Gregory, Tinsley, Lying to the Cops

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Anthony Gregory wrote in a magnificent essay that people have a right to lie to the cops, with no exceptions. However, Patrick Tinsley made the following possible exception: “What about a case where someone lies to police by falsely accusing someone else of a crime?” Such a false accusation would amount to a libel or a slander. But, I thought it was an agreed-upon basic premise of the libertarian legal philosophy that there should be no law against libel or slander. (See chapter 16 of Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press; or the chapter on the slanderer and libeler in my own book Block, Walter. 2008 [1976]. Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute.

If this view is correct, then, I think, Patrick’s exception is invalid, and that Anthony’s original essay thus requires no exceptions to it. But isn’t such an accusation unfair to the falsely accused? Wouldn’t this create havoc for his life? Not in the truly free society, when libels and slanders would flow freely, and no longer would a mere allegation suffice to do anyone any real harm. And, as for “wasting police resources” by making false accusations, it is not clear that this is an unmitigated bad. For all too often our “boys in blue” are out there not protecting innocent people, but, rather, arresting them for victimless crimes.

However, I would like to offer a seeming exception to Anthony’s keen insight: if there were a private police firm, and they paid someone to tell them the truth about a crime, and thus their informant was contractually obligated not to engage in false accusations, then and only then would to do this be considered illicit under libertarian law. But this is only a seeming exception, since, at least in the way I interpret Anthony, he is discussing illegitimate government cops, not legitimate private ones. What about paid informers who are supposedly contractually obligated to tell the truth to illicit statist police? From the libertarian perspective, there can be no such thing as a licit, binding contract with an organization which is quintessentially invasive such as this one.  Needless to say, nothing said above should be interpreted as me advising anyone to violate the law. Doing so is very harmful to flowers and other growing things. I am merely discussing one of the finer points of libertarian legal jurisprudence.

5:21 pm on July 17, 2011