Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 2, No 3 (2013)

Contra Davidson on Counterfeiting, Round Two

Walter E. Block


Libertarians and non libertarians alike agree that counterfeiting legitimate money owned by innocent people is illicit.  But what about counterfeiting counterfeit money owned by the guiltless? Davidson and I, both libertarians, take the position that this would be a rights violation; that this would violate the rights of innocent owners of currency, who would be victimized by such fraudulent behavior of counterfeiters, even those who limit themselves to counterfeiting counterfeit funds. But what about counterfeiting counterfeit money owned by those who are guilty of crimes? Davidson (2013) opines, in effect, that there are no such people. The counterfeiter of counterfeit money is thus himself a criminal, she avers. I argue, very much to the contrary, that the relevant population consists mostly of guilty people, and thus they are not in a logical position to object to what would otherwise be considered victimization. As for the few innocents among them, they demonstrate their innocence to a large degree by not objecting to the counterfeiting of counterfeit money. If they do object, and take actions to prevent this practice, they act in a manner incompatible with the libertarian non aggression principle (NAP) and thus enter the ranks of the guilty. I find Davidson’s (2013) economic analysis impeccable; her understanding of libertarianism highly problematic.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should make it clear that the present paper contains the radical suggestion that we should do away with our established monetary- and financial system. If need be, and this is by no means my first choice, we are entitled to do so by means of massive counterfeiting of established currencies (which is justified by deontological considerations and libertarian principles). Of course, this is illegal in extant nations, and I would not want to be imprisoned for committing a crime. So, for purposes of our discussion, we will be considering only the imaginary country of Ruritania.