Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Can Beheading Be Justified in a Libertarian Society?

Joselito Lidasan Zapanta, a Filipino national living in Saudi Arabia, was publicly beheaded in Suadi Arabia today, according to NyPo.

He was convicted of murder and robbery by a Riyadh court in 2010.

The family of the victim  refused to sign an affidavit of forgiveness that would have spared Zapanta the death penalty unless it was paid 48 million pesos ($1 million), setting a two-week deadline earlier this month for payment.

The execution was carried out after Zapanta's family and the Philippine government managed to raise only 23 million pesos ($488,000), said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.

Since I believe it should be the victim (or, in this case, the heirs to the victim) that should set damages, I believe it can be justified on libertarian grounds---both the beheading and the demand for a payment to stop the beheading.

I emailed Dr. Walter Block  to get his take and it was pretty much in line with mine:
Dear Bob:
Yes, assuming this guy was really guilty of murder. I think that the murderer stole the life of his victim, and owes a life (actually two lives, but that's another matter). To whom does the murderer owe a life? To the victim. If we had a machine that could take the life out of the murderer, and install it into the dead victim, so that the latter comes out of this machine alive, and the murderer comes out of it dead, we would be justified in imposing this machine on the murderer. However, we don't have this machine, yet. So, now, to whom does the murderer owe a life? To the victim's heirs (assuming that the murder victim did not leave explicit instructions to them as to how they should act upon his demise). So, the heirs may forgive the murderer. Or, they may execute him. Or, they may demand money from him, and if he pays, let him go free, or, if he doesn't pay, then execute him.



  1. The victim is not the family. The victim is the person who was agressed against; namely the dead person. Using the principle of property rights and non-aggression, please show me how the family was a victim? Did the family own the person who was murdered? Was the friend a victim too?

    1. The spouse and/or the children of the murdered person have a legitimate claim on contractual grounds.

    2. no because life is not property, it a gift from God.

    3. If the only victim is the dead person, then there is no victim. How can a dead person claim to be a victim? To who? Of course the family is victimized. Someone has to make the claim of murder, the dead man can't, so his family would. If he has a wife and children, he can no longer provide for them. So they are victims in that at least, as Francisco said.

    4. Seriously Freedom mom, you must be kidding, right? Just trolling for argument sake? If you are serious, I would have to say your "libertarian " view is worthless. If we can't live what we claim to believe, then what we believe is worthless.
      I think good folks tend to forget this at times. And surely no one can argue against this, in a serious manner.

    5. Heath, I'd agree with your position when I see a gift note from God. Something like "Dear Heath, please accept my humble gift. Truly yours, God."

    6. The rights of a victim to control and dispose of his property don't die with him. Otherwise anyone could be killed at any time and wills would be meaningless.

      Via contract, a victim can assign rights to his real property and his life to an agent able to act on his behalf - in this case his next of kin.

  2. The whole of Block's argument relies on an analogy where life could be transferred "in kind". But in reality in isn't. Killing the murderer might give pleasure to the victim's relatives, but it doesn't make the victim or his estate whole in any other way.

    I do justify the death penalty but for different reasons. The NAP is based on reciprocity between human beings who can understand the NAP (maybe even just intuitively) as a means to reduce conflicts in society. Individuals who behave like animals should not be accorded the protection of the NAP - there is no reason to do so because they don't reciprocate.

    Why do we want to reduce conflicts (and therefore endorse the NAP) in the first place? Because life matters. People who by their actions demonstrate they actively are capable of taking human lives without provocation are a non-human menace and can have their heads chopped off like a venomous snake.

  3. In a murder, the NAP is violated, but the family has NOT been agressed against, like FreedomMom said. But the murderer gives up his right to be free from aggression, and therefore anyone may kill or enslave the murderer according to libertarian code.

  4. Beheading is a legitimate libertarian remedy in principle, but such an extreme and irrevocable remedy cannot be sanctioned in a context where the state forcibly monopolizes every aspect of property use, law, enforcement, adjudication, and punishment. A state imposed justice system is by nature inherently illegitimate and necessarily unfair at each step it takes.

    These parties were not occupying sovereign private property voluntarily. They were not abiding by voluntary rules that they were free to negotiate and had explicitly consented to. The guilty verdict was not handed down by a mutually agreed upon courts using mutually agreed upon standards of evidence, methods of evaluation, systems of appeal, or punishments. The state dictated all of this, non-negotiably. And no, just by being physically present in Saudi Arabia does not mean they agreed.

    The underlying foundation, the free and competitive infrastructure for delivering justice, including the extensive hierarchies of explicit, voluntary consents among all parties, is essential and necessary to render a beheading legitimate. The mere potential for beheading to be morally permissible as one possible form of compensation between mutually consenting parties in no way translates into a blanket legitimization of beheadings carried out under state rule.