I am not entirely happy with this previous blog of mine. In it I stated that, private police aside, there would be no exceptions in libertarian law about falsely accusing someone of a crime to the government cops. I claimed that this was libel, and in the libertarian code, this was not a crime. Several people who I greatly respect wrote to me about this, mentioning, among other things, the false Duke lacrosse rape case accusations. Could I really favor this? No, of course, I cannot. But, how to reconcile the right to engage in libel, with the obvious wrong of making such false accusations to the police, causing all sorts of undeserved misery to these young athletes.
My attempted reconciliation is this: It is legal, under libertarian law, to make wild-eyed false accusations against anyone, for anything. I now claim that Ron Paul takes a bath with a rubber duckie, that Lew Rockwell wears shoe lifts, that Bob Murphy wears a wig, that Murray Rothbard was a secret commie, etc. That is part and parcel of free speech, as long as I do it with my own private property, or that of others with their permission. Harming reputation is not a rights violation, since people do not own their reputations (they consist of the thoughts of others). However, it is not at all licit, under libertarianism, to cooperate in any way with an invading army, with imperialism, with an occupying force, such as the statist police. It should be illegitimate to voluntarily cooperate with such a wicked institution. It is akin to donating money to the evil government; only instead of currency, he who makes false accusations to the cops is “donating” information to them. Interacting with them, with the IRS, with their courts, under duress is an entirely different matter. No one should blame anyone for handing over their wallet under the gun of a mugger.
But what of making true complaints or accusations to the police, in order to rectify an evil? I think this would be allowed under libertarian law. It is not analogous to making false accusations to them, which, I claim, is like donating money to the state. Rather, it is
akin to taking money from the state, something which I think I am on strong ground in defending. (See here, here, and here.)
In registering a true accusation with the statist cops, you are in effect calling upon them to aid you or a victim—something quite proper. In registering a false accusation with the statist cops, you are in effect helping them perpetrate even more abominations.
I am still not sure that I’ve nailed this one. If you don’t think so, please share your reservations with me. Together, we’ll get to the bottom of this.2:22 am on July 18, 2011 Email Walter E. Block