I want to discuss what a crime is because non-libertarians do not seem to understand what constitutes as a crime. The definition of crime according to Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia is, essentially, “an act that violates the law.”
I believe that accepting such a definition entails surrendering oneself to all governmental authorities.
A legislator can declare anything a crime; it can take any freedom that it wishes to. Legislators abuse this power in order to label people that they don’t like as criminals.
For example, if you do not fill out a 2010 U.S. Census form, then the U.S. government considers you a criminal. (Yet, no one considers the U.S. government to be a criminal for robbing people for the money to fund the Census.)
I believe that the true definition of crime is “an act that violates another person’s freedom.” Victimless crimes do not exist.
Of course, some violations are more egregious than others. Ranking how valuable the individual freedoms are from greatest to least is a difficult task. But, here is the list that I have created:
1. Life. Murder is the most h einous and outrageous crime there is. It is the permanent, irreversible cessation of a human’s existence. All of that person’s freedoms disappear forever. It is infinitely worse than any other crime.
2. Psychological health. The mind is more important than the body. Intentionally inflicting psychological damage on another person by means such as abuse, threats, coercion, and all fear-mongering in general can ruin another person’s entire life. It may be irreversible, especially if it occurs at a young age.
3. Physical health. This one is very similar to psychological health, and the two may often be interwoven. Physical abuse can cause psychological issues. The question is which freedom is more valuable. The body can heal; a violation of physical health is more likely to be temporary. Of course, it may be permanent as well. But when one considers individuals like Jean-Dominique Bauby or Stephen Hawking, one sees the value of a fully functioning mind.
4. “The pursuit of happiness.” Thomas Jefferson considered this right more important than property, and so do I. Without the right to the pursuit of happiness, property would be meaningless. The meaning of this phrase is vague, though. To me, this category covers movement, choice, opinion, and reputation. Imprisonment is a horrible crime. The prisoner is completely subject to the whims of the captor. The prisoner has no freedom regarding entertainment, sunlight, income, food, and so forth. But, freedom of movement does not entail communal ownership of land. A private property owner may invite whomever s/he wishes onto the land that s/he owns.
5. Property. This category encompasses all rightful ownership. Theft and fraud are crimes. No one should be subjected to unwilling loss of their land, money, valuables, or body. The nature of economics is the voluntary exchange of these items.
If an action does not fit into one of these five categories, then it is not a crime; it is merely unlawful. Is it a crime to text while driving? No. Is it a crime to own a firearm without a license? No. We must not allow the legislators to judge us as criminals when we are not.
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