What is Victimless Crime?
Henry Hazlitt, a famous Austrian economist, once said that the bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond.
Similarly, a bad libertarian sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good libertarian can see that the word “victimless crime” is bullshit and converts to free market nationalism.
Why am I calling out the libertarians? Because you typically hear this lovely phrase with the more libertarian minded. Outside of them, it’s a fairly bipartisan issue that both the left and right agree on: crime sucks, let’s not support victimization.
A “victimless” crime is defined as an illegal act that either directly involves only the perpetrator or occurs between consenting adults. Gentle things like using some MDMA or having public sex. Also, things like building a nuclear bomb or selling machine guns to ISIS members.
It is all consensual in nature. So it could never possibly have a victim involved, right?
I do want to add a side-note at the beginning of this article: Certainly, some “crimes” could be victimless if the state produces moronic laws. If a state makes a law that you can’t sharpen a pencil, and someone sharpens a pencil, it’s a victimless crime. I’m not addressing those silly “crimes”. I’m addressing actual crimes that most libertarians pretend are victimless, such as the drug trade, prostitution, and similar real crimes that a rational state may or may not prohibit based on their circumstances.
The Victimless Crime Fallacy
For example, doing a line of coke is a victimless crime according to most who ascribe to this philosophy. One person uses the drug and doesn’t impact anyone else. Same goes for the pushers. It’s a mutual market transaction. I was listening to a podcast recently that started with a statement detailing how an individual “served 33 years for crimes where nobody was hurt” in truthful seriousness.
Yet, it is only a victimless crime because the bad libertarian can’t see beyond what strikes the eye. He can’t see the violent crime that it took for that cocaine to reach his local market place from the cartels. He didn’t notice the lives of police and drug dealers that are destroyed by the drug trade. No one paid attention to the drug user’s daughter that is neglected because dad’s doing coke all night. The only thing the bad libertarian could see was the tunnel vision of the single individual doing or selling the blow.
In a return argument we would expect to hear that if it was not illegal, the manufacturing process to get it here would not be as harsh. Thus, no cartel. While true, this yet again ignores the other parties. It ignores the impact the drug has on the drug fiend’s family and close ones. It ignores the drug users that shift the societal and cultural narrative to one with more decadence due to their drug dependencies. It ignores the government cost of needing to pay for the drug users addiction treatment from the very same drugs that the government itself sponsors. The argument ignores so many other externalities that are created under this new scenario. In action, this still ignores third parties that they cannot see. The only thing that changes is that now there are different parties as victims.
So I can say with certainty and I’m here to convince you that victimless crime does not exist. The entire debate rest on the premise that all crimes must have immediate victims, instead of delayed victims. If the drug user uses heroin to the point it destroys his life, he is the victim. He may not have been an immediate victim when he bought the tar, but he’s still a victim when you consider the full timeline. The person that sold it ruined him and his community.
Every time another gram of any drug is pushed around, our society degenerates. It degrades all of us. We’re all the victims when the crime rates increase and more people fall prey to the vice.
Secondary Crime and Bombs
What about bombs? Your friendly neighborhood anarchist could sell a bomb to a person and within this transaction no victim is identified. Just two people making a mutual market exchange. If the person uses that purchased bomb to blow up a building and kill people, do we retroactively decide to call it a victim-based crime now? Or is the market exchange component of the crime still victimless?
Clearly, some “victimless” crime laws produce secondary crime. The bomb example is obvious. A drug user becoming addicted and robbing people to get the next fix is another example. Do we just close our eyes and not count the first crime because it was ‘victimless’?
Prostitution is Consensual… Right?
Almost all “victimless crimes” will or already have resulted in victimization. Even further, we could consider another common repute: prostitution.
In many cases, the victimization of the woman leading to her working in the field of sex work has already occurred through sexual trafficking or childhood sexual abuse. Do we discount present victimization if it’s in response to previous victimization?
In other cases, it is morally wrong and degrades society through the cultural/attitude change of considering women as a commodity that we can purchase for exploitative purposes.
Many women put (or consensually “lead”) into these situations have already been victimized so much that they decide to at least profit off of their victimization. They figure they’re always going to be used, they might as well make some money off it. It is a mental health issue that needs to be addressed; not further exploited to the benefit of a few men who can’t get laid in a healthy manner.
Even here, we see this trend of not being able to identify third parties that are also harmed. Do you think the loved ones, family, children, and people that are impacted by prostitution are not harmed in any way? Whether psychologically, physically, or emotionally?
It is no different than how the possession of pornography is also often considered a victimless crime, but the victimization of the adults and children that occurs during its production is never acknowledged by those who hold this position. Nor do they give even the slightest consideration for the family of those abused.
Their victimless crime is not actually victimless. It produces plenty of victims. They just remain too blind to see them.
The next time you hear someone say it was a “victimless” crime, call him or her out on it. Don’t let them stay in their tunnel vision visors. They are harming people and doing a massive disservice to actual liberty with their “victimless” campaigns.
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