Enforcing Blackmail contracts

Bob Murphy says this regarding the recent Letterman Blackmail ‘scandal.’

as Walter Block argued with great flair, in general the police shouldn’t punish blackmailers. Yes, you are arguably a moral degenerate, a huge jerk, etc. etc. if you blackmail someone, but why is it a crime?

… if some producer happens to know that David Letterman is building his own special Top Ten List (you know I had to work in some cheesy pun in this post), and if that producer has the legal right to blog about it, talk about it, even to write a book about it, then how in the world is it a crime for him to give Letterman the option of buying his silence?

The way I see it, the only true crime involved with blackmail per se, would be if Letterman paid the guy $2 million, and then the guy went ahead and spread the gossip anyway. Of course, the crime there would be violating the deal, not the offer a deal in the first place.

If its the government’s job to enforce contracts (even private, secret contracts) but the government makes those contracts illegal, than it makes it more likely that a blackmail agreement would blow up in the way that Bob describes.

This is probably why Letterman didn’t pay the blackmailer… there’s no guarantee that he would have kept his silence. If there was a court that would enforce these agreements, however, than both parties could have been happy.

I’m sure this issue is too sticky to change, though.

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