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Fred Koschara


It is my considered opinion that a crime is an act which is morally wrong, when a specific individual or group wrongfully suffers a tangible loss as a result of an unjust action by another individual or group: i.e., when an identifiable victim is injured by a conscious act undertaken by the crime's perpetrator against the victim: If there's no victim, then there's no crime - although the act in question may be illegal. During 1982, Libertarians in Rochester, NY introduced me to the idea that a crime occurs when someone initiates the use of force against another person. At the time, and ever since, I have spent a lot of mental effort trying to identify situations where an act should be called a crime that does not involve the initiation of the use of force - and have been unable to find any. Thus, the definition of what a crime is that I have come to accept is as follows:

An entity is a natural, artificial, real, corporate, or otherwise self-aware individual. A crime occurs when an entity (the perpetrator) initiates the use of force against another entity (the victim) and causes the victim to suffer a specific, tangible and identifiable injury as a result of that initiation of the use of force.

Without much effort, anyone can easily think of many laws prohibiting things that do not fit the criteria identified above. (I'll discuss some of them below.) What, then, are these laws that allegedly turn innocent acts into ones that are called criminal? The laws themselves are crimes perpetrated by the government that imposes them against the populace they are imposed on. Where the only legitimate purpose of a government is to protect the rights of the citizens it governs, such laws are the seeds of the ultimate downfall of the government that makes them: People will not long respect a government that seeks to punish them for things they know to be acceptable activities, and when crime is the way of a government, its subjects will soon follow its example.

A law student tried to tell me that laws which prohibit things where there is no victim, where there is no initiation of the use of force, are ones that create statutory crimes. According to this person's opinion, the illegal acts are a "crime" because the statute says they are. (I am appalled at how willing this person is to blindly let anyone in power decide what is right or wrong!) However, if there is no victim, the only reason an act would be illegal is because the opinion of the government in power at the time the act is outlawed is that the act is "wrong." What gives one group (government) the right to impose their opinion on other people, against their will? NOTHING, if the truth be known and recognized: By imposing their opinion against the will of their subjects, the government has initiated the use of force against the populace, and have become criminals by doing so. Anyone incarcerated as a result of violating a law where nothing more than opinion is used as its justification (i.e., there was no victim as a result of the action undertaken by the person who is incarcerated) is a political prisoner of the government: Their only "crime" is that of having a different opinion from those in power.

In all cases where a person is held as a political prisoner, the prisoner is the victim, and the government that holds them is the criminal.

Another class of wrongful laws are those which define "victimless crimes:" By using an oxymoron to classify these acts, the government itself is admitting the error in their ways: If there's no victim, there is no crime.

Who is injured by prostitution or recreational drug use, for example?

In the case of prostitution, where two adults enter into a business relationship for the gratification of one's desires by the other in exchange for money or other compensation, there is no victim and punishing either party for the transaction is unjust. (If the prostitute is a child, or otherwise incapable of voluntarily entering into the transaction, the "buyer" has initiated the use of force, which is a crime - but in that case, the crime is not prostitution, but instead sexual misconduct, which is a completely different matter.)

In the case of recreational drug use, the only person who may be injured by the drug use itself is the user - and people cannot commit a crime against themselves, only against another individual. The biggest direct problem with recreational drugs is the users tend to lose their ability to discern right and wrong, and end up committing crimes during their state of temporary insanity. If a person knowingly elects to use a recreational drug, and knows the effects it has on their inhibitions, they assume all responsibility for their actions while under the influence of the drug at the time they take it - and must be held accountable for any crimes they commit while under its influence.

On the other hand, if someone drugs another person against their knowledge, not only have they committed a crime against the person drugged, but they have, in effect, committed any and all crimes that the drugged person may commit while under the influence of the drug. Likewise, if someone gives another person a drug and knowingly misrepresents its effects, or fails to inform the user of its effects when they know the user is ignorant of its effects, they are guilty of misrepresentation and any wrongful subsequent actions taken by their victim as a result of that misrepresentation.

In the cases of both prostitution and recreational drug use, the acts themselves are not rightfully called crimes. However, in both cases, truly criminal acts - robbery, assault, vandalism, and even murder - often accompany what would otherwise be a peaceful event. This happens partly because of the laws that prohibit acts which are not fundamentally wrong - either because the lawbreaker cannot report the crime because they will be charged with a "crime" themselves (in the case of prostitution), or because the lawbreaker cannot legitimately get enough money to pay for their activity (often the case with drug use) because prices are so high to cover the risks taken by dealers who would otherwise be legitimate businesspersons. The laws prohibiting "victimless crimes" thus cause real crimes to occur, either in support of, or as a result of, the prohibited activities.

In general, "victimless crimes" are activities that are prohibited because those in power consider (in their opinion) the act to be something wrong. Since, by definition, "victimless crimes" have no victim, the only reason they are considered to be a crime is because of the opinion of the person or group that prohibits them. Once again, a person who is punished for a "victimless crime" is being punished for having a different opinion from those in power.

In all cases where a person is punished for a "victimless crime," the person being punished is the victim, and the government that imposes the punishment is the criminal.

"Voluntary" negligence - willfully choosing to ignore conditions or consequences that will have adverse effects on other members of the community - is just as much of a crime as if a person had undertaken to commit the crimes through direct action: The outcome is the same, and results from the same source - a conscious decision to follow a path of action (or inaction).

Involuntary negligence, however, is not a crime and cannot rightfully be called a crime: If a person truly has no advance knowledge, or reason to suspect, their actions will have an adverse effect on others, their ignorance is just that - a lack of knowledge, which is not, and cannot be a criminal act: There is no way any person can know everything, and to try to hold someone accountable for something they don't know is truly an abrogation of justice.

The biggest problem in most cases involving negligence is determining whether or the negligence was voluntary or involuntary. In probably the majority of the incidents, the offender should have known their actions would result in injury to the affected parties. The determination of whether a perpetrator actually would, should or could have known what the result of their action or inaction would be is where much litigation arises from.

Only if it is determined that the person causing injury through negligence did so by willfully ignoring relevant information does a crime occur. If the consequences were the result of legitimate ignorance of the outcome of an action or inaction, then no crime has occurred.

competition - "stealing" customers is not a crime as long as the customers voluntarily change their minds about who to do business with; business losses are not injuries, but are instead failures to achieve expected profit levels due to customer choices; voluntary cooperation for mutual benefit must be the coin of business and trade

unions have been used to protect workers from exploitation and as a tool to exploit management; the former is protection from crime, the latter is execution of crime

courts of justice vs. courts of law; the former looks at issues of what is right vs. what is wrong, the latter merely at what is legal vs. what is illegal; the two groups of decisions are not a coincident set

restitution is the only proper form of punishment for a crime

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