Distressing Problems

From The Libertarian Labyrinth
Jump to: navigation, search

Distressing Problems.

[Lysander Spooner, (unsigned)]

1. Is it worth while for fifty millions of people to prove themselves a nation by hanging a fool for a homicide?

2. Could any one more effectively prove himself a fool that by committing a homicide in the expectation that the government would reward him for it by giving him an office?

3. How much mential capacity, how much power to judge of the moral character and probably results of an act, is it necessary that a man should have to save him from the charge of being a fool, and convict him of being a felon?

4. If a man who, having no malice to gratify and no prospect of gain, commits a homicide upon a peaceable citizen in open day and in the immediate presence of a hundred spectators has any other expectation that that his fate will be to end his days either on the gallows or in a lunatic asylum, can he be said to have sufficient power of judging of the nature and probably results of his act to save him from the charge of being a fool, and convict him of being a felon?

5. If a man who commits such a homicide under such circumstances is not to be considered a fool instead of a felon, what difference is there between him and a man who lays in wait for another, and kills him in cold blood for money?

6. If Guiteau should be hanged, will he be hanged because he is a fool? Or because he is a political fool? Or because, being a fool and a political fool, he committed a homicide?

7. If all political fools in the country are to be hanged, or otherwise punished, for acts that are criminal when committed by men of sound minds,—such acts, for example, as advocating and voting for unjust and oppressive laws,—what percentage of the population are to go unpunished? And what is to become of our political parties, and of “our glorious republican institutions”?

8. If we have gained, in this country, no immunity for political fools, or if our government cannot survive the attacks of political fools of all possible grades, does not common sense decree that the sooner the fools put an end to it, the better?

9. Our government, like most other governments, is carried on mainly by two classes of men, knaves and dupes. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to call them fools and felons. If we must hang either of these classes, is it not cruel and indecent to begin with the fools?

10. If we have two political parties in this country, and the two are of nearly equal numbers. They are tolerated, and even encouraged, because it is agreed, on both sides, that they are a necessity, in order that they may tell the truth of each other. And they do tell a great deal of truth, although by no means the whole truth, of each other. And they are permitted to tell it in the presence of all the fools in the country. Is it to be expected that so much truth can be openly told without causing homicide? A few years ago we had a million of homicides, growing out of the wickedness of the government and the foolishness of the people; yet the government, unless in a single particular, was no worse than it is now, and the people were perhaps no more foolish then than they are now. Do not these facts teach us that we should either change our government, or keep the truth out of the hands of the people? Can it be expected that a government as bad as ours, and people as foolish as ours, can get on together without an occasional explosions?

  • Lysander Spooner, “Distressing Problems,” Liberty 1, no. 7 (October 29, 1881): 3.