Thursday, 2 June 2011


_McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath offers inoculation against the nonsense appearing in recent stories and headlines

This week: Fan mail 

Rather than looking at the papers this week, I share below an e-mail recently received from a New Zealander who, like many others, is wondering just how long John Key can carry on the Smile and Wave charade before the whole pack of cards comes crashing down around his ears—a correspondent who cares that innocent people are being hounded by the same government that is meant to protect them:

I have been following your party for some time now and only voted National in the last election so we could get Labour out, as I’m sure many did. However I think its time to start promoting your party more and I have already started telling people about [Libertarianz].

The reason for my email is that I want to propose the idea of a new bill, called the Victimless Crimes Bill. Basically the idea is that if a person is charged with a crime, and they can prove there is not (or would not) be a victim, then they should not be charged. I am sick of victimless crimes in this country, it’s a disgrace.

As I said in response to him, the new boss is the same as the old boss. As Peter Cresswell has pointed out on numerous occasions on this blog, this National government continues to drive this country further into indebtedness by $300 per week per family. In every essential—and all too many of the details—they  are no different to Labour before them. And their attitude to victimless crimes is just the same.

Wikipedia, defines a victimless crime as

“an infraction of criminal law without any identifiable evidence of an individual that has suffered damage in the infraction.”

Surely the test of whether something is a crime should be whether someone was actually harmed by the actions of someone else. No harm – no crime.

The Libertarianz Party believes in the principle enunciated by John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty:

"[The] only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

Or to put it another way, government is force; and the only time that force may be exercised is to protect you from me—or me from you.  (Specifically, to prevent the initiation of force by one person against another.)  The only times a person or persons can be forced to do something against his/their will is, by extension, by right of self-defense or restorative justice (where people are compensated after sustaining proven objective harm, by the entity that harmed them).

At all other times, the government—to whom the power of retaliatory force is delegated by the individuals it serves—should turn the other way, even if some people find what other people are doing distasteful.

Lack of taste is not an initiation of force.  Which means:

  • Homosexuality itself harms no-one, in the same way that heterosexuality is not inherently evil. There should be no laws that interfere in the peaceful interaction of adults.
  • Cultivating, consuming and trading in cannabis (a natural plant) is another victimless “crime”, between adults and with the consent of all parties who take full responsibility for the consequences of their freely chosen actions.
  • The same principle applies to the producers of erotica, to prostitution, to gambling and to other activities in which people are not forced to participate or actively support. As long as no coercion is involved, the State should let people do what they want. Once force is used by one party to violate the individual rights of another, however, that is where the State should step in to enforce compensation for damage or other loss.

This country needs fewer laws, not more of them. Yet while the National Party is in no hurry to remove the laws that prosecute victimless crimes, and persecute innocent New Zealanders, it is spending virtually every waking moment preparing and writing new laws to be passed under urgency.

On the other hand, the Libertarianz Party has always maintained that such laws—laws without victims—should be repealed. Immediately. That would be the beginning of paring the threat from government down to size.

In the meantime, and as healthy start on this road, my correspondent suggested a Victimless Crimes Bill be drafted. Damn good idea! The Libertarianz Party will get on to it. And who knows, there may be a libertarian-leaning party with MPs in the next parliament via whom such a bill might see the light of day, by Private Members ballot or otherwise.

Incidentally, who would have thought that blackmail is a victimless crime?

See you next week!
Doc McGrath             


  1. From "Everyone (else) is a hypocrite" author hypothesis about 'banning sex', and makes up several specious reasons for doing so. Then gives reasons that people might give for allowing sex rather than banning.
    "Most people probably think we shouldn't ban sex because
    (1) a general moral principle is that people ought to be allowed to do what they like provided it doesn't hurt anyone;
    (2) consensual sex between 2 people doesn't hurt anyone;
    (3) people ought to be allowed to have consensual sex
    This analysis suggests we ought to have a reason to prevent people from doing what they would like to do. That is most people thinking about this argument don't ask IF there ARE reasons that we should ban sex, but rather if there are reasons we should [ban]"

    Vaguely reminds me of Perigo spoof of "NZ In Bed" at time of "NZ On Air" nazism

  2. Correction ~ that is most people don't ask If there are reasons that we shouldN'T ban sex, but rather if there are any reasons we should

  3. Why should I have to prove my actions have no victim? The law shouldn't work that, I'm innocent until you prove otherwise, I thought!

  4. @Daniel: Yes, almost a fair point.
    Except that in the current context, the law simply MAKES you a victim, and gives you no way out.

    So this law would at least be a defence against existing immoral laws.

    So would that make it a compromise? No, It would make it a principled way to begin getting from here (in which victims are coerced) to the right place (in which they won't be), without any new coercion therefrom along the way.

  5. Richard McGrath3 Jun 2011, 22:38:00


    The onus would be on the prosecution to prove harm to someone, not for you to prove a negative - which, if I understand it correctly, can't be done.

  6. NZ has more laws than there are people, NZ has more laws than there are sheep, NZ has more laws than the above two sums added together. I fully support victimless crimes being removed from the statutes.
    The public order dimension to this proposal makes it problematic. For instance: If I drive home drunk without incident, the crime is victimless. OK? Trouble is if I am apprehended on the way home at a point in the journey when there has not been an incident it is entirely speculative whether I'd have finished the trip without an incident. Therefore I ought be left to continue my journey? OK? So, therefore how can the law be said to protect us from each other? Is drunk driving the initiation of force against fellow citizens? When one drives drunk it can never be said to be a burden assumed solely by the perpetrator but a burden imposed on all others in the path of the driver. (Despite no harm having occurred.)
    Another: If I willfully breach the cordons in central CHCH and not a single piece of masonry falls on my head, breaching the cordon is a victimless crime. However if I do so, get injured, and a rescuer is maimed while hauling me out. Is breaching the cordons still a victimless crime?
    There are classes of offences which are victimless but inchoate. ie If one attempts to murder someone who unbeknownst to one is already dead. That is a victimless crime but clearly still one that is against the principle of non-initiation of force despite the intention to kill being incapable of ever being realised.
    The jurisprudence in these posers can be truly knotty.
    Chris R.
    PS: The architecture in the new Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin can be viewed on a virtual tour. Worth the diversion.

  7. I wish to respectfully disagree with John Stuart Mill.

    The function of government is not to prevent harm to others, but to enforce restitution in cases where (objective) harm has already occurred.The govenrment cannot prevent harm without infringing upon rights, and without restricting the actions of it's citizens.

  8. Richard McGrath7 Jun 2011, 12:40:00

    Good point, Dolf. In the case of preventing harm, they would need to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that harm would have occurred had they not acted, for instance removing a child from a home where it is likely to get battered to death - difficult to do, I concede. And definitely they should act to ensure redress after harm is done.

    Of course, part of the function of harm prevention would result from consistent and vigorous enforcement of laws designed to ensure restitution when harm is done.


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