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Ayn Rand on Crime

 


Too many laws means men can't live without breaking laws

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.
Source: Government Bullies, by Rand Paul, p.231 , Sep 12, 2012

Let ten guilty go free rather than execute one innocent man

The valid argument against capital punishment comes from the fact that humans, including juries, are fallible; mistakes can be made. It is moral to let ten guilty men go free rather than execute one innocent man. It is better to condemn murderers to jail for life than risk taking the life of an innocent man,
Source: "Ayn Rand Answers," by Robert Mayhew, p. 45-46 , Nov 1, 2005

Ideas can't be crimes; so no such thing as political crime

A crime is a violation of the rights of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others--i.e., the recourse to violence--that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong). Ideas, in a free society, are not a crime--and neither can they serve as the justification of a crime.

There can be no such thing as a political crime under the American system of law. Since an individual has the right to hold and to propagate any ideas he chooses (obviously including political ideas), the government may not infringe his right; it may neither penalize nor reward him for his ideas; it may not take any judicial cognizance whatever of his ideology.

By the same principle, the government may not give special leniency to the perpetrator of a crime, on the grounds of the nature of his ideas.

Source: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p.176, by Ayn Rand , Jan 1, 1999

Crime involves force; no such thing as crime against society

All actions defined as criminal in a free society are actions involving force--and only such actions are answered by force.

Do not be misled by sloppy expressions such as "A murderer commits a crime against society." It is not society that a murderer murders, but an individual man. It is not a social right that he breaks, but an individual right. He is not punished for hurting a collective--he has not hurt a whole collective--he has hurt one man. If a criminal robs ten men--it is still not "society" that he has robbed, but ten individuals. There are no "crimes against society"--all crimes are committed against specific men, against individuals. And it is precisely the duty of a proper social system and of a proper government to protect an individual against criminal attack--against force.

Source: The Ayn Rand Column (L. A. Times), "Americanism," p. 86 , Oct 1, 1998

Punishment should be guided by retribution, not reform

What is the punishment deserved by criminal actions? I can only indicate in a general way what principles should be the base of legal justice in determining punishments. The law should: The punishment for pickpocketing cannot be the same as for murder--but the principle by which a specific argument has to be guided is retribution, not reform. The issue of attempting to "reform" criminals is an entirely separate issue and a highly dubious one, even in the case of juvenile delinquents.
Source: Letters of Ayn Rand, p.558-60, "John Hospers," by Ayn Rand , Apr 29, 1961

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Page last updated: Apr 26, 2015