CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, July 22, 2011

Block & McGee on Blackmail

Walter E. Block (Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business) has posted two manuscripts on SSRN, one co-authored with Robert W. McGee (Florida International University (FIU) - School of Accounting). The co-authored piece is Blackmail as a Victimless Crime. Here is the abstract:

The legal theory of blackmail is the veritable puzzle surrounded by a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Consider. Blackmail consists of two things, each indisputably legal on their own; yet, when combined in a single act, the result is considered a crime. What are the two things? First, there is either a threat or an offer. In the former case, it is, typically, to publicize on embarrassing secret; in the latter, it is to remain silent about this information. Second, there is a demand or a request for funds or other valuable considerations. When put together, there is a threat that, unless paid off, the secret will be told.

Either of these things, standing alone, is perfectly legal. To tell an embarrassing secret is to do no more than gossip. To ask for money is likewise a legitimate activity, as everyone from Bill Clinton to the beggar to the fundraiser for the local charity can attest. Yet when combined, the result is called blackmail and it is widely seen as a crime.

The other article is A Libertarian Theory of Blackmail. Here is the abstract:

This article will attempt to analyze the law prohibiting blackmail from a libertarian perspective. Libertarianism is a political philosophy; as such, it is a theory of the just use of violence. From this viewpoint, the just use of violence is essentially defensive: one may employ force only to repel an invasion; only to protect one’s person or property from external threat, and for no other reason.

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When you put it in those terms, it almost doesn't seem like a crime at all. I wonder when it got turned into potential criminal charges and codified by law?

Posted by: Joe | Jul 22, 2011 5:13:31 PM

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