A Libertarian Analysis of Jeffery Epstein’s “Suicide”

From: P
Sent: Monday, August 12, 2019 8:52 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Are Epstein’s captor’s liable for his suicide?

Hi Walter, Assuming that Jeffery Epstein’s liberty was taken in such a way that did not violate the NAP, and assuming that he did, indeed, commit suicide while being held in custody, can those who were in charge of him be held accountable for his suicide?

Thank you, Paul

From: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:37 AM

To: P

Subject: RE: Are Epstein’s captor’s liable for his suicide?

Dear Paul:

Given arguendo, that Epstein did not violate the NAP, then to jail him was to kidnap him. Kidnapping is a crime. Epstein, under your assumptions, was innocent. We’re all innocent until proven guilty. Epstein was not convicted of anything. He should not have been placed in jail. But he was. The people who did this to him, kidnap him, are guilty of the crime of kidnapping. Now, for the suicide. Assume he would not have committed “suicide” (I place scare quotes around this word to indicate I don’t for a moment believe this claim) had he not been kidnapped. Then, the people responsible for jailing him were also causally related to his death, e.g., they would be in my opinion, considered murderers. Not first degree murder, but murder nonetheless. Maybe second degree murder, or manslaughter.

Suppose a private gang, not the government, kidnapped someone, who, while in their captivity, committed suicide. I think it would be obvious that to the kidnapping charge (a lesser crime than murder) would be added the greater crime of murder.

How are we supposed to ensure people accused of crimes, but who are not yet convicted, will not flee the jurisdiction? An electronic ankle clamp would be more in keeping with libertarianism than kidnap-jail. It would still be a rights violation, but certainly a lesser one.  In the fully free anarcho -capitalist society, a private defense company might well use the electronic ankle clamp, but if the person were later found to be innocent, they would be guilty of the relatively minor crime of assault and battery.

Murray wrote about this somewhere, do you remember where? Murray wrote about all such vexing issues, brilliantly. I wish I knew where he wrote about this.

Here is a message to me about this issue from my friend David Gordon. As per usual, he nails the matter:

From: David Gordon [mailto:dgordon@mises.com]

Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 6:31 AM

To: Walter Block

Subject: Re: FW: Are Epstein’s captor’s liable for his suicide?

Dear Walter:

Murray’s general principle was that the punishment exacted on a guilty criminal cannot exceed in severity the crime of which he accused. Thus, if Epstein is accused of child molestation, what can be done to him depends on how severe you take this crime to be. Murray discusses this in Ethics of Liberty, pp.85ff.  http://rothbard.altervista.org/books/ethics-of-liberty.pdf

So far as I am aware, Murray never supports preventive detention. If a criminal flees the jurisdiction of the court, that would make him liable to a trial in absentia.

Your own analysis is excellent, and I don’t have any improvements to suggest. However, I don’t think that you are answering the question that “P” asked. As I read his letter, he is asking about a case where “taking Epstein’s liberty did not violate the NAP.” That is, the captors didn’t violate the NAP.. Your answer is about the situation where Epstein doesn’t violate the NAP but the captors do.

Best wishes,



5:42 pm on September 11, 2019