Blackmail and Economic Analysis

28 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011

See all articles by Walter E. Block

Walter E. Block

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business

Date Written: July, 13 2011


Blackmail consists of two things, each indisputably legal on their own; yet when combined in a single act, the result is considered a crime. First, one may gossip, and, provided that what is said is true, there is nothing illegal about it. Truth is an absolute defense. Second, if one may speak the truth, one may also threaten to speak the truth. Yet, if someone requests money in exchange for silence - money in exchange for giving up the right of free speech - it is a crime.

The law and economics literature takes the position that blackmail should be illegal on efficiency grounds. This author rejects the law and economics analysis. He maintains that because it is legal to gossip, it should therefore be legal to threaten to gossip, unless paid not to do so. In brief, blackmail is a victimless crime, and should be legalized if justice is to be attained. This author criticizes several other writers who take the efficiency position, focusing most of his arguments on a paper written by Douglas Ginsburg and Paul Schechtman.

Suggested Citation

Block, Walter E., Blackmail and Economic Analysis (July, 13 2011). Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, 1999. Available at SSRN:

Walter E. Block (Contact Author)

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business ( email )

6363 St. Charles Avenue
Box 15, Miller 321
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
(504) 864-7944 (Phone)
(504) 864-7970 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics