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Is Hiring a Hitman a Crime?

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Mises Pieces Posted: Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:12 AM

Obviously the hitman himself is committing a crime if he follows through on his part of the bargain, but is the client that hires him guilty of aggression for his role in the conspiracy?

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Most definitely.

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He is exercising ownership over something that doesn't belong to him (the person's life that is to be taken by the hitman) through hiring a 3rd party (the hitman) and having that 3rd party "manage" that person's life on his behalf. Therefore he is just as guilty as the hitman himself.

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It is not unlibertarian to ask someone to kill someone else. It is not unlibertarian to give money to someone. Two rights do not make a wrong.

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DD5 replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:28 AM

 

You cannot delegate rights you don't have to someone else.  That's according to the NAP and natural rights theory.

In the free society, where law is a product of the market and not some arbitrary whim, people would most likely demand voluntary contracts that consider hiring a hit man to kill you a crime.

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I tend to say no, the client of a hitman has committed no legal wrong. There should be no grounds for legal recourse

However, moral wrongs within a free society can carry as much, if not more, penality than legal crimes. This individual may be blacklisted and shuned to the point of starvation

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Of course this is unlawful. 

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_van_Dun :

Van Dun claims that the correct interpretation of the non-aggression principle (NAP) is praxeological rather than physical, because property is a "means of action". He thus claims freedom before property instead of freedom as property. This implies that it's not necessarily only the last action in the chain of social causations that is unlawful.

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Yes.  see "agency"

 

The hitman is an instrument of the client's will.

btw, I believe 'agency' is the Hobbesian rationale for the legitimacy of leviathan, or representative government.

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DD5 replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:45 AM

Jeremiah:

 

I tend to say no, the client of a hitman has committed no legal wrong. There should be no grounds for legal recourse

 

I'm curious.

Who would determine this divine and supreme legal code which according to would not consider the hiring of a hitman a crime?  Where will this law be written and where will it come from?

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You cannot deny the law without contradicting yourself.

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Also, to those (seems like most) who do believe it is a crime: does it immediately become a crime as soon as the contract is agreed upon, or does it only become a crime once the murder is attempted?  For example, if the hitman had an attack of conscience and reported the client before the murder, would the client already be guilty of a tort against the target?  Or does the client only become an accessory once the physical violence is actually committed?  This is assuming that the target is completely unaware of the plot to rule out the eventuality that the target, under threat, paid off the hitman not to carry out the murder, which would certainly be an aggressive act.

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Those exact interpretations will be determined by the market outcome. Different communities will have different choices to the relative importance of different praxeological rights.

So I think we should always remember that our different responses in this thread do not divide us because we agree on a more abstract level how the law/custom would arise.

For me personally, yes I think just odering the murder is criminal. There has to be habeus corpus of course when investigating.

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heres my silly answer of the day, 'you can hire them to mow your lawn and clean the pool'

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

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DD5:

I'm curious.

Who would determine this divine and supreme legal code which according to would not consider the hiring of a hitman a crime?  Where will this law be written and where will it come from?

Certain providences may view this is a crime, security agencies, PPA's, and insurance companies may view this as a crime. I am simply commenting that de facto is doesn't seem like the hiring of an agent of violence is a violation of the non aggression principal. There is no extension of someones will, it is simply exchange.

Reprhasing the question, can you donate money to a murder simply because your glad they committed the crime they committed?

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Marko replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 2:50 PM

It is a crime to advocate for higher subsidies for cotton candy and you're asking if paying someone to kill is a crime??

Advocating higher taxes = a crime in libertarian ethics => Advocating war/murder = a crime in libertarian ethics => inticing someone to murder with money = a crime in libertarian ethics.

 

Reprhasing the question, can you donate money to a murder simply because your glad they committed the crime they committed?

Rephrasing the dillema. Lets say the state in a bid to raise more money is offering a service. For a donation of 1 million dollars to the state budget the donor can name a person of his choosing to be killed by the state.

Is it a crime to take advantage of this service?

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Marko replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 3:05 PM

heres my silly answer of the day, 'you can hire them to mow your lawn and clean the pool'

You are right, I didn't think of that.

It is OK to hire him if you are hiring him to off someone who deserves it and you have standing. In which case he is just a very speedy court and not a hitman really.

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Also, is it a crime to say to someone: "If hypothetically you were to cause the death of Person A, then you could then live in my basement rent-free and I will cook for you until it blows over."  ???

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Marko replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 3:27 PM

Maybe, if you're a really good cook.

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There's another thread that asked "is Austrian Economics postmodern?"

If I didn't know any better, this thread would convince me it is.

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In ancient Iceland, when a person commited a crime, refused any attempt of the community to mediate a solution, and only escalated the problem, one could find himself eventually to be an outcast, that had to leave the island in a few weeks - after this time, the person could be killed by anyone without any consequences.

In this case I believe, hiring a hitman would be perfectly legitimate.

