"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Victimless Crime: A Contradiction in Terms

The word victim comes from the Latin word victima, which meant a person or animal that was to be killed to honor the gods. Animals aside, it is my guess that there were very few people who willingly gave themselves up to be killed in a religious ceremony.

They were victims because an outside agency--in this case, other people--caused them physical harm to the point of death. And that is a good definition of victimhood, being harmed--physically or financially--by an agency outside of one's self, whether it be by other people or by nature, and whether or not it causes one's death.

It is my contention that you, yourself, cannot be a victim of your own knowing and willing actions. You may be stupid, or ignorant, or careless, but if you harm yourself by your unforced or uncoerced actions you are not a victim.

A crime, in today's convoluted legal world, is defined as a violation of the law. But there was a time in which a crime was defined as the violation of the rights of others.

One of my favorite 19th Century authors, Lysander Spooner, in his essay Vices are not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty, stated that "[i]t is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another."

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Spooner. How can there be a crime if there is no victim, no person who has been physically or financially harmed by some other person? Therefore, there can be no "victimless crime." Either a person has been so harmed or he or she has not. If such harm has been done then a crime has been committed.

However, a person behaving in a way that may, or may not, harm himself or herself, either phyically or financially, is not violating the rights of others and is, therefore, not committing a crime. Neither would he or she be a victim, because that person, not some outside agency, is the actor.

The biggest cause for the use of the term "victimless crime" is the use of the presently illegal drugs. The laws making it criminal to make, sell, buy, or use those substances are based solely on religious or personal moral beliefs.

I agree that an adult (not a minor) who knowingly and willingly uses one or more of the presently illegal drugs and comes to some kind of harm is not a victim. But I disagree that such drug behavior is a crime. The mere use a drug does not violate the rights of others. People who drink alcoholic beverages (alcohol being a true narcotic drug) are not arrested unless their behavior harms or threatens to harm the rights of others.

Another area where the term "victimless crime" is use is in the so-called sex industry, mainly in prostitution. If an adult women knowingly and willingly rents her body for sexual use to a knowing and willing adult, there is no victim. And, since the behavior is consensual and no rights are being violated, there is no crime.

As another 19th Century author, John Stuart Mill, stated, "[t]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."

Unfortunately, society believes that the government has the legitimate power to dictate proper moral conduct and to criminalize conduct that is considered immoral by a certain percentage of the population. That flies directly in the face of the concept of inalienable rights as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Also, there doesn't seem to be a legitimate enumerated Constitutional clause allowing the government this power.

Crimes harm other people. Victims are harmed by other people. There is no such thing as a victimless crime because if there is no victim then there can be no crime. That is logical, but then, the morality laws are based on religious and personal moral beliefs which are rooted in the emotionally controlled part of our minds.

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