State And Crime
By Peter Bistoletti
There are three types of “crimes”, however two of those should not be considered as such. Let me explain.
1) Crimes against so called natural rights, conferred by natural law. Natural rights are universal ethical rules, developed over thousands of years and e. g. to be found in the commandments of all large religions. These natural rights link the Non Aggression Principle (NAP) to the respect for private property- you shall not kill, steal, covet your neighbor’s house, use violence or offer violence against any other person except in self-defense etc. Nobody should be coerced into a contract and thus all contracts should be based on voluntariness. The victims of crimes against these natural rights are always individuals.
2) Crimes directed at the state with the state as “victim”. Examples are inter alia tax evasion, tax fraud, objection to military service (i.e. slave labor) and damaging or stealing state property.
3) Victimless crimes against state statutes and rules.
Let’s now scrutinize these three kinds of “criminal acts” more closely.
A criminal act harming natural rights is always directed at a private person and/or private property. Natural rights are the basic conditions of peaceful coexistence between human beings and the prerequisite for a market economy with voluntary exchange of goods and services creating prosperity for everyone, a.k.a. capitalism. State-issued statutes, based on violence and force, and natural rights are incompatible. The state often masquerades statutes as entitlements and rights when in reality they are nothing but arbitrarily created and thinly veiled injustice, serving primarily the state’s and its cronies’ interests. Already the ancient Romans knew the difference between statute (lex) and law (ius). They considered law to be ethical rules guiding the coexistence and cooperation between human beings. Statutes on the other hand were issued by the state in order to implement rules and commands which had to be followed by the citizens. The state, based on its monopoly on the use of force usurped a monopoly on issuing statutes in order to exert power over the people, enforcing these rules by violence or threat of violence. Statutes are almost always in contradiction to the people’s sense about what is right and just. They are drafted in an incomprehensible language with the purpose of executing power. That’s why people have to hire attorneys to get help in lawsuits.
What is a “criminal act” directed against the state? For instance tax evasion, refusal to pay taxes and rejection to be called up for military service are deemed “criminal acts”, harming the state. But the so called military duty must be considered as slave labor because it is compelled and always paid for far below any minimum wages. Another crime against the state allegedly is to steal or damage state property, a behavior which was very common in the communist Soviet Union. There was always a lack in toilet paper in Soviet hospitals, light bulbs disappeared as did all things easily removable.
But there is a moral dilemma, which is the crucial point and a priori puts the state in the wrong: actions deemed crimes with regards to individuals, for example to defraud, to blackmail or to resort to violence and kill, are thought to be absolutely legitimate for the state. From not only an ethical point of view but also in legal regards the state therefore should be considered a slave holder, a blackmailer and a murderer. The difference between the state and the Mafia is marginal – the state is bigger, more powerful, and less able to act and think economically. Both use extortion to finance themselves, the only difference being that the state extorts accompanied by deception. How so? Both promise “protection” but usually the Mafia keeps that promise while the state only pretends to and is neither really interested nor very efficient at giving cover. And the state forces every entrepreneur to obey vast amounts of hampering and annoying regulations, causing unnecessary expenses and losses. This suggests the assumption that rule by the Mafia would be economically more favorable for enterprises than state rule.
To prosecute and punish victimless crimes is completely preposterous. Hundreds of new regulations, all of them useless and issued only in the interest of the state and its cronies, are enacted every year, making normal and harmless behavior punishable offenses. But why at all should the state prosecute and punish people when they are not harming anyone? The fundamental question in this context is: who owns you and your body and who should control and decide what you do with or put into your body? It’s none of the state’s business what an individual is doing to his body. Every person is the exclusive proprietor of his own physical body. The state has absolutely no say in one’s decisions on consuming alcohol or using drugs, on alpine climbing, horse-riding or motor biking – all self-endangering activities not jeopardizing or injuring anybody else. It is one’s own private matter. The so-called “war on drugs” is a striking proof of completely futile statutes and regulations in view of victimless crimes and should be finished immediately according to a recent survey from the London School of Economics. This research study proves that the war on drugs is useless, counterproductive, and costing an enormous amount of money and resources. Instead of combating the alleged crimes, this “war” has created a multi-billion dollar black market for drugs and a whole new branch of crime, put millions of young people in jail, making the US the No.1 prison country in the world, and promoted exactly those criminal elements and violent drug dealers it pretended to oppose. The only thing the global war on drugs has achieved was inflating the bureaucracy – and perhaps this was exactly what the states intended with their “war on drugs”. Unaffected from the decades-long “war” the rates of addiction remain unchanged, overdose fatalities are at an all-time high, drugs cost less than ever before and the internet market for drugs is growing at an exponential rate. If all states followed the examples set by Portugal, The Netherlands, and some others and would finish the “war on drugs”, their crime rate would decrease dramatically. Decriminalization would put an end to prison overcrowding, reduce organized crime, and free resources for fighting real crime against people and their private property, unclog the court system and save a lot of (extorted) tax money. Decriminalized drugs would be safer, the rate of contagious diseases like HIV and hepatitis would drop, and the unfettered use of drugs would encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in the research of safer and healthier drugs. The “war on drugs”, an unbelievably costly human and economic disaster, is financed by (extorted) tax payer money. This shows the entire futility of criminalizing victimless actions.
