When evaluating claims of criminal activity, always look for a victim.

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Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Drug possession and prostitution are well known forms of victimless crime. These are crimes only because they violate the black letter of the written law, not because they produce victims.

A substantial amount of white-collar, corporate crime is also victimless. Progressives who would turn us against corporations and capitalism will often submit for our consideration the large amounts of criminal convictions, fines, and settlements that corporations accumulate. This is to tarnish the corporations’ reputations by portraying them as serial criminals. The same progressives might also suggest that the fines are too low to deter further “corporate crime”. Whenever I hear such allegations, my first demand to learn the identity of at least one victim of the corporations’ actions. Often—not always, but often—no victim is to be found. Often the corporations are accused only of transgressing some black-letter government regulation, not of injuring any victim. Often a whistle-blower with a guilty conscience, rather than a victim with an injury, will report the transgression to government authorities.

A prominent example of such white-collar, victimless crime is off-label marketing of prescription drugs. Go through Wikipedia’s list of multi-million dollar settlements carefully. Of the twenty-three settlements listed, nine of them have the word ‘whistle-blower’ right there in the summary. I would expect several, if not most, of the remaining fourteen settlements also to have been initiated by whistle-blowers rather than victims. (Someone should investigate this, and leave a comment with what you find.) I do not consider prosecutions initiated by whistle-bowers, rather than victims, to be crimes. Those settlements do not lower the reputations of these companies as far as I’m concerned. On the contrary, I consider the forceful government intrusion into the drug companies’ businesses to be the crime, and the settlements paid to be hassles visited upon the drug companies by busybodies who failed to rid the world of any acknowledged evil.

The existence of victims is sufficient evidence that some evil has been committed. The absence of victims is not necessarily the absence of evil, as some victims may not be in a position to come forward, but in a justice system predicated on presumed innocence, there should be at least some allegation that someone, somewhere, was harmed by the suspect’s action before a criminal prosecution should commence. Better still if the victims come forward themselves. If there is no harm, then there should be no foul, as far as I’m concerned. The mere transgression of some black-letter regulation does not amount to a crime, as far as I’m concerned.

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