Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Society can't be victim of crime

Society can't be victim of crime
(Originally published on 5-6-2011. As written, not as published.)

Often when the impact of increasing liberty is being discussed, especially with regard to things some people resist on moral grounds (such as ending the criminalization of prostitution, ending drug prohibition, ending the regulation of gambling, etc.), someone will claim that victimless crimes actually have a victim, and that victim is "society". So let's examine this assertion bit by bit.

What is a victim and what is society? A victim is someone who has been harmed against their will. An individual is harmed when they suffer actual physical or financial damage. Anything that doesn't harm any individual harms no one- by definition. Can society be harmed by an action that harms no specific individual? Let's see.

Merriam-Webster says "society" is "a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests". Society has no physical form so it can't be physically damaged; just like bullets wouldn't kill a ghost. No victimless crime harms society economically, since all money really belongs only to individuals. Unless there is fraud or theft involved, which financially harms an individual, there is only mutually-beneficial trade, even if some find it distasteful. The only way I see to really harm a group, beyond harming the individual members, is to cause the group to disband, perhaps to reform in a different way. But is that truly "harm"?

I don't think society can be harmed, but merely changed or altered. Of course, if you prefer the way society is now rather than how it might be after it has been changed, your opinion is that society has been harmed. This is just a matter of perspective; some individual would see just about any particular imaginable change as an improvement while someone could be found to resist any particular change. As long as people are allowed to opt out and no one is coerced into going along and paying for programs or policies they don't like, no one is harmed by the change.

This explains why The State's very existence causes change to be seen as harm since no one is allowed to opt out of the coercively-enforced majority rule. As one graphic example: without an institution claiming legitimacy- a "government"- and a system of coercion in place to be coopted to force you to obey Sharia Law, and forbid you from acting in self defense against those who want to force it upon you, how could it actually harm you?

Finally, some claim that society is a victim since "society" will have to pay for the harm some people do to themselves and to other individuals by their actions. This is a refutation of the socialism inherent in taxation and welfare rather than proof society is a victim. If anything in this example victimizes society it is taxation, collectivism, and welfare. End them and let people pay for their own care and pay restitution for any harm they cause others and the excuse evaporates.

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