What Is A Crime?Submitted by Generation L on Sat, 07/27/2013 - 00:30
If we’re going to move towards a free world which is based on the rule of law; a world of free people who are endowed with natural, inherent rights, who can participate in voluntary interactions with others in a free market environment, I think we need to define (or re-define) what a crime is and what it isn’t.
Here are some of my thoughts:
I believe that a crime is something that is universal and not subject to the whims of those who may assume power or authority. I believe that in order for a crime to have been committed, at least one other person or their property has to have been harmed. This could be physical harm, financial harm, harm to one’s reputation or harm in some other form such as the violation (or denial) of one’s inherent rights. I would also consider the intent to do harm a crime.
But the mere violation of a law, I would not necessarily classify as a crime. If a law is arbitrary and there is no victim, then breaking that law is not a crime. For example, the cultivation, possession or consumption of marijuana is not, in and of itself, a crime, as long as it’s on your own property and no one else is being harmed. On the contrary, those who establish, and those who enforce, any law that prohibits an individual from exercising his/her natural, inherent rights, where no one else is harmed or put at risk of harm, are in fact the ones committing a crime.
But that does not mean that all laws are illegitimate. Communities, cities, states still have the right to establish and enforce laws. These types of laws would mostly concern the use of collectively owned property such as roads, parks, water supplies, etc. These laws will have been established through some sort of democratic process by those who own the property or resource; the residents.
But these laws cannot be arbitrary. These types of laws would have to have the causation of harm, or the genuine risk of harm, as their basis. For example, a city or county has the legitimate right to enact and enforce speed limits, and intoxication laws on publically owned roads, because reckless behavior puts others and their property at real risk of harm. Mandatory seatbelt laws, however, may not qualify, as it would be difficult to show the potential risk of harm to others.
These types of laws would also be based on prior consent. The user would be agreeing to abide by the laws when he decides to use the road. The laws would have to be clearly stated and available to everyone. The onus may be on the user, or resident to know the laws.
For example, if a motorist upon arriving to a city where it is clearly posted that everyone is welcome to use the roads, but upon doing so, is required to know and abide by the rules of the road established by the people of that city (who own the roads), chooses to use the roads but does not abide by a particular rule or law, he would then be subject to a fine or some other penalty. A law was broken that the driver agreed to abide by so he/she is rightly subject to a penalty.
Wikipedia; “A crime, also called an offence or a criminal offence, is an act harmful not only to some individual, but also to the community or the state (a public wrong)”.
Can a person commit a crime against a community or a state? No. ‘Community’ and ‘state’ are concepts. A person cannot harm a concept and therefore it is not possible to commit a crime against a community or a state. A person can harm the people or property of those living within a community or a state, in which case a crime will have been committed.
Can a person commit a crime against themselves? No. Everyone has the right to do to themselves whatever they please, even to harm themselves if they so choose. If someone harms themselves and no one else, no crime has been committed. In order for a crime to be committed, at least one other person needs to have been harmed.