The Morality of “Get-Threats”: Withholding Divorce as Extortion
I·CON - INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW 18(3) 849–869 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1093/icon/moaa063
26 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 14, 2021
Threatening to withhold Jewish divorce in order to extract concessions, which I term here the “get-threat,” is widely regarded as extortionist. Yet this view is commonly associated with skepticism towards agreements stemming from unequal bargaining power, or with a progressive view of the proper divorce regime. Building on contemporary discussions of what is known as “the paradox of blackmail” this article argues that in many cases get-threats should be regarded as simple cases of extortion even by libertarians and conservatives. It then presents and analyzes the best possible statement of defense for the practice of get-threats, designed for the “reasonable reactionary,” showing that even from that point of view get-threats should be limited in scope and magnitude to a narrow range of cases of justified, reasonable demands. The article thus offers both a precise analysis of a longstanding debate and a normative argument for its proper resolution.
Keywords: Jewish divorce law, Agunah, Blackmail, Extortion
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