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Would Blackmail be Legal in a Libertarian Society?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

blackmailQuestion: How would a libertarian society deal with blackmail? Thinking of the blackmailer as a gossip offering the service of his silence for a fee, I cannot find any reason why it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Both parties receive something of value and the agreement is consensual.

My short answer: The criteria for illegality in a libertarian society would be: “Does it threaten first-strike force, fraud, or theft?” For example, if I pay blackmail to someone who would otherwise beat me, they are using the threat of first-strike force to take my money, very much like a thief does. This would clearly be against libertarian law.

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t tell a true but embarrassing tale about me, I am not being threatened with first-strike force, fraud, or theft. Quite possibly, such “blackmail” might (depending upon the circumstances) be considered a private contract under libertarian law. If the blackmailer told his or her story anyway, I might be able to sue for contract violation!

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t lie about me, the situation is not as clear. Many libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Defending the Blackmailer“ by Walter Block. Walter Block has been writing about libertarianism and blackmail for decades. His collected writings on this topic are in his 2013 book Legalize Blackmail.

This provocative selection is a chapter from his classic 1976 book Defending the Undefendable, which you can download as a free ebook from the Mises Institute.

Excerpt: “What exactly is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailed pays the agreed-upon price.

“If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Is Liberty Doomed — or Inevitable?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve heard both of these arguments for many years:

1.) “The libertarian cause is doomed. People will never understand liberty; even those who do understand it don’t want it. So why should I waste my time in such a futile cause?”

and:

2.) “Libertarianism is certain to succeed. The state cannot out-compete the marketplace. Given time, the superiority of the market will inevitably lead to a libertarian society. So why should I spend my time working on what will come about inevitably anyway?”

Ironically, both arguments lead many people to stop working for liberty, to stop supporting libertarian causes, to turn their back on the freedom movement.

I think both arguments are wrong.

I certainly believe that liberty is winning — in fact, our ideas are spreading at an incredible pace. I speak from experience. I’ve been in the libertarian movement since the early 1970s, when almost no one believed these ideas — when the joke used to be: “How many libertarians can fit into a phone booth? Answer: all of them.”

Today no one would even understand that joke. Libertarians are everywhere, and libertarianism is constantly discussed in the media. It’s nothing less than a sea change — a true rEVOLution.

Sure, I wish things were moving even faster. But the logic of our ideas is winning us converts daily, while the Big Government left and right are increasingly seen as bankrupt.

But liberty is NOT inevitable. Our ideas are fighting other powerful ideas and movements in the marketplace of ideas. There’s no guarantee those ideas won’t defeat our own. Their proponents are certainty trying hard to make that happen. Have you noticed the many attacks on libertarianism recently, by scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and other influential people?

A major reason libertarianism has seen such great success in recent years is because untold thousands of people have worked so hard, and contributed so much, to bring us to this point.

You yourself learned about liberty from someone. Maybe someone gave you a copy of the #libertyWorld’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Maybe you heard a libertarian candidate or speaker on television or radio.

Maybe you read a book or article written by a libertarian writer.

However you learned about libertarianism, it was because someone, in some way, reached out to you. That person, too, learned from someone else.

And that outreach was backed up by a network of libertarian organizations that have worked for decades to create a powerful movement ready with information and opportunities for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Those organizations didn’t spring up out of the ground by magic. They were only possible because someone — someone like you — years ago decided that this cause was so important they wanted to make sure these organizations existed, so that people like you could learn about liberty and the liberty movement.

For almost thirty years the Advocates has been a vital part of the libertarian movement. Our mission is a unique one. We help people encounter and learn about the ideas of liberty — and we provide them with the best methods and tools to help them, in turn, take those ideas to others.

The Advocates has helped millions of people encounter, evaluate and embrace the ideas of liberty. And we’ve helped countless libertarians become highly successful in convincing others to accept these ideas.

Our World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been taken online over 22 million times. Thousands of people take it each month, learning more about their political views and discovering libertarianism.

The Quiz has reached additional millions through newspapers, magazines, OPH booths, over 10 million card copies, textbooks, talk radio, and many other ways.

The Liberator Online — you’re reading it right now — takes information about liberty, the liberty movement, and the best ways to communicate libertarian ideas to over 30,000 subscribers.

We reach out in many other ways, too. New technology offers incredible opportunities. I recently did an online communication seminar from my office in Georgia with a group of libertarian students in Arizona. That would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

But it still comes down to you. You — your activism, your donations, your outreach to friends, neighbors, families and others — make the work of the Advocates, and the growth of the liberty movement, possible.

