Society can’t be victim of crime

Often when the impact of increasing liberty is being discussed, especially with regard to things some people resist on moral grounds (such as ending the criminalization of prostitution, drug prohibition, regulation of gambling, etc.), someone will claim that victimless crimes actually do have a victim: Society.

What is a victim and what is society? A victim is someone who has been harmed against their will. An individual is harmed when they suffer actual physical or financial damage. Anything that doesn’t harm any individual by definition harms no one. How can society be harmed by an action that harms no specific individual?

Merriam-Webster says society is “a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.” Society has no physical form so it can’t be physically damaged; just like bullets wouldn’t kill a ghost. No victimless crime harms society economically, since all money belongs only to individuals. Unless there is fraud or theft involved there is only voluntary, mutually beneficial, trade, even if some find it distasteful. The only way I see to really harm a group, beyond harming the individual members, is to cause the group to disband, perhaps to reform in a different way. But is that truly harm?

I don’t think society can be harmed, but merely altered. Of course, if you prefer the way society is, your opinion is that society has been harmed. This is just a matter of perspective; just about any particular imaginable change would be considered an improvement to some and destruction to others. As long as no one is coerced into going along and paying for programs or policies they don’t like, no one is harmed by the change.

This explains why the government’s very existence causes change to be seen as harm: No one is allowed to opt out of the system. One graphic example would be one thing many people fear being imposed: Sharia Law. Without an institution that can be co-opted to impose and enforce it and legally prevent you from acting in self-defense against its imposition, Sharia Law could never actually harm you, or by extension, society. The victimless crimes people want to restrict on moral grounds are the American equivalent of Sharia Law and are imposed on everyone regardless of their personal belief system.

Finally, some claim that society is a victim since it will have to pay for the harm some people do to themselves through their actions. This exposes the flaws of socialism, inherent in taxation and welfare, which victimizes the individuals who comprise society, rather than being proof society is a victim of these acts. End the socialism and let people pay for their own care and pay restitution for any harm they cause others and the excuse evaporates.