Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:51 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:Soooo, if you have better ways to spend your hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks - don't spend your money on that. Really, no one is forcing you.



...

Wait, what do you think Blackmail is?
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:16 pm UTC

I think blackmailing, within the context of this thread, is exactly what I've defined it as. You should be able to get that from reading my previous posts, but I'll go through it again anyway. What I'm talking about is an offer from someone to not do something (for money) that is otherwise completely legal.

Take this example:

Someone says you can pay me $20 or I will do a little dance. Are they FORCING you to pay them $20? Absolutely not. Are they giving you a CHOICE between two things where one of them is something they have every right to do and you would otherwise not be legally allowed to stop them? Yes. Where is the forcing? Ghostwolfe is specifically referencing my example in that same exact post you quoted from where you can see very much that there is no "forcing"... unless your definition of forcing is offering someone a choice to pay you to not do something that is completely legally within your rights.

I am NOT talking about blackmail in all cases, but rather just in the cases that this thread is discussing legalizing. These are the cases where there is no extortion/coercion/forcing because there are no threats of illegal activities.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:23 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Intrigued wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I'm arguing that blackmail prohibitions are good overall, not that they are not harmful in your specific invented scenario.


Ah, my fault then, I assumed this was sent towards me, since I think I've been the only one posting anything looking like pro-legalization in the past few posts, but since I'd already addressed this, I'm guessing you were responding to someone else or the thread in general.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:53 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:I think blackmailing, within the context of this thread, is exactly what I've defined it as. You should be able to get that from reading my previous posts, but I'll go through it again anyway. What I'm talking about is an offer from someone to not do something (for money) that is otherwise completely legal.

Take this example:

Someone says you can pay me $20 or I will do a little dance. Are they FORCING you to pay them $20? Absolutely not. Are they giving you a CHOICE between two things where one of them is something they have every right to do and you would otherwise not be legally allowed to stop them? Yes. Where is the forcing? Ghostwolfe is specifically referencing my example in that same exact post you quoted from where you can see very much that there is no "forcing"... unless your definition of forcing is offering someone a choice to pay you to not do something that is completely legally within your rights.

I am NOT talking about blackmail in all cases, but rather just in the cases that this thread is discussing legalizing. These are the cases where there is no extortion/coercion/forcing because there are no threats of illegal activities.

Okay, I see what's going on. You're ignoring the other person's motivations and desire for activity X to not happen. Due to ignoring that factor, you're ignoring how a motivation for activity X to not happen can be so strong as to cause a person to change their behavior from what they would normally do, such as doing Action Y - an action you yourself define. That part's important too.

In effect, by using the threat of doing Activity X (something the other party does not want done) unless the other party performs Action Y (an action you define), you are forcing their hand. You've put them in a situation of being forced to choose between two (and only two) scenarios - one in which you perform Activity X, or one in which they perform Action Y.

So.. yes. In your dance example, if I am strongly motivated to not see you dance - more so than I am motivated to hang on to my $20, then you are in fact forcing me to pay $20. My normal course of action is to not only not see you dance, but not pay you (or the third party) any money either. By giving me that choice, particularly one in which the activity being performed is (technically) legal, you have put me in a position where I am effectively powerless and have only two ways to resolve the scenario - be subject to your dancing, or pay $20.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:20 pm UTC

I think you've rooted out the main problem here, a difference in definitions of "forcing". So then my followup questions on top of my overly silly analogy are these - do you think that it's immoral to propose that you would stop dancing for the $20 (given you would rather pay the $20)? More importantly, do you think it should be illegal?

It seems like by your definition, if the person taking the picture were to initiate the $20 offer to stop the dancing, he would in effect be "forcing" the dancer to stop, since the dancer would really rather have the $20 than dance. So the situation would be defined as "blackmailing" either way, but the blackmailer (which is currently used as a negative) would change based on who made the offer, despite that both would prefer the outcome.

It seems to me like this is basically equating "forcing" to any time you give someone a choice between two things where they choose one. E.g. you are starving, someone is selling hot dogs for $2, which is clearly worth it to you, so they are essentially forcing you to buy the hot dog. If this is your definition of "forcing", that makes sense, I just would no longer categorize "forcing" as something that is inherently immoral.

My apologies if my analogies feel like they are projecting absurdity on your arguments, I'm honestly just trying to test more extreme examples to try to level set on definitions.

I guess this piece doesn't entirely make sense to me -

SecondTalon wrote:...
Due to ignoring that factor, you're ignoring how a motivation for activity X to not happen can be so strong as to cause a person to change their behavior from what they would normally do, such as doing Action Y - an action you yourself define. That part's important too.
...


Since this is your default reaction to the situation (preferring to pay vs be subject to perfectly legal Action Y which you happen to take offense to), doesn't that make this your normal behavior? Not paying would only be his "normal behavior" in a case where no one brought up that deal.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:37 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:It seems to me like this is basically equating "forcing" to any time you give someone a choice between two things where they choose one. E.g. you are starving, someone is selling hot dogs for $2, which is clearly worth it to you, so they are essentially forcing you to buy the hot dog. If this is your definition of "forcing", that makes sense, I just would no longer categorize "forcing" as something that is inherently immoral.

My apologies if my analogies feel like they are projecting absurdity on your arguments, I'm honestly just trying to test more extreme examples to try to level set on definitions.
You're misunderstanding what Forcing is.

