me that if someone doesn’t want something to become public knowledge they should appreciate the opportunity to stop it by paying for the “perpetrator’s” silence. the “victim” in this situation is free to choose to pay or not pay. he is not being threatened with bodily harm or force. he is being given the option to stop the flow of information that is not illegal to pass on.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Second, blackmail is a form of extortion. We don’t let people threaten to harm you physically for money, why should we let them threaten to harm your reputation for money?

    What’s interesting is that there is nothing illegal about reverse blackmail. If I know a newspaper is about to publish my extramarital affair there’s nothing illegal about me offering them $10M to squash the story and nothing illegal about them accepting. In fact, if they publish anyway I could probably successfully sue for damages as the courts would recognize our agreement as a valid contract!

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/archives/2005/03/is_blackmail_al.php Blind Mind’s Eye

    Is blackmail always wrong?

    Joe Carter wants us libertarians and classical liberals to respond to that one. The obvious short answer is that it entirely depends on the situation because blackmail itself is an activity that covers a variety of situations and means of…

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Joe,
    Here is a response to your question. Your trackback has been pinged as well.

  • Rob Ryan

    “it seems to me that if someone doesn’t want something to become public knowledge they should appreciate the opportunity to stop it by paying for the “perpetrator’s” silence.”
    This frightens me, maryellen. Don’t you think Chris Lutz (see above) makes some very good points? I do.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Pamela,
    When the government does not live by the law of the land, then it is not really a governing authority anymore. If the federal government tells you you can’t own guns, then as long as the 2nd amendment hasn’t been repealed you don’t have to obey that law. Rome was pretty much an absolute monarchy, but America is not. The state may get its authority to govern from God, but the areas where it may govern are defined by secular law, and the federal government simply does not have the authority to act on most of its own laws.
    Take for instance the 16th amendment. It was never legally ratified. Technically it is not a sin to stop paying income tax because the federal government never followed the procedure in the law it is bound to to acquire the secular legal authority to claim part of your income. If had, then you’d be sinning because the law would be on the side of the state. In reality it is not, and the only good reason to pay your income tax is to keep from being audited and going to prison. That aside, in many things in America there is no morality involved in not obeying the law since the government didn’t have the constitutional authority to pass the law in the first place.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Chris Lutz,
    The drunk driving example doesn’t fit. One is a public safety issue, while the other is not. See my blog post I linked to for an example of where two obvious forms of blackmail can be moral and immoral respectively.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Sigh, ok an income tax crank, no matter ’cause MikeF’s example of a possible case of ‘moral blackmail’ is interesting. I hope he won’t mind me condensing it a bit:
    Person X is a real jerk, he treats everyone like crap. You learn that Person X has flirted with another woman. You tell Person X he either has to shape up and start treating people nice or you will tell his fiance what you observed.
    The qualm I have is that you are totally ignoring the fiance. Does she have a right to know that her husband to be has flirted with other women? If she knew she would be well within her rights to call off the marriage (even if the person reformed himself). Yet you are basically ignoring her just to satisfy your desires (not to be annoyed in Church by this character). She’s the one that has to live with him intimately for the rest of her life, doesn’t she have a right to know what she is getting into?
    Another problem is opened up. By cheating on his fiance doesn’t he have a moral duty to be honest with her about his betrayal. Instead you are indirectly helping him lie to her by allowing him to pretend he never did such a thing.
    Let’s imagine a slightly different scenero:
    Person X steals a diamond ring from an elderly woman who goes to your Church. The old woman is feeble minded and will never know the ring is missing. You blackmail person X, either he starts acting like a nice person from this point on or you’ll tell the old woman and she’ll have him arrested.
    If Person X accepts your offer what moral good have you really accomplished? You’ve implicated yourself in the theft by helping Person X to cover it up. Have you really helped Person X become a more moral person when his primary motivation is to dodge taking on responsibility for his crime?
    To make it more complicated! Suppose the old woman notices she can’t find her ring. Person X comes to you and says “I did what you wanted, now she may figure out I took it when I was staying over her house a year ago….you gotta help me!”…he proposes you tell the old woman that maybe you accidently threw it out when you were helping her clean her attic last summer.
    Now what do you do? Your ‘moral blackmail’ has created a situatation where you either have to break your deal with person X or you have to commit additional acts of deception!

  • Nick B.

