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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12620/king-on-punishment-a-comment/

King on Punishment: A Comment

May 4, 2010 by

One thing I learned from Professor King’s paper is that he and I are far less in agreement on punishment theory than I had anticipated. It is fortunate for Professor King that I do not hold with an expectations theory of contract because then I might argue that he deserves to be punished for dashing my expectations. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard


Joshua Park May 4, 2010 at 11:53 am

I’m not clear on Rothbard’s proportional punishment theory. Is there a resource that anyone can cite?

From this article, it seems that Rothbard’s view was that an apple stolen yields an apple returned to the victim in court. Is that correct? If so, then what about lost time having to chase down the thief or fighting him through mediation? What about any charges from your security insurance or private security?

Also, if punishment is levied against the aggressor and prosecuted on behalf of the victim (and not the society or the state)… what then of murder? Would there be some kinsman-arbiter that stands in the seat of prosecution on behalf of the deceased victim?

Mark D Hughes May 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm

This, like all of Rothbard’s writing, was a pure joy to read. What a keen mind, like a razor’s edge.

Regarding the issue of third party intervention on behalf of the violated pacifist, I must confess some confusion. In Rothbard’s construct, the forgiving pacifist is not really violated at all.

He writes:

“There is yet another point that King overlooks. If Jones aggresses against Smith, and Smith, as a pacifist, refuses to prosecute, may we not even say that no crime or aggression has been committed? If Jones, for example, steals $10,000 from Smith, and Smith then says, “I forgive you, my son, go in peace,” then may we not say that Smith, though admittedly in an odd kind of way, has simply given Jones the $10,000 voluntarily, surely a perfectly licit action in a free society?
Even in the case of the bombings, we could say that Smith has voluntarily collaborated in the blowing up of his own home. But if so, then no crime against Smith has been committed, and even Professor King would have to admit that his troubled third parties would have no legitimate reason for rushing in to inflict punishment. In fact, as we have seen, King himself believes that rights and punishment are inextricable. Standing King on his head, may we not say that if the victim chooses not to inflict punishment, then no rights have been violated?”

Elsewhere (The Ethics of Liberty ) Rothbard is clear that self-ownership is an inalienable right. That is, you cannot give yourself (or sell yourself) into slavery.

“In short, a man can naturally expend his labor currently for someone else’s benefit, but he cannot transfer himself, even if he wished, into another man’s permanent capital good. For he cannot rid himself of his own will, which may change in future years and repudiate the current arrangement. The concept of “voluntary slavery” is indeed a contradictory one, for so long as a laborer remains totally subservient to his master’s will voluntarily, he is not yet a slave since his submission is voluntary; whereas, if he later changed his mind and the master enforced his slavery by violence, the slavery would not then be voluntary.”

So, my confusion is this. What do we do when what is a stolen from the pacifist is himself, i.e., he is abducted into slavery? If self-ownership is inalienable, how is it possible for the pacifist, after forgiving his captor, to effectively transfers the ownership of himself to his captor? Does the pacifist even have the “ethical” right to this? If the pacifist does not have such a right to transfer himself to the ownership of another then how does this affect the third party looking on. Can I, as an outraged observer, intervene and stop the brigand slaver of humble pacifists by use of force? And, if I can intervene under these circumstances, then cannot an argument be made for third-party intervention on behalf of forgiving pacifists whenever they are aggressed against?

We may need Walter Block on this one.

Mark D Hughes
Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues (ISPI)

Gil May 4, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Imagine a PDA officer who hear the family of a murdered old guy say “meh, he was a old pain in the arse anyway, we’re glad to be rid of him so there’ll be no charges”. Or if a murder victim had no immediate family and therefore no interested parties to press charges. Apparently you would have to make yourself well-liked in such a world.

ABR May 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

Punishment ought to be meted out according to what those governed have agreed in advance to suffer for their transgressions.

As a guiding principle, an eye for an eye (or two teeth for one) seems reasonable. If an eye-gouger can make a deal with the gouged to save the gouger’s eye, all the power to them.

Anthony May 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm

And if someone is “governed” against their will?

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