I am starving. I find someone selling hot dogs for $2. I am still free to chose to eat elsewhere. I can seek out steaks for $15, or hamburgers from some fast food Dollar Menu. I can find a grocery store and buy the necessary ingredients for a salad.. or a box of cookies. I have options, I have choices. I can choose to not buy the $2 hot dog, or I can choose to do so. Now, you can say that I'm being forced to buy food.. which is mostly true as we all do have to eat and very few of us grow our own food, but I do have an effectively infinite number of choices I can make for food - I can eat out, or I can make it myself. In eating out, my choices are limited only by what restaurants are in my travel area. By eating in, I am limited only by what I know how (or am willing to try) to prepare and the ingredients I can gather.

In the situations above, I have no options beyond the two you have given me. There is Activity X - an activity I do not want to happen, and Action Y - an action I do not want to do. There is no Option Z for me - I can allow Activity X to happen, or I can perform Action Y. Those are my only two options. I suppose we could say that I can always negotiate with you, the blackmailer, for an Option Z, but that will require you to agree that it is acceptable... and odds are it will continue to be something that I do not find desirable.

It's still better to frame the question in the form of Activity X (The undesired activity you, the blackmailer, are going to perform) and Action Y (the action you, the blackmailer, have defined that will prevent you, the blackmailer, from performing Activity X)

Which.. is a big part of where the problem is. In the food example, if I do not agree with the Hot Dog Vendor's prices, manner of dress, speech style, whatever silly reason I find to not buy a $2 Hot Dog, I am free to visit the Burger Woman, or the Guy making Pita and Hummus, or the Girl who runs the Italian joint... whatever. The Hot Dog Guy has no power over these other people. My choice benefits myself (because I get to eat) and another person (Because they make a sale), and does not damage anyone else - or it damages all of them at once, depending on how you look at it, I suppose. It's impossible for me to eat a meal at every restaurant, and being in the Food business this is understood.

In the blackmail business, though, with Activity X no one benefits (You do it - big whoop), and I suffer a penalty - Activity X was performed and I did not want it to happen, so now I have to deal with the reasons I did not want it to happen. Action Y benefits you, the blackmailer (you get something you wanted) but.. again, penalizes me. I did not want to do Action Y, but found it to be the lesser of the two evils.

SexyTalon wrote:...
Due to ignoring that factor, you're ignoring how a motivation for activity X to not happen can be so strong as to cause a person to change their behavior from what they would normally do, such as doing Action Y - an action you yourself define. That part's important too.
Since this is your default reaction to the situation (preferring to pay vs be subject to perfectly legal Action Y which you happen to take offense to), doesn't that make this your normal behavior? Not paying would only be his "normal behavior" in a case where no one brought up that deal.


My default, normal behavior is to not have Activity X performed nor to perform Action Y. My default reaction is not just to not pay - my default reaction is to not even be a part of the equation. My default reaction is also somewhat of a misnomer, as by default, the situation does not exist. You created a situation that I wanted no part in yet still created it in such a way as to leave me unable to extract myself without something I do not want to happen anyway, and are now subjecting me to rules you created.


The legality of Activity X and Action Y are, frankly, irrelevant. You, the blackmailer, have manufactured a situation I cannot escape without something happening that I am not willing to let happen, and are making me choose between two bad choices.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:13 pm UTC

But the blackmailer, in this case, did not manufacture the situation for this intent. What if you just want a picture of your family in front of a monument, not necessarily this one, but there's people at all of them essentially selling "not jumping around like an idiot"(though some may do it for $5 and others $40, etc.)?

The way I see it, I would prefer not to have to eat and not to pay money for food, but no matter how many options I have, I'm still forced to do it. I do have to either buy that $2 hot dog OR that $15 steak, OR one of the other options. Or go starving. Just because there are MORE options doesn't mean I will end up being happy with any of them.

In the case of the picture taker, not only does he have monuments, but in fact he could choose to take a picture anywhere, certainly there are some places he could take pictures without idiots (even though there's plenty), and he seems just as much to blame for manufacturing the situation as the person who is jumping around. He's the one who has this thing he wants to do that he doesn't have any legal precedent for (explicitly take a picture without anyone interrupting it).

Or flip it the other way, what if the hot dogs are the only food within your travel area at the moment. Now is selling hot dogs forcing, as there are no other food vendors or reasonable sources of raw materials for cooking?

The point is, the blackmailee has no right to not have Activity X happen. So without blackmailing, that's all he gets, Activity X is forced on him. With the blackmailing, he may be given a case where he can perform Action Y, which while not preferable to Option Z (which is never going to happen), which he would rather do than have Activity X. I don't really see much difference here compared to selling a service.

Apologies to the OP that this has railroaded into a discussion on whether blackmailing is inherently immoral or are there counterexamples vs whether blackmail should actually be legal.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:22 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:The point is, the blackmailee has no right to not have Activity X happen. So without blackmailing, that's all he gets, Activity X is forced on him.

Except that, as I've already pointed out, in the vast majority of situations from reality, Activity X is not one that the blackmailer would be interested in except for the incentive of profit. Ban such blackmail, and nobody is likely to take much interest in persistently photobombing strangers.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:31 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:But the blackmailer, in this case, did not manufacture the situation for this intent. What if you just want a picture of your family in front of a monument, not necessarily this one, but there's people at all of them essentially selling "not jumping around like an idiot"(though some may do it for $5 and others $40, etc.)?