The ensuring of security as well as the prevention and resolution of conflicts can much better and cheaper be accomplished in a private law society by insurance companies as Hans-Hermann Hoppe proposes with convincing rationale. The overwhelming majority of people believe in the necessity of a state. Without a state, they fear, there would be permanent conflicts. Only the state is supposed to be an independent and neutral arbiter in conflicts between individuals and only the state should have the authority to judge and convict. But this timid persuasion is twofold contradictory to fundamental economic and ethical principles. First, the state is a judiciary monopolist. According to generally accepted economic principles each monopoly pushes the prices of products and services above free-market level while simultaneously lowering their quality. Second, the state allegedly provides “law and order”, but he does it with extorted tax payer money while at the same time being the final decision maker in conflicts regarding its own behavior. Thus the state is an expropriating property protector and a law-violating law preserver – quite preposterous.
Moreover, the state as the monopolist on violence usurped the authority to legislate and implement its perverted statutes without the genuine consent of the people affected. How does the production of “law and order” by the state work in real life? The state as a self-appointed monopolist proves to be notoriously ineffective in preventing crime and providing security. Crime prevention, administration of justice, and rehabilitation of delinquents in the state’s hands has nothing to do with efficiency and results. On the contrary: the basic rule seems to be that for the state a failure is a success! The state has an inherent interest in (1) leaving the rate of crime detection as low as possible in order to not frighten the voters with the real extent of crime and (2) keeping the crime rate high enough for getting more tax money for its alleged fight against crime which in reality is a fight for tax funds; a crime rate too low would be dangerous for the state as it would call into question its necessity. This is one of the reasons why the state continuously increases the number of victimless crimes, because it supposedly proves the state to be a guarantor of peaceful coexistence.
A quite disgusting part of the states’ judiciary is the contempt for the victim. The state does hardly care for the victim of a crime. Victim compensation is ridiculously low and it’s most abnormal that the victims even have to pay for the criminals’ amenities in prison with their taxes.
In most cases of petty crime like theft and robbery the crime clearance rate is extremely low. Police and prosecutors obviously are not interested in prioritizing combating these types of crimes. In the present state-run judiciary system there is no contract with mutual obligations between the state and its citizens. Instead what the state offers is simply this:
I, the state, promise nothing. I provide services at my leisure and you have to pay whatever I charge. I don’t pay any compensation if one should not be satisfied with my services. I, the state, have the right to unilaterally price my services and am free to alter my prices whenever and howsoever I want.
Any company offering such kind of a “contract” would disappear from the market immediately.
The solution to the judiciary system run by the state would be a society based on private law as proposed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. This would be a system respecting natural law and the resulting individual rights. Private companies would provide insurances and security, based on the rules of the free market. In Sweden nowadays there is more “private police” than state police – and it works. In a private law society everyone could conclude a contract with any private company for providing crime prevention and prosecution. And private arbitration courts would decide on lawsuits and penalization. Every person had the right to carry a weapon for self-protection. More guns in the hands of the individual mean less crime, so the right to carry a weapon and to use it in self-defense would be inviolable. This construct of freedom and self-responsibility is completely alien to the current situation in the allegedly “civilized world”. The state solely in his own interest of not having to fear any competition has disarmed almost the entire population and usurped a monopoly on the use of violence. Private security companies on the other hand in their interest of keeping their operating costs down would encourage the possession of weapons and reward the owners with lower insurance premiums, like today they reward those with fewer car accidents or a house alarm system.
In an unhampered market private security companies would also be much more effective in preventing, prosecuting and punishing crimes than the state because of the market pressure for cost effectiveness. For instance they would be more successful in finding stolen goods and thieves because only then they could claim damages, refund the stolen goods, keep down their costs, keep up a good reputation, and stay competitive. Private law societies have existed for thousands of years before the emergence of the state and also in modern times and they were much more successful in terms of economy, preservation of life and decent social interaction than any state society. Even today, state-free created international trade rules and arbitration (International Chamber of Commerce – ICC, Incoterms 2010, Model Contracts and Clauses, UCP 600, URC 522 etc.) are good examples of how well a private judiciary system can work governing international trade and commerce.
From an ethical point of view, crimes against the state and victimless crimes are no crimes at all, should not be prosecuted and punished and their prevention and prosecution not be financed by tax payers’ money. Huge resources would be released for useful appropriation if private companies in open competition would prevent, prosecute and punish crimes against individuals, companies, and their property. We could all live in greater prosperity, with more individual freedom and less surveillance. To abolish “crimes” against the state and victimless “crimes” is no utopia but a realistic possibility to break or at least diminish the state monopoly on violence.