Blackmail as a Victimless Crime
Walter E. Block
Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Robert W. McGee
Fayetteville State University
July 13, 2011
The legal theory of blackmail is the veritable puzzle surrounded by a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Consider. Blackmail consists of two things, each indisputably legal on their own; yet, when combined in a single act, the result is considered a crime. What are the two things? First, there is either a threat or an offer. In the former case, it is, typically, to publicize on embarrassing secret; in the latter, it is to remain silent about this information. Second, there is a demand or a request for funds or other valuable considerations. When put together, there is a threat that, unless paid off, the secret will be told.
Either of these things, standing alone, is perfectly legal. To tell an embarrassing secret is to do no more than gossip. To ask for money is likewise a legitimate activity, as everyone from Bill Clinton to the beggar to the fundraiser for the local charity can attest. Yet when combined, the result is called blackmail and it is widely seen as a crime.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26working papers series
Date posted: July 14, 2011
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