Actually, the blackmailer may have manufactured the situation for that intent. While I hate talking about examples, let me break this one down as to why it's still .. well, not blackmail.. it's more properly just extortion, but whatever.

So you have a person leaping around like an idiot on the lawn or whatever, and a family wanting to take a picture from this angle. The leaper offers to leave for $20 so they can take a picture. This is all perfectly fine and well and not a problem, other than the leaper being a dick. Why? The family is free to chose another angle. The family is free to wait for the leaper to stop leaping around. The family is free to come back another day. The family is free to stand in the way of the leaper, preventing them from leaping around until the leaper gets bored and leaves. The Family has options, choices, decisions. So does the leaper.

Now, let's assume that the family moves 20 fee to the left or whatever, into an area the leaper has not been leaping in to take a picture. The leaper follows : The leaper has now moved from just being a dick to actively manufacturing a situation in which the family only has two choices - pay the leaper or deal with a leaping idiot in the background. The leaper is forcing them to allow Activity X (the leaping) OR to perform Action Y (Pay $20 so the leaping will stop).

That's extortion. Blackmail is ... depending on the exact definition you use.. a form of extortion OR uses extortion for it's goals. So we can argue on whether or not it's properly Blackmail, but it is extortion - even though all of the acts are completely legal. It's not the acts being performed, it's the act of forcing someone to choose between them that's the problem.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:36 pm UTC

Except if he's purposely following them that's now stalking, which is an illegal activity.

SecondTalon wrote:So you have a person leaping around like an idiot on the lawn or whatever, and a family wanting to take a picture from this angle. The leaper offers to leave for $20 so they can take a picture. This is all perfectly fine and well and not a problem, other than the leaper being a dick.


That's kind of the only thing I've been pushing back on... I think there are theoretical cases where what is defined as "blackmailing" is not wrong (and therefore that the act of blackmailing is not inherently wrong). I have come to agree that in practice, no, it shouldn't be legal. So I guess I'm done here. GG.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:01 pm UTC

I've spent a fair amount of time trying to think of an instance where Blackmail did not involve the use of Information as the impetus - Perform Action Y or I will reveal information X to Parties N. So far, I can't think of one.

Though.. frankly, I still can't see how you can view monumentally dickish behavior as not inherently wrong. Not technically wrong, sure. Not legally wrong, sure. But still wrong on some moral or ethical level, as you're exploiting your knowledge of another person for a gain at their expense, with no chance for them to also make it a gain without revealing the knowledge to all.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:52 pm UTC

Well I guess it comes down to whether you think causing harm to another is always inherently an immoral action. For example, I feel like killing someone in self defense is not immoral (but that's on me, others would say that taking life is always immoral).

Likewise, consider a case where Person A has been a complete and total dick to Person C his entire life, and now Person C's business is going to run into the ground unless he can scrape a little extra cash together to make some improvements, caused completely by Person A setting up a business in Person C's area in an attempt to take his customers and drive Person C out of business, solely because Person A wanted to be a "dick". In this case I would see it as morally permissible (read: not inherently immoral/wrong) to blackmail Person A, given the framework set before and a legal system that supported it.

In the case of killing in self defense, someone is threatening you with death and you defend yourself with it. In this case, someone is threatening you with something that is harmful to you financially, and you defend with the same.

Note that "not wrong" is not the same thing as "the nicest thing to do", but if we are talking about all being expected to do the best thing all the time, this is going to break down into an argument about utilitarianism.

Or take another example, specifically where Person C wants to perform Action Y. Person A and Person C went on a vacation together, took a bunch of pictures, etc. Turns out Person A lied to Person(s) B (in this case, let's say Person C's family) about where they were going to be. Person C LOVES showing vacation photos to his family, but Person A is in all of them. He loves doing it so much that he's planning on doing it despite A's wishes, because he values doing that over Person A's desire to keep something private that was clearly done publicly. Person A didn't tell him about the lie until after the vacation, so Person C feels like he doesn't owe anything to Person A, as if he had told him before, he could've taken other pictures. However, Person C is in dire straits, needs money for food, etc. He decides to offer Person A a blackmail agreement where he will burn up all the photos for $100. Person A gladly accepts (or can decline, if he'd rather, which would result in the same thing as if blackmailing agreements didn't exist). Anything immoral going on? I just don't feel like there is.

edit: the point here being that I don't think it's necessarily dickish if Person C WANTS to reveal the information, and would normally, despite Person A having an issue with it, that is, if they have something positive to gain from revealing that information.
Last edited by Intrigued on Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:00 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:57 pm UTC

...Yes? Person C is still exploiting their knowledge and power over Person A.

But at this point you're asking if it's wrong for a starving person to steal a loaf of bread. The answer is still yes. Which is why we have humans in control of the whole Punishment thing, so they can look at the situation, make an assessment of how the thief feels about stealing to stay alive, and render an appropriate punishment. Same thing here - whether Person C is starving or not is irrelevant to the morality/ethicality of the Blackmailing action. It's still wrong.

Hell, same thing with killing in self defense. It's still wrong, which is why you usually end up at a trial to justify your kill. You protected yourself, but another person is dead. The alternative would be for you yourself to be dead. The lesser of two evils is to kill the other person in self-defense, yes.. but it's still an evil.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:09 pm UTC

Except that stealing a loaf of bread is clearly wrong, showing people vacation pictures isn't. You do NOT have a right to take someone else's property, you DO have a right to share public information. If someone else decides that they take a personal loss from you sharing public information, that is on them. The stealing a loaf of bread example is really more of an analogy for where blackmailing includes releasing information that Person C has no right to release.