    Blackmail is a crime because it is merely a non-physical form of coercion. It is still coercion.
    Just as threatening to beat up someone IF they don’t do as you say is wrong, so to is threating them emotional or social loss. Note that this can go too far, of course — Is “forcing someone to work for their food” blackmail? No. The essential difference has to do with motivation and mutual exchange.
    The blackmailer gives nothing in return which is his to give.
    The employer is giving up that which is his right to give up in return for the labors and results thereof of the employee.
    It is not the dissemination which is the crime, it’s the threat.
    Victimless? Don’t be ridiculous. The one being coerced is a clear victim.
    They may (or may not have) done something wrong (not all exposure is for something wrong, but for things “socially unacceptable”), but that is between them and God (and perhaps a matter for the State to deal with under its limited protection-of-others power).
    For example: Was it wrong to be a Jew in Nazi Germany? It was certainly something one might be blackmailed for. It doesn’t really even have to be something a rational society would agree is wrong.
    Joel’s comments above also offer an example of how lack-of-blackmail laws might impinge on innocent individuals.

  • Nick B.

    the blackmailer could have just given the offending material without consulting the “victim” at all and there would be nothing illegal in that. it seems to me that if someone doesn’t want something to become public knowledge they should appreciate the opportunity to stop it by paying for the “perpetrator’s” silence. the “victim” in this situation is free to choose to pay or not pay. he is not being threatened with bodily harm or force. he is being given the option to stop the flow of information that is not illegal to pass on.
    Maryellen, by introducing the profit motive into the equation you encourage people to look for things which an individual might prefer be kept private. The blackmailer need not care a wit of the right/wrong of the exposure, they only know the exposure can net them money.
    As noted in re this on another blog by someone named Joel, you also engender a blackmailer to “create” suspicious circumstances, his example being a pretty girl comes to the door, knocks on it, and when you come there, she grabs you and kisses you passionately. At this point the blackmailer then snaps an incriminating picture which he threatens to expose to your wife, relatives, and co-workers. Yes, you are innocent, and you can claim innocence — but do you really want to have to convince people of this? It certainly looks bad.
    Also, what about nude pictures? With minicams in everyone’s phone, almost anyone female can get a nude pic of you in a ladies-only public dressing facility. I’ll let your imagination go with it from there…

  • Chris Lutz

    What’s interesting is that there is nothing illegal about reverse blackmail.
    That’s true and it makes sense. With blackmail, you are basically entering a contract under duress (pay me or I’ll release the info.) while in the situation you describe Boonton its a mutually agreed to contract (I’ll pay you not to release the info.).

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    As noted in re this on another blog by someone named Joel, you also engender a blackmailer to “create” suspicious circumstances, his example being a pretty girl comes to the door, knocks on it, and when you come there, she grabs you and kisses you passionately.

    Interesting you should mention this, recently in NJ there was a big case involving wealthy property developer and Democratic donar Charles Kushner, who I briefly worked for. Kushner was being investigated for illegal contributions and he wanted to blackmail his brother-in-law and another associate. He paid a prostitute $10,000 to seduce the two men (not at the same time) in a hotel room he wired with hidden cameras. The associate rejected the prostitute but not his brother-in-law. He then threatened to send the pictures to his sister if the in-law cooporated with the FBI.
    Quite a sorded little affair. Of course he was hit with more than just blackmail charges, he is dealing with obstruction, witness tampering and a how of other problems. Nevertheless, there’s a public policy lesson here. Legal blackmail will encourage some people to push innocent people into doing bad things. Instinctively we all feel a vague sense that the strong should protect the weak and it is bad for the strong to exploit the weak. At its core, blackmail is about the strong exploiting the weak.

  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com/ex_nihilo/2005/03/libertarian_pol.html Ex Nihilo

    Libertarian Politics and Biblical Blackmail

    Joe Carter, erstwhile champion of moderately intrusive moral states, has used his pictures of the now-infamous Christian libertarian Cancun chicken wrangling fiasco to blackmail Vox Day, Josh Clayborn, and myself into proffering a moral and political d…

  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com John

    My response is up.
    Bring it on:)

  • http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania/archives/001248.html Parableman

    Libertarians and Blackmail

    Joe Carter and Josh Claybourn are discussing whether a political libertarian should seek to remove laws against blackmail. The arguments are fairly straightforward, but I think both are fallacious. First is what you might call the combinatorial argumen…

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com/archives/2005/03/is_blackmail_al_1.php Blind Mind’s Eye

    Is blackmail always wrong?

    Joe Carter wants us libertarians and classical liberals to respond to that one. The obvious short answer is that it entirely depends on the situation because blackmail itself is an activity that covers a variety of situations and means of…

  • JBP

    Joe,
    How is it that, as Glanville Williams put it, “two things that taken separately are moral and legal whites together make a moral and legal black”? For the crime of blackmail involves the criminalization of two otherwise legal acts when they occur in combination- for example, the threat to disclose damaging information about another, and the offer to refrain from disclosing it for some valuable consideration.
    While I can see the paradoxical nature of blackmail in the reverse blackmail scenario, this does not look paradoxical to me. It looks like every other moral and legal rule in existence. For example, lying. Under some conditions, lying is illegal. Lying is saying something that is not true. It is not immoral for me to say something. It is not immoral for something to not be true. It is immoral, however, when you put the two together. When you put the elements of the rule together — saying something that is not true. Consider theft. It may not be immoral or illegal for me to have a car. It is not immoral or illegal for you to own a car. It is not illegal or immoral for you to not give me permission to have your car. Nevertheless, if I have your car without permission, then I am doing something illegal and immoral.
    As for why blackmail is illegal and immoral, the answer follows.
    John,
    To be illegal, at least one component must be illegal.
    Nope. That is not the law. In fact, as I show above, that is not typically true of legal prohibition. Rules invariably have elements, which are several discrete conditions or actions that all must be fulfilled to violate the rule.
    Chris Lutz said, “blackmail is a form of extortion. We don’t let people threaten to harm you physically for money, why should we let them threaten to harm your reputation for money?”
    Chris has nailed it.
    Blackmail is related to unjust enrichment, theft, and extortion. It is wrong to attempt to obtain the possessions of another person by threatening them. If a person where to say, “I have your car. If you do not pay me $10,000, then I will keep it.” Would anyone have a problem calling that theft and extortion? If a person were to say, If you do not pay me $10,000, then I will destroy your car.” Would anyone have a problem calling that theft and extortion? If you are willing to pay me $10,000 to not ruin your reputation, then clearly you value your reputation more than the $10,000. A blackmailer threatens to take or destroy something of value to you. In essence, blackmailing is a form of theft and extortion.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    A blackmailer threatens to take or destroy something of value to you. In essence, blackmailing is a form of theft and extortion.
    The case of the car is simplier. The blackmailer has no right to destroy your car, nor does he have a right to even threaten to destroy your car. Just saying “I’m going to destroy your car” is illegal since it is a threat.
    However, the blackmailer does have a right to tell your wife you’re sleeping around. He does have a right to publish this in a newspaper. You actually have no right to your ‘good reputation’. What makes the issue interesting is that the blackmailer doesn’t seem to have a right to ‘sell’ his option to waive one of his own rights. In other words, I have a right to tell your wife that you’re sleeping around but I do not have a right to ‘sell’ that right to you.
    I’m not really sure all cases of blackmail should be illegal, although I think you have a good case for them being immoral.

  • http://10-8.blogspot.com Phil Aldridge

    Blackmail is an attempt to deprive someone of their property under duress. Even though that victim is voluntarily giving up his property, for the purposes of the law, this is not consent because he was under duress.
    Look at it this way: Under the law, if I put a gun to your daughter’s head and tell you that if you don’t kill your neighbor, I’ll kill your daughter, if you go kill your neighbor, you are not guilty of murder. This is because consent under duress is not consent.
    If we change blackmail, then we have to change many other laws that you wouldn’t want to change. It has nothing to do with harming your life versus harming your reputation, it has to do with the taking of property without consent, period. Whether I do it with a gun, the threat of a gun, or the threat of exposure, it doesn’t matter. No consent is no consent.

  • JBP

    Boonton,
    the blackmailer does have a right to tell your wife you’re sleeping around.
    Consider the following:
    A man abducts a woman and takes her to a hotel room. He plans on raping her. When he tears off her cloths, she realizes his intentions and makes an offer.
    “Sir,” she says, “I value my purity more than life itself. Please kill me instead of raping me.”
    The man takes pity on her and kills her.
    You are the judge. His lawyer says that he should be punished for rape since that is what he intended to do. After all, the lady asked to be killed to avoid rape, therefore, says the silver-tongued lawyer, what the man has done is less of a harm to the lady than raping her. It was, after all, a bargain.
    Would you convict the man of rape or murder?
    Now, consider the opposite situation. The man plans on killing the woman, but she talks him into raping her instead. In his trial, the prosecution argues that he is actually guilty of the greater crime of murder because that is what he threatened to do.
    Would you convict the man of rape or murder?
    In neither case, do we care what was threatened, we care about what was done. Or in the case of attempt, we care about what was attempted. In the same way, when a man threatens to do something to you in order to force you to give him something, it is extortion regardless of what is threatened. The essence of the crime is that one is threatening a victim in order to force them to give up something that the victim would not have otherwise given. A similar example is a prosecutor who threatens to prosecute someone for a crime unless the person pays up. The law would justly condemn the prosecutor has complete discretion as to whether to bring the case.

  • JBP

    Somehow I lost the middle of the prosecutor example. So here it is again.
    A similar example is the prosecutor who threatens to prosecute someone for a crime unless the persons pays up. The law justly condemns the man regardless of whether the victim is guilty or not. The law justly condemns the man regardless of whether the prosecutor has complete discretion as to whether to bring the case.

  • http://bcpreacher.blogspot.com/ John Luke

    “You can’t cheat an honest man” says the old proverb. This could also be written, “you can’t blackmail a moral man.”
    If I have committed sinful acts, then I must not be surprised if someone wishes to tell the truth about them. Often, such exposure is a corrective mechanism — which, while I might not believe it at the time, actually can work for my benefit. Also, fear of such future exposure can prevent the sin in the first place.
    If blackmail involves telling lies about me, well, then, it isn’t blackmail, it’s libel.
    Either way, if I don’t sin (ok, if you don’t sin; I know I’m a sinner), then I need not be concerned about blackmail.
    Blackmail is a sin, for several reasons cited above, most especially due to the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. And though we be infamous sinners, mostly we prefer not to have those sins broadcast about.

  • Septimus

    Someone with more legal expertise please advise: I was under the impression that it can be a crime to defame another person, with public persons receiving less protection.
    Even if there isn’t a criminal remedy, isn’t a civil remedy available in many such cases?
    By defamation, I do mean to include the release of information that may well be ‘true’ but not public knowledge.
    FYI, my faith teaches me that it is a sin–and it can be mortal–to use TRUTHFUL information to damage another person; it’s called ‘detraction.’ One may reveal such information only out of true necessity.

  • Mr Ed

    Blackmail is, as mentioned, a form of extortion. Extortion is “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”
    By the definition, if blackmail is a “victimless crime” then so is harassment and the threat of bodily harm. Now, while I believe the interpretation of harassment has gone a bit too far in some cases, I think that doing away with it altogether will leave the door open for a lot of ne’er-do-wells to run amuck (including, for example, the organized criminals which make more than a bit of money through extortion). Let’s face it, the mob doesn’t come in and say “give up your money or we’ll bust up the place.” They say “give us your money and we’ll keep people from busting up the place.” The implicit threat is that if money is not received the owner’s property and/or health are in danger. However, without laws against extortion it could be argued that there is no law against the business against private security.

  • Mr Ed

    Sorry:
    It could be argued that there is no law against being in the business of private security.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    If we change blackmail, then we have to change many other laws that you wouldn’t want to change. It has nothing to do with harming your life versus harming your reputation, it has to do with the taking of property without consent, period. Whether I do it with a gun, the threat of a gun, or the threat of exposure, it doesn’t matter. No consent is no consent.

    Phil, the problem with your example is that the blackmailer never had a right to threaten your daughter with a gun in the first place. That doesn’t address cases where the blackmailer has a right to do what he threatens in the first place. For example, it is my right to publish a story in the newspaper (assuming I own the paper). When I demand you give me money all I’m really doing is saying “I have a right to do X, I will sell you that right for $Y”.
    You are the judge. His lawyer says that he should be punished for rape since that is what he intended to do. After all, the lady asked to be killed to avoid rape, therefore, says the silver-tongued lawyer, what the man has done is less of a harm to the lady than raping her. It was, after all, a bargain….Would you convict the man of rape or murder?
    Murder because:
    1. The man doesn’t have a right to kill her even if she asked for him to do so.
    2. The man doesn’t have a right to threaten to rape her, kidnap her etc.
    Remember, the aspect of blackmail that is interesting is when the person doing the blackmail has an underlying right to do what he is threatening.
    Now, consider the opposite situation. The man plans on killing the woman, but she talks him into raping her instead. In his trial, the prosecution argues that he is actually guilty of the greater crime of murder because that is what he threatened to do…Would you convict the man of rape or murder?
    Rape of course, you cannot be guilty of murder unless you actually kill someone. Attempted murder would require he actually tried to kill her, not just intended to do so but was talked out of it.
    I remain somewhat confused about the whole mess here. I can see that blackmail is almost certainly morally wrong (I hope MikeF will take up my attack on his example of ‘morally ok blackmail’). On the other hand it here are the legal objections I see to blackmail:
    1. It encourages people to commit entrapment; to get the victim to do something he wouldn’t have otherwise done so the blackmailer may profit.
    2. It may be extortion, taking someone else’s property through coercion.
    The problem I see with #2 is that it doesn’t seem like extortion. If I really want a certain Star Wars collectible really bad is it extortion if the price is $5,000? In the case of blackmail doesn’t the ‘victim’ want to have the blackmailer to waive his right to speak really bad? Is it extortion that the blackmailer gets to name a price in a sellers market? True the victim might be very unhappy but that often happens in markets. Like many things the risk of being blackmailed is no different than the risk that your stocks will fall in value. There are a host of ways to address that risk that range from not owning stock to using hedging tools to insure against the risk. In the case of blackmail you can address the risk by not engaging in the behavior or keeping it very secret if you do.
    Socially blackmail might even be beneficial. Given that some people are going to do bad things (such as cheat on their spouses) the danger of being blackmailed will cause them to keep it quiet rather than flaunt it. If nothing else that will help preserve the social taboo around the objectionable behavior.
    Perhaps blackmail should only be outlawed in #1 cases where the blackmailer had a hand in creating the bad behavior to begin with?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Also, while we are on the subject there are probably a few cases where the ‘victim’ would rather that blackmail be legal. Suppose, for example, I discover a celebrity is having an affair. If blackmail is illegal the only way I can profit from that information is to sell it to a tabloid. However the ‘victimized’ celebrity may rather see blackmail legal. Then he at least has the chance to ‘buy my story’.

