Blackmail and Economic Analysis
28 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011
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.
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