I honestly don't think there's any exploiting going on, outside of the exploitation that is normal sale of goods and services. Person C specifically WANTS to do Action Y, but is willing to lose out on that for money. Person A specifically wants Action Y not to be done (despite it being C's every right to do it), so he's willing to pay him money for it.

Again, I ask you, what if the one who makes the offer changes? Is it wrong for Person A to make an offer to Person C to not show the pictures for $100? Is he now "exploiting" Person C because Person C is "forced" to take the money (since he would rather have the money than show the pictures)? I just can't see how it can be immoral for a deal to be made with no inherently immoral sub-actions, and the person who is immoral is assigned to whoever offered the deal, despite the fact that both people prefer having the deal to not.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:17 pm UTC

In a normal Goods and Services exchange, there is loss and gain on both sides. The shopkeeper loses an item of inventory, but gains currency. The buyer loses currency, but gains and item of inventory. As one has options in purchasing (as well as government regulations and suchlike) the price for the item of inventory is usually somewhere between a Fair Price For A Buyer and a Fair Profit For The Seller, with a whole crapfuckload of economics thrown in that I don't understand well enough to even get started on. Shit's complicated.

Now there are situations in which a supplier is the sole supplier for a product, in which case you may be looking at a Monopoly, which depending on where you are in the world may or may not be illegal in the first place. A company that controls all the bananas is a monopoly, as they control all of the banana fruit while Games Workshop is not a monopoly even though they're the only source for Warhammer stuff... because other companies make other wargames. Now if Games Workshop was the only manufacturer of wargames period, then we'd have a problem.


Now.. you're basically getting Blackmail and Bribery mixed up here. If Person A says they'll pay $100 for Person C to do or not do something, Person A is the definer of the actions and payoff and so on - Person C isn't saying "Pay me $100 or I'll do X", Person A is saying "I'll pay you $100 to not do X". That's a bribe.

And Bribery is a whole different animal here. If Person C isn't in control - that is, to be in control they need to both possess the ability to perform the unwanted action AND are defining the terms that will keep them from performing the unwanted action - then it's not blackmail. That an act is being performed to keep an unwanted action from happening does not Blackmail make.

You could, of course, create a situation where Person A says to Person C "I'll pay you to not do that, name your price" and Person C responds with "$100"... it's still Bribery. Person A is still defining the act (a payment of currency), albeit with a variable attached (the amount of currency paid).

So if you want to discuss the morality and ethics of offering and taking Bribes, we can... just remember it's not Blackmail.


And that's pretty much why you have to get rid of the specifics of the act and just focus on what precisely is going on. Whether or not the acts on either side are legal is irrelevant. What's relevant is who does not want the act done (The Blackmailee), and who is defining the terms to prevent it from happening (The Blackmailer), and whether or not the situation is escapable. You cannot escape someone with information you did not want them to have.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:43 pm UTC

Ok, that's understandable to define as a different action, but whatever you want to call it, do you call it immoral? Honestly, the way you've defined bribery doesn't differentiate it at all from a job. I would definitely say that the way you're defining bribery (offering money in exchange for someone acting a certain way) is not inherently immoral. We have created laws to protect society from "bad bribing", like police taking bribes to look the other way on crimes, or politicians taking bribes to vote a certain way, but honestly "good bribing" is the basis of our society. Blackmailing, in this case, is really just an example of someone requesting a "bribe", which I find about as inherently immoral as looking for a job.

Also, I've defined an example where there is a gain and loss on both sides. Since there's no legal need for Action Y to occur or not, the price is defined by what the buyer is willing to pay, just like in any other transaction. Person C could never "force" Person A to pay more than he deems the "service" of not revealing evidence is worth. That said, I'm not sure questions over whether this creates a monopoly are significant, since monopolies aren't inherently immoral either. Monopolies can certainly exist that offer fair prices to buyers. If I create an entirely new product, I have a monopoly unless/until someone else decides to enter the same market. That's certainly not immoral. Governments just generally regulate them because they CAN get out of control, and when they do, they can be bad for the little guys and the economy.

The situation is escapable with forethought - don't do something in public that you want kept private. The situation has been manufactured by Person A. DON'T go to a public car show if you don't want anyone knowing that you went to a car show. Same situation, if someone only gets one picture of a car they really wanted to show someone, but you're in it and you don't want anyone to see it... they still have every right to show it. Without either what I'll call "good blackmailing" or "good bribery" a truly inescapable scenario is created - one where Person A is unable to even attempt to make a trade to dissuade Person C from revealing the information. Without that incentive, Person C has no valid reason not to show the picture (unless he wants to go out of his way to be nice).

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:37 pm UTC

To a certain extent, I suppose having a job/being bribed to work is.. basically the same thing, it's just not how the words are used so in doing so (without redefining the word) you're going to create a dissonance with your audience as.. they'll have no idea what the hell you're talking about.

For the sake of brevity, I am defining the phrase "Items of Value" to mean currency, goods, services, or some other tangible or intangible benefit. We can quibble about the specifics, I suppose, so feel free to substitute "Gold pressed Latinum" if that strikes your fancy.

A job is where I trade my time and labor doing a pre-defined set of actions and activities in exchange for items of value. I am free to choose what time and labor I am willing to exchange for items of value while an employer is also free to choose the value of the items of value they give me for my time and labor. This is considered acceptable in society.