  • JBP

    John Luke,
    Your post was not legally accurate.
    This could also be written, “you can’t blackmail a moral man.”
    Well it could, but strictly speaking it is not legally true. For example, I could blackmail someone by threatening to seduce his wife or lie about her.
    If blackmail involves telling lies about me, well, then, it isn’t blackmail, it’s libel.
    One can blackmail someone with the threat of a lie. Successful blackmail would presumably involve not telling the lie, and therefore, would not be libel. In addition, blackmail is a more serious crime than libel.

  • JBP

    Boonton,
    If I really want a certain Star Wars collectible really bad is it extortion if the price is $5,000? … Is it extortion that the blackmailer gets to name a price in a sellers market? True the victim might be very unhappy but that often happens in markets.
    There is no duress in the Star Wars collectable market. If they make the bargain, both are better off. Else, why make the bargain? If they do not make the bargain, both are no worse off then when they started. The choice is win or status quo. The blackmail victim faces a different situation. The blackmail victim can either lose money or suffer the threat. The choice is lose or lose. And this choice is forced upon the victim by the blackmailer. Therefore, it is extortion.

  • JBP

    Boonton,
    I forgot to address this issue.
    Socially blackmail might even be beneficial. Given that some people are going to do bad things (such as cheat on their spouses) the danger of being blackmailed will cause them to keep it quiet rather than flaunt it. If nothing else that will help preserve the social taboo around the objectionable behavior.
    Interesting point. Nevertheless, you assume something that is not true. Blackmail does not necessarily involve objectionable behavior by the victim.
    In addition, this seems to punish people with more of a conscience more than people with less of one. Something to consider!

  • JBP

    Septimus,
    I was under the impression that it can be a crime to defame another person, with public persons receiving less protection.
    You more or less are right. (You are also right about the public person exemption) It is, however, not illegal unless the statement is untrue. The truth and public persons exeptions are based upon the first amendment.
    Blackmail, however, can be true and it does not have to be a statement. It can be a threat to seduce someone’s girlfriend.

  • http://www.InklingBooks.com/ Mike Perry

    The more I hear from libertarians, the less impressed I am.
    If blackmail wasn’t a crime, it would soon become a major business, a quite lucrative one. Blackmailing, now a profession like law, would seek out dirt on anyone who isn’t impoverished, much of it not even true, and use it to extract money or other services from them.
    Phone books and late-night TV would feature professional blackmailers advertising their willingness to split their take with tattle-tellers. Large sums of unproductive capital would be diverted to these leaches, money and influence that could be better used. It’d be like our current tort laws, but without the modest protection provided by courts.
    Let’s be realistic. Liberatianism is the politics of simpletons, people who want to write their political philosophy on the back of a 3×5 card. They populate the universe with automonous little gods, and assume that the only sin is to interfere with these petty gods in the exercise of their wills. They have no grasp of what a healthy society is, or of values beyond unfettered “choice.” Worst of all, they show no desire to protect those too weak to have god-like wills, those who need laws to protect them in a thousand and one ways. (For blackmail, think of children impoverished because their father was legally blackmailed until he didn’t have a cent to his name.)
    For a biblical condemnation of libertarianism, check out the book of Judges and the passages about “every man doing what was right in his own eyes.” They were liberitarians.
    –Mike Perry, Seattle
    Author: Untangling Tolkien

