Would Epstein Be A Criminal Under Libertarian Law, Part II

Previously, I wrote this comment on that question.

Several people sent me comments about this. I append them below, along with my reactions to them.

Would Epstein Be A Criminal Under Libertarian Law, Part II

Previously, I wrote this comment on that question.

Several people sent me comments about this. I append them below, along with my reactions to them.

Letter 1

From:  M

Sent: Saturday, July 13, 2019 2:31 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Epstein

Dear Dr. Block,

On the matter of Jeff Epstein. You make the point that these women were “under age” and Epstein should be prosecuted. However, in our society we have Pro-Choice advocates that for some time have made it very clear that if a 14 year old is pregnant she has the right to terminate that pregnancy without notifying her parents. Why? Because, we are told, she is in control of “her body”. OK. If that’s the case why isn’t she “in control of her body” if she willingly engages in sex? After all, she’s done that (unless it’s a matter of Immaculate Conception in which case she’s killing the  Christ child) with someone. Why should her choice of the age of her sex partner involve criminal charges of the man she sleeps  with?

Can libertarian theory square this circle?

Sincerely, M

PS: and are not these laws on age of consent and such just a part of the anti-sex laws originating in the Progressive Era as chronicled by Rothbard? Why shouldn’t these laws also be challenged by libertarians?

Dear M: I can’t square that circle; no one can. It bespeaks a logical contradiction on the part of our friends on the left. They want to eat their cake and have it too, to mix my metaphors. They see 14 year old girls as helpless children when it comes to voluntary sexual activity, and as fully formed adults regarding pregnancy and abortion. They cannot have it both ways, and still be logical.

But, I don’t agree with you as concerns age of consent. I don’t think they are per se incompatible with libertarianism. Take an extreme case: a five year old girl. I think it a proper law to imprison anyone, well, above the age of adulthood for males, 14 years old? 12? who has “voluntary” sex with such a young female because she is simply not capable of agreeing to any such thing. So, I support age of consent laws. The only question is, at what age should they kick in?

Letter 2

From: R

Sent: Saturday, July 13, 2019 12:51 AM

To: Walter Block


Subject: Is Epstein A Criminal? A Libertarian Analysis – LRC Blog

In your original article on this issue, you say this:  “If they were 18 at the time, let alone 21, and there was no physical violence on the part of Epstein, then, he is guilty of no crime, at least according to libertarian law.”

what sort of thing is this? there is no  libertarian law’ beyond the NAP. In a voluntaryist society, individuals can agree (even sign a contract) to condemn or sanction any sort of behavior they want (including homosexual behavior or drug use) and to refuse to deal with individuals who practice that behavior. but to there there is no single  set of laws governing the punishment of those individuals (and law is concerned with punishment, not merely condemnation and sanction). i think it is very misleading to talk about a libertarian legal system or law (murray went, IMO, completely off when he prescribes a  specific libertarian legal system  and the appeals process therein.

Here is a quote from Murray Rothbard:

“But suppose Brown insists on another appeals judge, and yet another? Couldn’t he escape judgment by appealing ad infinitum? … In the libertarian society, there would also have to be an agreed-upon cutoff point, and since there are only two parties to any crime or dispute–the plaintiff and the defendant–it seems most sensible for the legal code to declare that a decision arrived at by any two courts shall be binding.”

Dear R:

Sorry, on this matter, as on virtually everything else, I am a staunch Rothbardian. Yes, the NAP (and private property rights based on homesteading) are the cornerstones of libertarianism, and yes, there is such a thing as libertarian law which naturally transcends these two building blocks of our philosophy. Libertarianism has to have a view on whether it is a criminal act to have sex with a five year old girl. A proper libertarian court cannot base its decisions on tea leaves or Ouija boards or the flip of a coin. Any parent who signs a contract allowing an adult to go to bed with his five year old daughter (except if it is to save her life, and this is a very controversial exception), is guilty of child abuse and should be considered a criminal under libertarian law. I see no problem whatsoever with the brilliant analysis you quote from Murray about the appeals process, even though this goes beyond the NAP and private property rights. Nor am I a “thick” libertarian in this regard. The appeals process has to stop somewhere, no?

Regarding my reliance on private courts, I’m no David Friedman. In this view, whatever they say is fine with him insofar as his version of libertarianism is concerned. But, I’m with Murray on this one. It is always possible, no self-contradiction, to say, the private court found X, but is X just? Private Indian courts in the 19th century might well have supported suttee, a rights violation if ever there was one. Private German courts in the 1930s might well have supported treating Jews, blacks, gays, Romany, as “vermin”; if so, they would have been wrong, incompatible with proper libertarian law.

So, my reliance on private courts is limited (It is not for nothing I am known far and wide, at least in my own mind, as Walter Moderate Block). But, when it comes to a continuum problem (see my previous writing on this issue), I am happy to go by what a private court finds, if it is reasonable. In my view, the age of consent should be pegged somewhere between 14 and 18, I know not where. If a private court came up with 15 or 17, I would think that eminently reasonable.

Letter 3

From: J

Sent: Sunday, July 14, 2019 11:57 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Not a question about kiddie-diddlers, but an inconsistency

Good afternoon Dr Block, I wanted to offer something brief about the kiddie-diddlers [any female under thirty is a girl, in my opinion].  The state in which I live has the age of consent at sixteen-this is true for most states in the US.  Recently, an eighteen year-old was prosecuted for second degree sexual assault after having sex with his sixteen year-old girlfriend.  It was presented in the local paper as molesting a child, so that is the line among the public, except the high-schoolers that know them both.

I looked through the court filings and found warrants for both his cell phone and hers.  His crime wasn’t the act itself, but rather that it was recorded on video.

In short, any and every nature of consensual sexual act with a sixteen year-old is okay, in the eyes of the state government.  Recording the act, though, is a two-year sentence and a lifetime on the sex-offender list.  What’s more is that every conceivable act in the above conditions would also be okay, but her sending him revealing, but not graphic photos, would be possession of child pornography, and subject to prosecution.

The good news, such as it is, would be that the adolescents in the loop on this got a look at the government as it is AND those I have spoken with understand it.

Dear J:

You make an excellent point (by the way, I’ll be 78 next month; as far as I’m concerned, all people under 65, males and females, are just kids; callow youth).  This is an obvious injustice on the part of the all-loving state, and, hopefully, lots of people will learn of its evils from this sort of thing.

Best regards to all,



2:21 am on July 15, 2019