A bribe is where I am offered items of value in exchange for a specific action I would not have normally done. I am free to accept or deny the bribe, as well as demand a higher value. This is considered unacceptable in society, the reasoning being that I would not have normally done the specific action were it not for the outside force influencing me, and said outside force is seen as having undue influence over me.

A sale is where I am offered items of value in exchange for a specific good or service I am willing to part with/perform. I am free to accept or deny the sale, as well as demand a higher value. This is considered acceptable in society.

Blackmail is where I am given a choice between losing an item of value or having an action I do not want performed performed. I am not free to seek outside alternatives. This is considered unacceptable in society because my options are limited, and because the blackmailer is seen as having undue influence over me.

Public Service is where you are elected to a position of political power. I am free to chose to run or not run, as well as free to resign should I win or be appointed to a position of power. This is considered acceptable in society despite in some situations (Representative Democracies where the elected officials are officially representing a section of the population) a specific group of persons having undue influence over me.


So yeah, I'm maintaining that it's all about power and how it is exerted over you, the victim of blackmail or you, the acceptor of a bribe. Or you, the elected official.

Maybe we should try comparing Blackmail to being a member of the US Congress?



Now as for the escapability as a forethought... that's not really how the rest of our societal rules work. Even if you perform a very public act in Miami, Florida, USA (let's say that you go to a bar while being over the age of 21. Whoop-de-shit) you still have a reasonable expectation that your act will be private in the sense that your neighbors back in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA will have no idea unless you specifically tell them.

But you are right in that problems will arise if two people are both participants in a recorded event (such as a photograph) and one party wishes to reveal the information while the other party does not. Depending on the jurisdiction and whether or not the unwilling party gave consent, the act may not be legal. But that's a fairly specific case, deals with commercial use and it applies in Europe only, so it's usage here is limited. In my quick readings on it, generally speaking photography of subjects without explicit consent is acceptable provided it doesn't break various privacy laws and such (No locker-room pictures, no photographs through windows, etc) and is not put to commercial use. So it wouldn't apply in this situation, being that it's a private photograph for private use.

So now we have the forethought - if the unwilling party did not want photographs shown to a specific individual or group of individuals, the proper course would have been to make that known well in advance of the photograph, to make it known between the photograph being taken and before returning home, or to not be in the photograph in the first place. Things that are difficult to do when caught up in a moment and with tools like Flickr and Facebook being accessible on Phones. But it happened, so now the willing party has a photograph they would like to share and an unwilling participant in said photograph.

(which also becomes problematic if the unwilling participant is only unwilling with specific individuals in mind, and not the world as a whole)

In short, what you've created is a remarkably specific example. One that probably happens with more and more frequency, but still remarkably specific. The current laws - as written - have the photographer as the sole owner of the photograph taken, provided it is not for commercial use. Because of that, the unwilling party almost literally has no say in what can be done with the photograph. There are exceptions for things that would be libelous, such as using the photograph as a base to fabricate an image of the unwilling participant in a compromising situation, but even then that requires specific harms to be shown and for there to be a reasonable expectation that it would affect their public and private lives.

Now, back to Bribery... with certain definitions of Bribery, the person being paid has to be in some official capacity. In this example, neither party is, so it would not be legally treated as a bribe and as far as I know, there actually wouldn't be any legal reason the unwilling party couldn't offer to pay the willing party a specified amount of money to not show the picture, other than it making the willing party sound a bit like a slimeball for not wanting to help out what is presumably their friend.

The reverse of that, the willing party demanding items of value in return for not revealing the image, is blackmail.

So, let's see where the Losses and Gains are in both situations...

Unwilling Party Offers to pay money (UW Loss 1) to the willing party (W Gain 1) in exchange for the Willing Party to not show an image they want to show (W Loss 1) that will embarrass or otherwise put the unwilling party in a difficult position (UW Gain 1)

UW Loss 1/W Gain 1 is set by the Unwilling Party, as is W Loss 1. UW Gain 1 is the desired outcome by the unwilling party, W Loss 1 is the desired outcome by the willing party. Items of Value are flowing from the unwilling party to the willing party at a rate specified by the unwilling party.

The Willing Party asks the Unwilling party for an amount of money (UW Loss 1) to be paid (W Gain 1) in exchange for the willing party to not show an image they want to show (W Loss 1) that will embarrass or otherwise put the unwilling party in a difficult position (UW Gain 1)

UW Loss 1/W Gain 1 is set by the Willing Party. UW Gain 1 is the desired outcome of the unwilling party, W Loss 1 is the desired outcome by the willing party. Items of value are flowing from the unwilling party to the willing party at a rate specified by the willing party.

So.. there's the difference if you abstract it out enough - the person that sets the total cost of the payment versus who stands to lose if the payments are not made. If they're not the same party, the power balance is off and the act is unethical. If they're the same party, the act may merely be skeezy as fuck.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:07 pm UTC

But in this case they BOTH stand to lose if the payments are not made - the willing would rather have the money, and the unwilling would rather pay the money, than showing the pictures and having the pictures revealed, respectively. They are completely free to negotiate the deal beyond the original offer, so in effect both of them have the same power, no matter who initiates the deal. To make it even muckier - either one of them could just approach the other and say "I would like to make a deal with you", and then allow the other to offer up a starting price. If they can't agree on a price that suits both of them, no one loses any more than if there were no framework for "bribery"/"blackmailing", since in that case the photos would still be revealed.

