On Attempted (And Thus Unsuccessful) Murder, a Ticklish Question for NAP Libertarians, Since It Does Not, Clearly, Violate the NAP

From: S
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2019 8:07 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Attempted Murder Question


Regarding your LRC postings on attempted murder, I think the more interesting point to think through is what should be the punishment for a failed attempted murder, assuming the crime is proven.

If libertarian punishment policy is based on proportionality and restitution, then should there be any punishment levied on an attempted murderer with whom the proposed victim has never interacted?  Since the attempt failed, and the proposed victim never even knew about the attempt, and thus did not suffer emotionally, why should the perpetrator be punished?  There is no loss, and thus nothing to compensate, and a proportional response would mean the proposed victim could make a failed attempt on the perpetrator without the latter knowing (obviously absurd).  (Of course, the bigger question in this whole scenario is how such an attempt would have been uncovered in the first place…)

Modifying the facts slightly, if there is a failed attempt, but the proposed victim did interact with the perpetrator, and thus did suffer emotionally, then I can see how the punishment could be that the proposed victim has the right to cause a similar emotional suffering in the perpetrator.  However, this would be quite ineffective, since the perpetrator would expect that the proposed victim is not going to “go all the way,” and thus it might be tough to “pay back” the emotional suffering.  Thus the proposed victim’s main form of punishment would be compensation for mental suffering.

In either case, the punishments would be quite different from those for actual murder. S

Dear S:

I think the law should treat the attempted murderer of whom the victim is unaware, far more harshly. After all, he did threaten his target. True, his target was, is, unaware of this, but I think that is irrelevant. Other people are aware of this threat, and are also harmed by it (they might think that if the attempted murder of whom the victim is unware can get away with this threat of his, then I’m in more danger than I otherwise thought). Of course, if no on is aware of the attempted murder, then and only then does the perpetrator get away with his evil deed.

Best regards,



4:38 pm on April 11, 2019