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeF

    Since we seem to be in the mood to challenge libertarians, I have a challenge for conservatives.
    Mike Perry,
    Please back up your arguments rather than just patting yourself on the back by how good you feel being a self-proclaimed conservative. None of those Joe linked to actually think that blackmail should be legal if libel or slander is involved. If you have broken the law or wronged someone, and your enemy finds out, well tough luck. What are you so afraid of, that if you cheat on your wife with a few strippers in Las Vegas that someone might find out and actually tell your wife that you have majorly wronged her?
    If you aren’t innocent of the crime or wrong that you are being blackmailed for, then here’s another biblical perspective. Maybe you are supposed to go forward to your church elders, congregation, the victim, whoever is relevant in the case and confess. Yeah, that’s right. If you wronged your wife or broke the law, go confess for it because that’s the right thing to do.
    As for your argument that essentially we want to make each man a law unto himself.. no offense, but you are full of it. You would have to deliberately misread most libertarians to get that out of what we right. We apply far more discernment in our approach to the law than conservatives because we ask a few questions that conservatives don’t:
    1) Can a reasonable person avoid being harmed by the action?
    2) What could an expansionist government do with the law?
    3) Are the possible side effects of outlawing an activity more destructive to the fabric of society than grudgingly letting it remain legal?
    None of the libertarians I personally know like drugs, myself included. Yet we find the commando tactics of drug agents bursting into peoples’ homes with assault rifles at 2AM dressed more like assassins than peace officers to be more destructive to the fibre of the law and the public’s attitude toward the police than the drug use itself. Does it ever occur to conservatives that the less free America is, that the fewer reasons there will be for people to voluntarily defend her in a time of war?
    The moral fibre of society cannot be preserved by the law of God, or did you miss that point in Paul’s letters? If God’s law, which is much simpler than man’s cannot moralize man itself, then how can imperfect man’s law? Libertarianism recognizes this and lets each person do as they will until they infringe on the rights of their neighbor. It is a philosophy based on pluralism, and a true live-and-let-live mentality so I guess to modern conservatives that is essentially communism right there. Of course everything they disagree with is communism, so I guess communism is now the new big tent covering everyone from Marx to Hayek.
    Btw, I’d like to know which constitutionally sound laws that you think we’d take away and thus burden the weak even more. Unlike conservatives, we want the government to stop regulating the right of self-defense altogether and to force the police to do their jobs in troubled areas. Effective law enforcement for poor communities is one of our main priorities because it is the essence of fighting property crimes. The fewer property crimes, eventually the lower the poverty rate.
    We, unlike conservatives, argue for the ending of minimum sentences because they put the weak at even greater risk. We want to give young first time offenders a second chance, that a lot of conservatives wouldn’t give them since we recognize that a firm, but compassionate approach is the only way for the government to assist kids coming from bad homes to not go down a bad path. Personally, for most first time offenders I’d let them substitute 4 years of military service for their prison term. Most libertarians would probably agree with that, but how many conservatives would let them have their record wiped clean if the military gives them a passing grade after 4 years of service?
    Just because we don’t toss money at welfare doesn’t mean we don’t care about the weak. In fact, we are the ones calling for eliminating the laws and agencies that institutionalize the brutalizing of the weak. We don’t want the NRA’s enforcement of just existing laws, we want all gun laws off, all excessive force laws off the books and the police to not even second guess a good citizen in a poor neighborhood who shoots the hell out of a criminal attacking them. We want the police to do their jobs, and the courts to have total leeway to give appropriate sentences that fit the crime so that young people from broken homes don’t get their lives ruined right away. Again, most conservatives would just consider that hippy nonsense.

  • http://likethelanguage.mu.nu Rae

    Excellent thoughts and points here. I am walking away thinking….as usual.

  • MorningSun

    First of all my brain hurts, I now know what my computer feels like when it’s stuck in a loop.
    Second of all there are many assumptions to be made for blackmail to be legal, yet not immoral or illegal.
    The Christian-Libratarian Argument seems to be for coersion in order to change and immoral behavior in order to create a positive outcome. All within the confines of what is considered legal.
    Thus negative reinforcement instead of positive reinforcement for behaviour modification.
    As a Christian you have the ability to lift up or rebuke fellow Christians. As a Christian once you rebuke your fellow man and he does not respond, you then in turn would be able to blackmail them to change or else.
    If this was a common practice within the confines of one church, where would be the opportunity for growth spiritually within that Church and it’s members.
    Would this not have a negative impact. That gifts given without heart would benefit the flesh, but certainly would not benifit the spirit.
    We are to give with a joyful heart, and do not your alms before men both come to mind. Because what is given of the flesh is flesh, and spirit is spirt. Therefore you are giving into your own fleshly desires, leaving no work for the spirit.
    I guess a question is, being of free will, that there is no intervention of the Spirit to move within the person. When then as a Christian are you to take it upon yourself to do the work of God and at what point is it morally right to work against another person instead of asking of God to work in their lives?
    Could there also be an argument here that blackmail cannot be Christian because it works only for the flesh but does not benefit the spirit. The blackmailer would not learn to grow in patience, prayer or under persecution. The actor of the sin would not suffer the consequences of the sin or be compelled to change in spirit.
    So my conclusion would be there is more harm than good in blackmail of any kind

  • Josh S

    It is legal to point a gun at someone. It is also legal to ask him to give you his wallet. It is illegal to point a gun at someone and ask him for his wallet, however.
    I don’t believe in “Christian libertarianism,” because ultimately, it says that if the strong wish to prey on the weak via non-violent means, that is their business, and there’s nothing that anyone should do about it.