I do see where you're getting at with the idea that if someone stands to lose something and the other controls the price, this creates a "wrong" situation, but that is explicitly that case where "willing" does not lose, or in terms of the scenario, where Person C has no reason to reveal the photos, and would not do so if they had no ability to blackmail.

I guess that "bribe" distinction still doesn't make sense to me. Consider a job at McDonald's. I would never "normally" choose to spend 8 hours at a fry basket serving up orders to rude customers. Some people might, but I would venture to say most wouldn't. On the other hand, McDonald's, as an outside force, influences many people to perform this action, which they would not have otherwise done by offering items of value (and employees are free to demand a higher value, which may or may not work). So I still contend that it is the sub-action of the bribe that actually determines that it is a "bribe", and not anything to do with the exchange of value for an influence one someone's actions.

I agree 100% that this is an extremely specific case, but that's the point. If there is even one case where "blackmailing" by definition is not inherently wrong, then that means that "blackmailing" as a whole is not inherently wrong, despite the fact that because of it's sub-actions, it almost always is in practice.

Oh, and of course I understand the effect of using "blackmailing" and "bribery" in a positive light, in an attempt to question their definitions, and would never do so in a large scale effort to convert others to agree with me. It's obviously not an effective approach, but I'm comfortable doing it here where I think anyone interested in the actual debate rather than attacking weaknesses in presentation would be able to entertain the argument itself, and not it's effectiveness as an advertising campaign.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

Re: Bribery - consider it this way -

Bribery requires a very specific act to be performed - to rule a certain way, to pass a specific law, to give you a specific product of near-identical ones ["Fourth from the back!"] and so on. The very specific act is not generally a repeatable one, as you may only rule on a case once, or pass a single law.

A job requires that you perform specific actions, most of which you expect to repeat, such as cooking hamburgers, typing data into spreadsheets, cleaning sewers..whatever. The actions themselves are defined, but often in a loose term that allow you to come to the resolution by your own direction - so long as the end result is desired and the time spent was within the expected parameters, no one cares if you cook a hamburger on one foot or not.

There's also the timing involved... Generally speaking, a Job is where you perform specific actions and are then given currency as a form of payment, while a Bribe is where you are given currency or other items of value with the expectation that you will then perform a very specific act.


Now, of course, we can come up with scenarios where the reverse happens - there is a promise for a bribe with the assumption that a very specific action will be performed (Let them get a run in the 5th inning and we'll pay you) and there are jobs that have payment up front. So yeah, from a certain view, especially when you strip it down to it's basics, there's not much difference between a bribe and a job.

Other than the legality, of course. The legality being set up specifically to differentiate the two - that it has to meet these criteria to be considered a bribe, and these to be considered a job, and anything in between gets ruled on individually.

I agree 100% that this is an extremely specific case, but that's the point. If there is even one case where "blackmailing" by definition is not inherently wrong, then that means that "blackmailing" as a whole is not inherently wrong, despite the fact that because of it's sub-actions, it almost always is in practice.
I still maintain that in this specific case, it's still wrong of the person to demand payment in exchange for not doing something they want to do. Much as I maintain that killing, even in self defense, is still wrong even though it's by far the lesser of the (presumably) two wrongs.

So, no, I do not agree with the assessment that blackmailing can be pidgeonholed into a very specific set of circumstances where it is no longer inherently wrong. It's still wrong as it's always going to be an exploitation of power over another, which is pretty much always wrong even though most of us freely agree to it in our daily lives, such as when we have employment or pay taxes or whatever - the benefits of allowing the exploitation (paycheck, government services) outweigh the negatives of being exploited (providing our labor for the benefit of another)
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:19 pm UTC

Ah, ok, now something else has been boiled out of this then. Yes, if you think the working for a paycheck is inherently wrong and exploitative, then it follows clearly that you would see blackmail in the same way (since my argument is essentially a reduction of blackmail to working). I guess there's no further to go, as I believe trying to say that "blackmailing" is somehow superior to "working" is impossible, and whether you believe a transaction that results in gains and losses on either side is exploitative is a very subjective and internalized thing that I am not prepared to change your mind about.

OP, feel free to re-take this thread on anything else you feel warrants further discussion, apologies again for the railroad :lol:

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Nat » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:55 pm UTC

The point of a law is to stop people being jerks to one another. A law doesn't have to be derivative of other laws. It's generally agreed that the blackmail law helps do this, the main argument against it being that it's not derivative of other laws, which a law shouldn't really have to be.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:32 pm UTC

Actually if you reread you should see that the main argument I've made against it is that there are situations that fall under the definition of blackmailing where no one is being a jerk. Since my argument was a reduction of blackmailing (in some instances) to working it was pointed out that this argument fails if you disagree with the basic premise that working is not exploitative/wrong.

I did, on the other hand, have to defend against at least a few arguments that included illegal activities as part of blackmailing, which may be where you picked up this "main argument" idea. It should go without saying that a law does not have to derive from another law (otherwise there could be no first law, this would be an extremely ridiculous argument), I think that it should also be fairly obvious that an action that includes doing one or more illegal actions should be illegal. That is exactly what I pointed out about these examples, and why I think they are inaccurate analogies that don't add to the discussion.

So yeah, I guess I'm calling what you just said an epic strawman, intended or not.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Midnight » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:08 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:Actually if you reread you should see that the main argument I've made against it is that there are situations that fall under the definition of blackmailing where no one is being a jerk.


