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Punishing Politicians

from LRC 2003:

Punishing Politicians

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 23, 2003 04:29 PM

From Rothbard’s great article, H. L. Mencken: The Joyous Libertarian:

In discussing how to punish guilty public officials (“jobholders”), Mencken said, “What is needed is a system (a) that does not depend for its execution upon the good-will of fellow jobholders, and (b) that provides swift, certain and unpedantic punishments, each fitted neatly to its crime.”

Mencken’s proposed remedy “provides that any [citizen]…having looked into the acts of a jobholder and found him delinquent, may punish him instantly and on the spot, and in any manner that seems appropriate and convenient – and that, in case this punishment involves physical damage to the jobholder, the ensuing inquiry by the grand jury or coroner shall confine itself strictly to the question whether the jobholder deserved what he got. In other words, I propose that it shall no longer be malum in se for a citizen to pummel, cowhide, kick, gouge, cut, wound, bruise, maim, burn, club, bastinado, flay, or even lynch a jobholder, and that it shall be malum prohibitum only to the extent that the punishment exceeds the jobholder’s desserts. The amount of this excess, if any, may be determined very conveniently by a petit jury, as other questions of guilt are now determined…. If it decides that the jobholder deserves the punishment inflicted upon him, the citizen who inflicted it is acquitted with honor. If, on the contrary, it decides that the punishment was excessive, then the citizen is adjudged guilty of assault, mayhem, murder, or whatever it is, in a degree apportioned to the difference between what the jobholder deserved and what he got, and punishment for that excess follows in the usual course…. “

Re: Punishing Politicians

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 25, 2003 01:34 PM

Regarding Mencken’s proposal for punishing bureaucrats–Brett Middleton writes,

“This is in regard to your lewrockwell.com blog entry on 10/23, in which you describe Mencken’s proposed justice system for those who take it upon themselves to punish a public official. If you’d like to see an example of a similar system in (fictional) action, I suggest that you try to find a copy of H. Beam Piper’s short novel “Lone Star Planet“. I think you’d appreciate the trials held in the “Court of Political Justice.””

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