  • BCB

    This is just priceless. I thought I would share it with you guys. It seems that some nut case shot a bunch of people in his congregation. You can read the story here:
    http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/news/story.jsp?idq=/ff/story/0001%2F20050313%2F1542114486.htm&sc=1110&photoid=20050313WIMG102&ewp=ewp_news_0305churchshooting&floc=NW_1-T
    But what I found interesting is this quote from one of the congregation members present during the shooting:
    Don Free said his niece, Angel Varichak, was one of the wounded, but she was expected to survive.
    “I wanted to know where God was when this happened,” Free told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He was supposed to be everywhere. He could have at least been there.”
    That’s a damn good question. Damn good question.
    That is all. You may resume buurying your head in the sand.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    There is no duress in the Star Wars collectable market. If they make the bargain, both are better off. Else, why make the bargain? If they do not make the bargain, both are no worse off then when they started. The choice is win or status quo. The blackmail victim faces a different situation. The blackmail victim can either lose money or suffer the threat. The choice is lose or lose. And this choice is forced upon the victim by the blackmailer. Therefore, it is extortion.

    Except both are better off. The ‘victim’ gets to preserve his reputation for a price. Remember I’m not talking about cases of entrapment, threats of illegal violence or the threat to tell a lie. I’m limiting myself to cases where the blackmailer is simply threatening to do something he has every right to do (such as report in a newspaper that the victim was seen coming out of a hotel room with a woman who wasn’t his wife).
    Interesting point. Nevertheless, you assume something that is not true. Blackmail does not necessarily involve objectionable behavior by the victim.
    Perhaps but in such a case the blackmailer’s ‘product’ isn’t worth that much. For example, ‘The Flat Earth’ society requires you to believe the earth is flat. If you’re a member and a blackmailer discovers you teach your kids the earth is round he may try to blackmail you. However, if you joined the society as a joke then you aren’t going to be willing to pay him very much to keep quiet.
    In other cases the behavior may be objectionable in a person’s limited social sphere. For example, if someone is a member of the neo-nazis they might pay off a blackmailer who discovered they have Jewish grandparents. In that case the cost of membership in such a group is greater. Why should I feel sorry for the ‘victim’. Likewise, suppose a fundamentalist group notable for their anti-gay stance (like that guy with the ‘Godhatesfags’ site) has a gay member. The member will have to choose whether being a closeted gay in an anti-gay group was more valuable than saving the expense of paying off the blackmailer.
    In addition, this seems to punish people with more of a conscience more than people with less of one. Something to consider!
    I’m not sure how. In all the cases above I would imagine the Christian POV would say the ‘victims’ should be honest about their beliefs and behaviors. If they were then the blackmailers ‘product’ would be worthless. Ironically it is the ‘victim’ that sets the price in this market!

    Phone books and late-night TV would feature professional blackmailers advertising their willingness to split their take with tattle-tellers. Large sums of unproductive capital would be diverted to these leaches, money and influence that could be better used. It’d be like our current tort laws, but without the modest protection provided by courts.

    This doesn’t make much sense. First of all how much capital can be diverted to ‘professional blackmailers’ who would really be little more than private investigators? Second privacy laws should continue and be expanded so it would be illegal to tap someone’s phones or install secret cameras in their homes. Third ‘victims’ can take steps to insure themselves by keeping their ‘secrets’ secret. Finally as I pointed out the ‘value’ of a blackmailer’s ‘services’ are set entirely by the victim.
    Legal Yes(?) But not Moral
    Could there also be an argument here that blackmail cannot be Christian because it works only for the flesh but does not benefit the spirit. The blackmailer would not learn to grow in patience, prayer or under persecution. The actor of the sin would not suffer the consequences of the sin or be compelled to change in spirit.
    The problem with ‘moral blackmail’ is that it ignores the true victim and the obligation of the blackmailer to be truthful. Look at my example of how a ‘moral blackmail’ can quickly turn around on the blackmailer and implicate him in lies and coverups. Take a case where a guy is cheating on his wife & you ‘morally blackmail’ him to stop by threatening to tell her. In order for this to work you have to:
    1. Keep the information from her, which presumably she has the right to know.
    2. The husband is able to lie to her about his (now past) affair. Perhaps there might be some cases where it is acceptable to leave the past be but it still is kind of odd to think that the husband not only has a right to not confess to his wife but you now have an obligation to help him keep it secret because he accepted your deal!
    3. I’m not sure this fits the traditional definition of blackmail. In the traditional definition the blackmailer requires the victim to give him something of value. ‘Don’t cheat on your wife anymore’ wouldn’t really qualify. It would have to be more like ‘I won’t tell your wife if you paint my house’, which is pretty hard to depict as moral.
    Perhaps I’m too hard on it, perhaps others can come up with a case of moral blackmail.