Question: In the case of one person taking another's life, there are situations where someone dies and nobody is being a jerk (involuntary manslaughter and the like), but just because there are situations that fall under the definition of 'murder' where nobody is being a jerk, murder should still be illegal. Laws aren't necessarily a logic thing, where 1 exception nullifies a whole rule.

Therefore, would you support a separation by 'degrees' of blackmail, as there is with murder and other such crimes?
uhhhh fuck.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:33 pm UTC

And indeed I don't suggest that 1 made up exception should mean the law needs to get changed, but rather that 1 exception would prove that it is not inherently wrong (since inherently wrong would mean, by definition, that it is wrong by its very nature, and thus wrong in all cases).

In theory, I am all for crimes being punished in infinite degrees. I think punishments should be based on the specifics of a wrongdoing rather than whether it falls under some vague definition/rule (e.g. "blackmailing"). I also think that the specifics of the examples I have brought forward should lead to a no-punishment verdict, because I just don't think there's any real wrongdoing involved there, and to charge someone of a crime when there's no wrongdoing or harm (outside of that which is contractually accepted, which includes a greater outcome for both participants) is unreasonable.

In practice, I realize that it can be impossible to get this just right, and the greater good is sometime obtained by making some generalizations, whereas otherwise we may never be able to agree on a punishment, which is far worse than not getting it just right. Granted, I'm sure that there are already "degrees" of blackmail in sentencing, even if they aren't labeled as "degrees". That's accomplished by the variability in minimum and maximum sentences.

All in all, though, I think we just do the best we can, since the human brain can accommodate such an amazing range of morals, there's just no right answer for "how much should we punish for this crime", even if we knew all the specifics. It's our duty as people accepting the social contract (i.e. people living in a society) to know the laws and accept that they have consequences if you don't follow them, even if they don't always make complete sense on an individual level. Alternatively, you can leave the society.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Midnight » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:46 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:And indeed I don't suggest that 1 made up exception should mean the law needs to get changed, but rather that 1 exception would prove that it is not inherently wrong (since inherently wrong would mean, by definition, that it is wrong by its very nature, and thus wrong in all cases).

But like I said, logic is not the law, and the law is not logical. Few things are wrong in all cases, but nothing should be allowed (or banned) cause of a few exceptions (unless they're exceptionally notable, I suppose).

In theory, I am all for crimes being punished in infinite degrees. I think punishments should be based on the specifics of a wrongdoing rather than whether it falls under some vague definition/rule (e.g. "blackmailing"). I also think that the specifics of the examples I have brought forward should lead to a no-punishment verdict, because I just don't think there's any real wrongdoing involved there, and to charge someone of a crime when there's no wrongdoing or harm (outside of that which is contractually accepted, which includes a greater outcome for both participants) is unreasonable.

In practice, I realize that it can be impossible to get this just right, and the greater good is sometime obtained by making some generalizations, whereas otherwise we may never be able to agree on a punishment, which is far worse than not getting it just right. Granted, I'm sure that there are already "degrees" of blackmail in sentencing, even if they aren't labeled as "degrees". That's accomplished by the variability in minimum and maximum sentences.

All in all, though, I think we just do the best we can, since the human brain can accommodate such an amazing range of morals, there's just no right answer for "how much should we punish for this crime", even if we knew all the specifics. It's our duty as people accepting the social contract (i.e. people living in a society) to know the laws and accept that they have consequences if you don't follow them, even if they don't always make complete sense on an individual level. Alternatively, you can leave the society.


well then... yeah. That's kind of independent from what we're talking about HERE, though, right? I mean this is more black-and-white (and therefore, kinda less practical) than what you're talking about right now.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:04 pm UTC

Midnight wrote:But like I said, logic is not the law, and the law is not logical. Few things are wrong in all cases, but nothing should be allowed (or banned) cause of a few exceptions (unless they're exceptionally notable, I suppose).


Right, though the whole argument/thread got railroaded because I was going back and forth with a person on the other side who did indeed believe this was wrong in all cases. In my attempt to prove that blackmailing is illegal, I first wanted to prove that there were examples where blackmailing was not "wrong". Not knowing his basic stance this degraded into extremely specific examples in an attempt to remove anything I saw that could be conceived as "wrong" about the situation.


Midnight wrote:well then... yeah. That's kind of independent from what we're talking about HERE, though, right? I mean this is more black-and-white (and therefore, kinda less practical) than what you're talking about right now.


Kind of. As I mentioned above, it's on-topic-ish because my original argument was to start the foundation of an argument by digging some roots into "there are cases of blackmailing that should not be punished", or my definition of "not inherently wrong", before expanding into "and this is why it should be legal".

As I've stated previously multiple times, my position is now that it should NOT be made legal in practice. This is because I have, within the span of this thread, come to the conclusion that creating good examples was excessively difficult, and the chances of them occurring on a level where it is useful to wrap a law around it are close to none. I still defend the position that it is not inherently wrong.

