Libertarian Opinion

Is “No Victim, No Crime” True?

You’re trying to say ‘nobody got hurt’ so you shouldn’t be held accountable for whatever the infraction is. By that logic, You probably feel the punks in Worcester shooting the gun at the park should be left alone because nobody got hurt. People who drink and drive as long as they don’t hurt anyone should be left alone. Hell, when someone is in the crosswalk as long as you don’t hit them you shouldn’t have to stop! I think you guys have the right idea about catching instances on tape, but if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. A lady recently was killed by a skateboarder who couldn’t stop – I’m sure he didn’t think he’d ever hurt anyone either. I don’t necessarily agree w/ the by-law but if it’s there, sorry you’re at fault not the cop. You’re lucky he does his job – maybe when and if someone goes to your house and steals that expensive skateboard, that same cop will say, well nobody got hurt! – Denise, on a CopBlock post about anti-skateboarding rules

“No victim, no crime,” is a catchy refrain. But is it true? Let’s put it to the test. Check out this video in which Beau Davis is peacefully riding down the sidewalk. He’s not hurting anyone. He’s not even trespassing.

But some critics at say this activity presents a risk to other people. It’s a “safety issue.” Beau could go too fast or lose control. Someone could get hurt. Compare it, they say, to when someone drives drunk or shoots a gun into the air. Not every instance results in someone getting hurt. But sometimes, people will get hurt – very badly. Thus, these “safety issues” need to be controlled. And, I suppose, the police are the only ones around to do it.

Many actions can be considered a safety issue when done irresponsibly. The risk is present not as much in the act of driving, discharging a firearm or riding a skateboard  as it is in the way the act is done. Is it being done responsibly or irresponsibly? After all many people discharge firearms, ride skateboards and drive a car (after drinking or not) without hurting anyone.

For example, if I drink one beer one hour before driving (which used to be legal under Pennsylvania statute), that’s responsible drinking and driving. I limited my intake and let some time pass. If I drink several mixed drinks and don’t leave sufficient time between that and getting behind the wheel, that is not responsible. If I drive at high speed, swerve on the road or otherwise engage in behavior that would be dangerous no matter what I consumed, it would not be responsible.

Libertarians have a rule called the non-aggression principle. It means that you can not initiate any use of force (commit aggression) against a fellow human being. If someone aggresses against you, then you can morally use defensive force to stop them. Included in the common definition of aggression, among other things, is a threat of aggression. In other words, a credible threat of aggression is the same thing as the actual aggression.

Consider the case of discharging a firearm into the air above a crowd, or even into the ground in a crowd. This is a threat. It is a hostile action. The difference between the bullet missing someone in the crowd and hitting someone in the crowd is a matter of chance at this point. Consider a driver who is swerving, missing stop signs and going faster than conditions safely allow (whether “drunk” or not). Whether intentional or not, this is hostile to fellow motorists and those on foot nearby. It is a de facto threat to them. This is not a victimless crime. It is a real one.

“No Victim, No Crime?” It passes the test. We simply need to use a more fine-grained definition of what is a crime. If you threaten someone, you are creating a victim. You are committing a real crime. At the same time, not everyone accused by the state of negligent firearm discharge, drunk driving or skateboard use has actually presented a threat to anyone.

Because the state is so large and centralized, the legislators have to make their rules simple and specific enough for cops to enforce. Cops aren’t lawyers. They aren’t thinkers. You can’t expect them to enforce complicated laws or make a distinction between responsible and irresponsible actions. They can’t (or don’t) check back with the legislators to see if they really understand the law. They just don’t have that kind of access. There is too much distance between them in the state hierarchy.

This is the problem. The rules are oversimplified to the point of being arbitrary. That’s the only way the bureaucracy can work. This form of organization, known as the big state, is simply too stupid to work efficiently in any other way.

Every rule comes with a zero-tolerance policy. No exceptions, no thinking involved. You’re on a skateboard on a city sidewalk in the “business district?” The full force of the state is coming down on you. Period.

We can do better than this. Let’s stop “just following the rules” and start thinking about who makes these rules, where they get that authority and why we should listen to them. We are all equal. Each of us has a rational faculty that we can use to make our own decisions. Let’s start using it.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

One reply on “Is “No Victim, No Crime” True?”

The phrase, “If there is no victim there is no crime” is ever so true today during this over blown, out of proportion, COVID19 sham. If a store owner chooses to open their store even though the government says they can’t, where is the victim? If someone goes fishing even though a governor says they can’t, where is the victim. If someone takes a walk in a public park that’s closed by the government, where’s the victim.

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