  • JBP

    Boonton,
    Except both are better off.
    The only way to say that the blackmail victim is better off is to ignore the possibility that the blackmailer will simply mind his own business. Clearly, the victim would be better off if he were to keep his money than lose his money. Clearly, the victim would be better off to keep his reputation than to lose his reputation. The victim would prefer to keep his money and not lose his reputation. The blackmailer forces the victim to chose between losing his reputation and losing his money. There is no status quo option. In the collector’s market, both parties can walk away from the transaction without harm to their interests. The blackmail victim would prefer to not enter into a transaction and to not lose his reputation. There are not only two possibilities there are three. The blackmailer, however, forces the victim to choose between the two evils. Forcing someone else to chose between two evils is the essence of extortion. The two transactions are very different morally and legally.
    Ironically it is the ‘victim’ that sets the price in this market!
    Which is why the person with a greater conscience may end up being punished more. For example, person A commits adultery but repents and goes back to his wife and children. Person B commits adultery and decides that he likes being a swinger and abandons his wife and children. Which one of these people is morally superior? Which one of these people is the more likely to pay hush money? The person who repented and tried to do the right thing is both more likely to be blackmailed and morally superior.

  • JBP

    Joe, et all.
    By the way. If one is really interested in the puzzle of blackmail and several other such puzzles, this is essential reading on the topic.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0226425940/?tag=evangeoutpos-20

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    In the collector’s market, both parties can walk away from the transaction without harm to their interests. The blackmail victim would prefer to not enter into a transaction and to not lose his reputation.

    Of course but the problem is that the victim doesn’t own his reputation. Suppose the blackmailer never tried to blackmail his victim. He would be free to publish the dirt and the victim’s reputation would be ruined all the same (remember we are excluding entrapment and dishonest cases from this analysis). Since the victim has no intrinsic right for his ‘dirt’ to be secret nothing is being taken from him unjustly.
    From a moral standpoint you could argue that if the ‘victim’ does have his reputation it is only through dishonesty. If his neighbors think he is the type of man who would never have an affair then his ‘reputation’ is actually an untruth and you’re calling him a victim because he no longer has the ability to deceive his neighbors. Socially he can be a problem since he helps set an unrealistic standard (the unblemished person) that may make ‘lesser’ people fall into despair.

    Which is why the person with a greater conscience may end up being punished more. For example, person A commits adultery but repents and goes back to his wife and children. Person B commits adultery and decides that he likes being a swinger and abandons his wife and children. Which one of these people is morally superior? Which one of these people is the more likely to pay hush money? The person who repented and tried to do the right thing is both more likely to be blackmailed and morally superior.

    Possibly person B if he wants to keep his swinger lifestyle secret for some reason. Blackmail would be useless against person A since he has already admitted his sin. That would be as silly as someone trying to blackmail Clinton today with information on his Monica affair!
    Ohhh wait, did you mean he repented in secret but never told his wife about his affair? Do you think she has a right to know? If this is the case isn’t ‘keeping her in the dark’ about his ‘past mistake’ really just another incident of deception?

  • RA

    The premise that some sin should not be a crime is a humanist view, not a Biblical (God’s view) view. God considers all sin as crimes against Him. The purpose of government according to the Scripture is to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. The good and evil I speak of is defined by God.
    For government to reward sin or turn a blind eye to sin, is rewarding those who do evil. For a goverment to take it’s Biblical mandate seriously, it should make all sin illegal.
    God can see into men’s hearts but we need evidence. Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart would be a hard thing to prove without his confession. But if it were against the law to lust in your heart I’ll bet you old Jimmy would have kept his big mouth shut. And that would be a blessing in and of itself.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Once again I remain convinced that RA is some type of troll. Does anyone really think he believes the silly things he espouses here?

  • http://www.mac-con.com/christweb/archives/2005_03_16.html#001008 ChristWeb

    Christian Carnival #61

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  • http://mt.ektopos.com/parablemania/archives/001278.html Parableman

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