Libertarian Punishment Theory Questioned. And Answered

From: K
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2017 4:15 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Libertarian punishments
Dear Mr Block, Since you are an advocate of the libertarian system of punishment, I wonder if you have been following the saga of the Qisas & Diyat laws of Pakistan. Nearly 3 decades ago, Pakistan adopted the traditional Islamic laws of punishment which were originally born in a stateless tribal society. The criminal can now negotiate with his victim to escape state punishment by paying compensation to the victim. The result of these laws has been overwhelmingly negative, especially for vulnerable sections of the population (e.g. women, the poor and the religious minorities). It has become difficult for vulnerable people to get justice if the criminal is rich or politically influential. The victims are pressured into accepting compensation through threats. In case of murder, the victim’s heirs can be bribed to forgive the murderer. Rich and powerful people have literally gotten away with murder. The problem with giving the victim the option of negotiating compensation is that weaker members of the society get doubly victimized when they have to negotiate with more powerful members after being victims of a crime in the first place. Thanks K

Dear K: You are quite correct in thinking that the libertarian position is that crimes are committed against individuals, not against the state, as the government would have it. Thus, the criminal should be made to compensate the victim, not the state. And, I also see your point, that this system is not working in your country. But why not? Why do not free enterprise defense agencies arise to aid the poor, women, the vulnerable, minorities, etc., of course for a percentage of the money transfer? These free enterprise defense agencies would have the poor as their clients. They would be equally powerful, nay, more so, since they would specialize in this sort of thing, as the rich, powerful criminals. I suspect that the reason firms of this sort do not arise is that they are prevented by the government from engaging in this business.

This reminds me of the case, during the US Jim Crow years, where black people were forced to ride in the back of the bus, much to their dismay. Critics said, see, free enterprise doesn’t work; look at this patent injustice. But, why ever did not other bus companies form that would cater to African Americans, and allow them to sit wherever they pleased? (Such new entrants would have attracted virtually all black people, and even some whites upon occasion, who didn’t want to wait for a “whites in front” bus to appear.) Why not? Because the government, the one responsible for Jim Crow legislation in the first place, would not allow this. They would not grant franchises, permits, to any such new bus company. Do you see the parallel between this case and the one you raise?


10:23 pm on September 26, 2017