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Does it immediately become a crime as soon as the contract is agreed upon?...

Yes.  It is a contract between wills.  "I promise that I will do such, and you promise that you will do such and such."  

It is the legal manifestation of one's will in civil society.  Contract is the very soil of civil society, because it provides a framework according to which praxeological actors can plan/economize/engage in economic calculation.  Individuals are now held legally responsible for their actions in the economy.  This legal responsibility means that a price structure arises...economic actors are legally responsible to honor their contracts, which means honor their prices. 

In hitman example, notice that the hit man makes BOTH an economic (i.e. civil), as well as a criminal contract.**  He legally obliges himself to society both civilly AND criminally.  By maintaining his citizenship---which is his legal claim to the rights and protections of the nation's constitution/laws---the criminal submits himself to the potential legal penalties associated with his public action. 

** It is of course up to the legislature to determine whether the hitman's written/declared intent to murder qualifies as a criminal act.  I would certainly qualify it as one.

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Marko replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 5:13 PM

In ancient Iceland, when a person commited a crime, refused any attempt of the community to mediate a solution, and only escalated the problem, one could find himself eventually to be an outcast, that had to leave the island in a few weeks - after this time, the person could be killed by anyone without any consequences.

In this case I believe, hiring a hitman would be perfectly legitimate.

What you are talking about is a matter of cost not of morality. A troublemaker is outcast because it costs the community too much to extend their protection to him. He can be killed by anyone, because he physically can be killed by anyone. Outcast from his community no one will stand in his defence and no one will seek to avenge him. Jet this still doesn't tell us anything about the legitimacy of killing him.

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Also, is it a crime to say to someone: "If hypothetically you were to cause the death of Person A, then you could then live in my basement rent-free and I will cook for you until it blows over."  ???

Yes.  Seems like it's especially for these close spots that we have jury trials.  So that 12 different people can assess the situtation, and render a call.  I think in this scenario, to make a judgement, I'd really like to hear both sides of the story, and get a feel for the intent of the speaker.  Something like this requires close human inspection...or at least as close as civil society can muster, which is our legal system.

I mean, it's not a slam dunk either way, is it?:  no clear guilt, no clear innocence.  How else is this gonna get decided?  The state legislature is the only other option. 

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cr113 replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 5:32 PM

Next time you are in Walmart, try this little thought experiment. Scan some of the customers randomly and decide which ones you would "shun" for disobeying natural law.

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"In ancient Iceland, when a person commited a crime, refused any attempt of the community to mediate a solution, and only escalated the problem, one could find himself eventually to be an outcast, that had to leave the island in a few weeks - after this time, the person could be killed by anyone without any consequences.

In this case I believe, hiring a hitman would be perfectly legitimate."

Agree with this 100%. 

Everyone in society is under some over-arching body of rules/laws/code of conduct/etc..  By the time of adulthood, if the society is functioning properly*, everyone understands what this means:  One is legally obliged to follow the rules, with well known penalties for not doing so.

* Indeed, at all.  Each is necessary for the other.  Society could not function without first providing for it's own maintenance vis-a'-vis the rule of law/tradition/custom/etc.

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Merlin replied on Wed, Aug 4 2010 1:30 AM

Obviously the hitman himself is committing a crime if he follows through on his part of the bargain, but is the client that hires him guilty of aggression for his role in the conspiracy?

Not at all. It might be morally reprehensible, but I myself would not advocate violence against the instigator.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
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What you are talking about is a matter of cost not of morality. A troublemaker is outcast because it costs the community too much to extend their protection to him. He can be killed by anyone, because he physically can be killed by anyone. Outcast from his community no one will stand in his defence and no one will seek to avenge him. Jet this still doesn't tell us anything about the legitimacy of killing him.

While cost may be part of it, the reasoning seems to me a bit different: the troublemaker is either an immoral person, an unrepentant criminal, or he simply does not fit the community and its justice system. He has commited a crime, that much is a given, so he should either leave or face possible revenge from those he commited a crime against (or by anybody else... he becomes a legal non-person, the phrase "You are dead to us." gets a wholly new meaning). In this specific community at least, the killing appears legitimate. And if that was the case, hiring a hitman would be okay as well.

Back to the debate though, let's take it for granted that a killing is illegitimate (or any other crime) - is it legitimate to hire somebody to do it? Right off the bat I would say that the killer and the one to hire him should be punished equally, but don't have any underlying principle for it. Anyone can help out?

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Pete Sidor,

See my first reply above.  Do you agree with it, or disagree?

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@ Marko

My goal is not iconoclasm of libertarian ethics I just simply find our theory of threat and agression lacking. Our ethics doesn’t allow us to decipher between the criminality of the CIA agent or the CIA janitor though we intuitively know the difference.   

