Tuesday, April 11, 2006



What does the libertarian ethic say about threats of violence or coercion? What about other ethical approaches? What are all the issues at hand?

Someone told me yesterday that the sentence for threatening the President of the United States is 30 years in prison.

Is that justified, even if he is the president? Even for a threat and no violence? Is violence the only crime or is a threat of violence a criminal act as well? Does someone deserve compensation for a threat of violence against them?


Well, are physical damages the only damages that count? If not, then it would seem that to the extent that threats can lead to emotional damages they should be punished/compensated for.

Though I don't think treatening a President warrants a 30 year prison sentence. But I wonder how accurate that number is. It just seems too absurd.
It does seem a little absurd, so it is probably not too far off the mark...

I guess I was wondering if emotional damages are considered crimes or simply just civil disputes over damages incurred.

Why is a threat a crime? It seems difficult to criminalize verbal exchanges because they entail such a wide variety of possibilities with damages that are difficult to measure.

Also, since almost anything out of a person's mouth can be deemed offensive to someone else, are all statements potentially criminal? Courts have set up a sliding scale in an attempt to measure "loss", but I think it is quite difficult in reality.

I just don'think verbal exchanges are criminal -- they maybe deserving of compensation from one party, but that does not make them criminal.
I think of issues like this in terms of "ambient levels of encroachment."
For example, you encounter a stange figure in a dark alleyway. You may feel threatend, but that is just you. Now suppose you see that the man has a gun in his hand. This doesn't bother you too much, because you're packing heat, too, the good libertarian that you are... Are you justified in drawing your weapon? Yes to be sure. Even if he did not have a gun you would be justified in drawing your weapon. Now suppose he points his gun at you, let's say it has laser sights and you notice a bright red dot on your chest. Are you justified in firing at the dark shadow? Is a pre-emptive strike in order? Has some "ambient" level of encroachment been crossed over?
The normal, average person would probably say yes, shoot the bum, what right has he to point a gun at me? And that seems consistent with a libertarian ethic, if our property rights to ourselves extend a small distance beyond ourselves.

Now, from a juris naturalist perspective, aka my own peculiar ethic, the answer is no, one is not justified in protecting oneself from threats. One may only use force, or even the threat of force, as a response, not as an initiator. And then, force is only to be used to the point that the invader ceases to encroach. There is absolutely no room for vengence.

Post a Comment

<< Home
CrispAds Blog Ads

Does someone you know deserve flowers?
Web Site Hit Counter
Dell Canada

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?