Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 261–269 | Cite as

A Political Theory of Blackmail: A Reply to Professor Dripps

  • Russell L. ChristopherEmail author
Original Paper


This essay was originally presented at the Rutgers Institute for Law and Philosophy as part of the Symposium on The Evolution of Criminal Law Theory. It is a Reply to Professor Donald Dripps’ politically-based justification for blackmail’s prohibition. Under Dripps’ account, by exacting payment from the victim blackmail is an impermissible form of private punishment that usurps the state’s public monopoly on law enforcement. This essay demonstrates that Dripps’ account is either under-inclusive or over-inclusive or both. Dripps’ account is applied to a number of the standard blackmail scenarios by which theories of blackmail are typically assessed. Dripps’ account is under-inclusive by failing to treat as blackmail Victim-Welcomed Blackmail, Non-Monetary Blackmail, Rebuffed Blackmail, and Non-Informational Blackmail which the law considers as blackmail. And it is over-inclusive by treating as blackmail Victim-Initiated Exchange and Unconditional Disclosure which the law does not recognize as blackmail.


Criminal law Punishment Blackmail Moral theory of punishment 



I am indebted to Kathryn Christopher and Ken Levy for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Tulsa College of LawTulsaUSA

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