Your participation is vital. The future of liberty — for yourself, your family, the world — will be shaped by the actions of the libertarians of today.

This is incredibly important. Liberty matters. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake.

Your efforts make a difference. Your participation in the struggle is essential.

As the great libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises said:

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Victory is NOT inevitable. But our ideas are moving forward, and there is great reason for optimism.

When you contribute to the work of the Advocates — or other worthy libertarian organizations — you are helping move the world in the right direction. You are making a real difference.

DonateJust as someone, once, did for you.

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Libertarianism and Racial Discrimination

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians support laws prohibiting racial discrimination by businesses?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, businesses could refuse service to individuals for any reason. However, they would be punished for racial discrimination by losing the profit they otherwise would have made. This feedback is so powerful that even in the post-Civil War South, segregation could only be maintained when governments made integration (serving blacks and whites in the same establishment) a crime.

If integration could only be stopped by outlawing it in the post-Civil War South, surely today it would take place readily without government mandates. If some individuals, black or white, wished to maintain some separateness, why should we force them together?

In a libertarian society, laws enforcing segregation could never have been passed in the first place. Slavery would never have been legal. In short, if the U.S. had been a totally libertarian society, Africans would never have been enslaved and given second-class status. Government creates conditions that foster racial prejudice, then creates backlash and further prejudice by forcing people together.

Want to learn more? I recommend black economist Walter Williams’ concise and hard-hitting book The State Against Blacks, which offers easy-to-read documentation on the real root of discrimination — government!

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Who would make health decisions about children in a libertarian society: parents or medical professionals?

in Children's Rights, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I just read about Boston Children’s Hospital taking children away from their parents if children's health decisions in a libertarian societythey don’t agree to treat their children the way the doctors recommend. Would this happen in a libertarian society?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, a child’s guardians, normally the parents, would decide whether the treatment was worth the risk. No treatment works for everyone and every treatment has side effects in some people. Parents might not always make the optimal decision for their child, but doctors won’t always either. If the doctor feels strongly about a certain treatment, he or she should take the time to convince the parents of its worth, rather than use aggression to enforce their recommendation.

The article you cited indicated that children are taken from their parents most frequently “when doctors diagnose the child with a psychiatric disease, but the parents think the condition is a physical one.” Mental problems can be caused by physical factors, such as diet, genetic abnormalities, and certain vitamin deficiencies, which blur the distinction between psychiatric and physical. These factors are often downplayed or totally ignored in physician training. Licensing boards determine the medical school curriculum and reinforce the status quo, rather than cutting-edge or “politically incorrect” knowledge. Emphasis is placed on drug treatment instead of prevention or nutritional therapy, primarily due to FDA regulations. Since children often respond more negatively to psychiatric drugs than adults, forcing children to take them can actually be detrimental.

In a libertarian society, medical practice would be more diverse, since doctors would be certified instead of licensed and prevention wouldn’t be hampered by FDA regulations. Consequently, our medical science would be more advanced. In a society accustomed to using persuasion, rather than coercion, parents are likely to become better informed by doctors and make the best decision for their children.

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Short Answers to Tough Questions - Dr. Mary RuwartGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Libertarianism and Forced Testimony in Courts

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: In a libertarian society, when marriage becomes a private institution, what will happen to the right of a person not to be forced to testify against their spouse in a court of law?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, no peaceful person could be forced to do anything, including testify against another. Today’s government simply threatens people with prison and fines unless they give information, often at great cost to themselves (e.g., missing work).

Does this mean if you were charged with murder that the witness who could save you wouldn’t testify? Probably not. Witnesses could be reimbursed for lost work and other expenses for testifying, so their cost would be minimal. Withholding crucial information would likely be considered socially unacceptable. Few people would want to be embarrassed by a public announcement that they had done so — and caused an innocent person to suffer.

Even today, it’s almost impossible to force someone to testify truthfully. Witnesses lie to protect themselves and others, even under oath. That’s probably the real reason that spouses can’t be forced to testify today: they are the ones most likely to twist the truth for the benefit of their loved ones.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Free or Compulsory Speech“ by Murray N. Rothbard. The great libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard explores this issue with his characteristic vigor and consistency in this article, which first appeared in Libertarian Review in November 1978.

Excerpt: “The most flagrant example of continuing compulsory speech takes place in every courtroom in our land: the compulsory bearing of witness. Now surely each person is the absolute owner of his or her own body; as the owner of his own body, only the individual should decide on whether or not to speak in any given situation, and there should be no compulsion upon him to talk or not to talk. And yet in every court, witnesses are dragged in by force (the subpoena power) and compelled to bear witness for or against other people.”