I also already acknowledged previously that the thread had gotten a bit off-topic - as you deem "what we're talking about HERE" - so the original intent of discussion "here" is not the same as my line of debate with ST.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Fat Tony » Fri Jun 24, 2011 1:13 pm UTC

Can't people just...not do stupid crap that they are so ashamed of they would pay money to keep it a secret? Yeah, somebody trying to blackmail somebody else is a scumbag, but the guy who's going along with it is at least as sleazy. I don't think it should be a legal issue so much as a moral one.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Mapar » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:34 pm UTC

The primary issue I have with blackmail is actually not the revealing of information (which is justifiable depending on the circumstances). It's the threat that bothers me. If you threaten to reveal compromising information about me, and ask for money to prevent it, you're not giving me a choice. You're making money at my reputation's expense. Also (as has been said), sometimes you're required to reveal information. If I commit a murder and you know it, then you should report me to the authorities, not try to get payment for keeping your mouth shut.

By the way, due to the nature of these "agreements", the side who holds the information will always have an advantage over the other. You can't reach anything close to a fair deal.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Midnight » Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:59 am UTC

Fat Tony wrote:Can't people just...not do stupid crap that they are so ashamed of they would pay money to keep it a secret?

No. We're people, after all.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:28 am UTC

People are shitty, and I'm quite happy to not submit every otherwise-innocuous detail of my life to their shitty judgments. Additionally, I reserve the right to privacy on the grounds that, even where I've genuinely fucked up, the Average Jo is not entitled to scrutinize my fuckups.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby scratch123 » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:27 pm UTC

There are some bad things you can do to another person that are still legal. Cheating on your significant other is a perfect example of this. I believe that doing that is much worse than blackmailing someone. I think the only reason the law gets involved with blackmail and not cheating is because money is involved and money losses are much more quantifiable than emotional losses.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:44 pm UTC

Legal, yes. Without repercussions, no. Depending on where you are (aka the laws governing a marriage) and what, if any, contracts were signed before you were wed (aka - The Pre-nuptial) cheating on a spouse could lead to an immediate divorce along with a hefty chunk of items of value to be given to the spouse as a settlement.

Even without a prenup, infidelity is still grounds for divorce in most Western Civilizations and the courts aren't going to look too kindly upon the cheater when it comes time to decide on an alimony.

Now, if you're talking about a situation in which the two participants are not married... well, of course the law isn't going to get involved. There's no legal contract between the two individuals, nor should there be a common law one by default as plenty of people engage in behavior that to an outside observer would be regarded as cheating without the knowledge that such behavior is understood to take place within the relationship.

I believe that doing that is much worse than blackmailing someone.
And I believe they're about equal. Hell, in a non-marriage situation, I'd say cheating on one's supposed monogamous partner on a small scale is better than blackmailing someone. Good thing belief doesn't control law, amirite?
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Yakk » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:22 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:Person A is married to Person B, Person C has evidence of Person A going to a car show (less moral tug than cheating), which is something that Person B is decidedly against. Person C also happens to be a jerk, that's just who he is. He is not, however, a criminal. So, he decides to show this evidence to Person B, and the relationship is ruined.

Now lets look at the situation again, but with "blackmailing" legalized, where "blackmailing" is defined as giving someone an option to go under contract to pay a specific amount of money to you in order to withhold information that you are legally allowed to release, yet have no legally required duty to do so.

Person A is married to Person B, Person C has evidence of Person A going to a car show, which is something that Person B is decidedly against. Person C also happens to be a jerk, that's just who he is. Within the new legal framework, he offers to go into a blackmailing contract with Person A such that he will not release this evidence as long as Person B pays him $1000. As an additional stipulation, Person A adds that if Person C does release the evidence, he is to pay back all the original $1000, an additional $2000 for breaching the contract.

Now I'm not saying these are the most scrupulous of people, but is having a framework for this really all that bad, theoretically? The only thing different in the two examples is that Person A has the CHOICE to pay $1000 and get the contract written up. Person C is letting Person A decide whether he would rather pay $1000 or have this information released. In the first case, he just releases the information. So which is better for Person A? Having a choice to decide which lesser of two evils they want to go with, or having the information released, regardless of whether they think it would actually be more valuable than $1000 to them?

Except this isn't the only change in behavior.

Before hand, C had less no incentive to tell person B about the car show, or even threaten to tell person B about the car show.

Now, C has 1000$ of incentive to threaten to tell person B about the car show.

There are few people who go around and spend serious resources trying to catch 3rd parties "going to car shows" and then telling their "wives" for the heck of it. There are, even with blackmail illegal, people who will do the same in order to blackmail. With blackmail legal, it would be a serious industry.

This is a case of someone defining the market changing behavior. The "this has negative consequences for a 3rd party, and little positive consequences for myself" blackmail behavior is turned into a source of personal profit given the existence of legal blackmail, and (mostly) blocked if blackmail is illegal. We avoid a certain threat of 'deadweight loss' if we make blackmail illegal.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby setzer777 » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

It seems pretty easy to come up with situations where each activity is perfectly legal, but the threat of one legal activity if the target doesn't perform another legal activity is still profoundly fucked up and victimizing. Consider this intentionally extreme example (trigger warning for sexual blackmail):

Person A is an adult lesbian. Person B (let's say a straight male, in order to highlight the issue) threatens to tell Person A's extremely homophobic parents that she is gay (perfectly legal - telling her parents completely accurate information about her) unless she has sex with Person B (perfectly legal - having sex with an adult). Person A now has to choose between her parents knowing (and in this scenario that means all sorts of emotional and material harm), or having sex that she absolutely does not want to. If she had the sex it would absolutely be sex under duress, even though what she was being threatened with was a legal activity.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Demented Teddy » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:48 pm UTC

Blackmail counts as threatening, threatening is illegal.

End of story.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:37 pm UTC

+5 (Insightful)
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