Let me quote a thought experiment I have pasted before

An individual hires another individual to act as though they are undergoing an immense amount of pain via their employer. The hired individual thus acts in a manner that would fool any observer into thinking they are actually undergoing an enormous amount of pain up until they perform a certain, prearranged, action (like giving up their wallet, etc). The individual perpetrator then gingerly turns to an unknowing observer and asks if they may “have their wallet”. The observer yields to the request under the false assumption that if they do not they will be harmed (as the actor was). What crime, if any, has been committed?

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Do we need a full blown theory on 'threat and agression'? 

Rothbard thought we needed; but why do we need one? 

What's wrong with having some general rules, that we can know a priori, that just have to be applied? That's the difference between economics and economic history: you have a theory that you apply. By analogy: you have a a priori theory, that you apply.

What can we know a priori in the rules of ethics? Do no harm against the objects that are under the legitimate control of other people ('property' and 'body') That's a bout it. You don't need a priori investigation talking about 'wether or not we should jail the janitor', because it depends on the historical circumstances. Do we understand - verstehen - his actions as (willingly and knowingly) contributing to a crime? If so: than it's a crime. If not: than it isn't. 

Yes, there are hard cases; but so is doing economic history. 

Responding to questions like this hypothetical example is assuming the role as a judge and leaving the realm of political philosophy. It's like explaining the economic history of butter between 1950 and 1970: it's applying things we can know a priori in political philosophy towards certain specific cases. 

If I were to be the judge; I would consider it a fancy way of treating someone that you will use force against him if he doesn't give up his wallet, which is robbery. 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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Similarly: 'humans act' is actually skipping a step.

"If there are certain creatures who act, this is wat follows. (Uncertainty, diminishing marginal utility, etc.) We understand humans as being such beings." 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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David Z replied on Wed, Aug 4 2010 10:46 AM

Not at all. It might be morally reprehensible, but I myself would not advocate violence against the instigator.

I would.  He may not be guilty of physical aggression, but he's surely guilty of conspiring to commit aggression with malice aforethought.

 

The question needs to be reprhased, not whether it is a "crime" but whether it is "wrong" to hire a hitman.

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@Jeremiah's hypothetical

I personally would not consider that a crime.  Furthermore, I do not think that is a credible strategy for robbing someone.  Why would someone go to such extremes to avoid committing "aggression" only to go ahead and commit flagrant aggression if the target does not turn over his wallet?  If the target has any sense at all, he would see that the "aggressor" will clearly not follow through on his implied threat since he has demonstrated that he will go to great lengths to avoid technically committing aggression.  And if we were to consider such actions as you described as aggression, then why wouldn't the "aggressor" just go ahead and mug the target if he's committing aggression either way?

It seems that the "aggressor" would be destroying the credibility of his threat by signaling to the target that he is extremely concerned with avoiding committing aggression.  I know it's just an illustrative hypothetical, but punishing implicit aggression could be an extremely slippery slope.

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"The question needs to be reprhased, not whether it is a "crime" but whether it is "wrong" to hire a hitman."

If I'd phrased the question that way, I would have probably gotten a lot more 1-word answers :)

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David Z replied on Wed, Aug 4 2010 10:59 AM

Instead you have 30 responses begging questions about how a free market determines what is a crime, and other various semantic disagreements...

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So it's your view that anything that is "wrong" should also be a crime?

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David Z replied on Wed, Aug 4 2010 9:18 PM

mmmm... not exactly what I was going for.  the argument seems to be framed within the statist construct of "crime", as opposed to what would more likely arise under a freed market, ranging from contractual issues under a propertarian approach, to social norms under a more communitarian approach.

Look: we can probably agree that it's wrong to burn down someone's house.  It doesn't matter whether someone (else) asked you politely, or paid you a million dollars. The act of burning down someone's house is wrong.  Ther person who incites this action, especially the person who provides a financial motive to sidestep the bounds of normal human decency, is at least partially culpable. 

Seems to me, if you reject this claim, you're letting the doors wide open for anyone with money and malice to hire people to do their dirty work.  Yes, the person who actually commits the deed is also guilty, but the person who sets that ball in motion is also responsible.

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"The issue is always the same, the government or the market.  There is no third solution."

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To incite is not a crime, to motivate is not a crime, to reward is not a crime. The end crimnal action in reference is the crime.  In this example, you would be claiming there is a chain of criminality from the inciter/motivator/rewarder down to murderer. Yet, if the murder never took place even though there was inciting/motivating/rewards you would still have to claim criminality. 

I would argue that this would be the door you don't want to open.

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So Obama, George Bush and Osama Bin Laden are completely innocent? You do know that follows from your line of argument?

Even more: government isn't a coercive institution, because most taxes get paid without directly using force. 

Yes, even if the murder never took place: inciting/motivating/rewarding could be considered a crime. The ad baeculum fallacy ('this is door you don't want to open') isn't that convincing. You can't judge the legitimacy of actions withour referring to the context, without referring to the understanding of the meaning people put into those actions. If someone is trying to organize the assassination of someone else, he's guilty of trying to assassinate someone. 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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Couldn't have said it better myself Adrian.

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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