There are several aspects of this Ray Rice story that are worthy of comment; for example, the power of a video in the outrage toward Rice as opposed to the lack of power in the written word in the lack of outrage toward Floyd Mayweather, by all accounts an infinitely more troubling character than is Ray Rice.
I want to consider another aspect: the victim’s role in deciding about prosecuting the perpetrator, and the possible mental incapacity of the victim in this regard.
As he always does, Victor Ward raises valuable points through his unique lens on the world. He addresses this Ray Rice situation along with a handful of other recent, high-profile, racially-charged stories. I offer the following, relevant point, from his post:
Everyone wants to condemn Ray Rice for hitting his wife, everyone, that is, except for his wife. If she has accepted his apology, isn't that the end of the story?
Sure, Ray Rice may do something worse. Or he won't. What difference is it to anyone other than Mrs. Rice?
The district attorney in New Jersey is getting some grief over not prosecuting Rice. This grief erupted, not after the incident, but after the release of this second video. At the same time, as Victor points out, Mrs. Rice has accepted her husband’s apology and wants to move on.
As we know, this decision is not in the hands of the victim in today’s legal systems throughout much of the world. The decision is in the hands of the state. And, as is the case in every monopoly, the cost is too high and the quality is too low; the state too often jails the innocent and releases the guilty. There is no budget constraint or fiscal ramification to this incompetence. Worst of all, the victim receives no justice – there is no form of compensation to the victim.
Suffice it to say, in a libertarian world, the victim would decide if prosecution was warranted. This, for me, is the easy part of my two part question.
However, what if the victim is in some way mentally incapacitated? In this specific example, in a manner of psychological and emotional dependence on the perpetrator? There are too many stories of such victims returning over and over again to the perpetrator’s waiting arms, only to be once again greeted by the fists.
Such a person may not be the best one to decide if prosecution (by state or non-state means) is in order. The state interjects individuals who know nothing about the people involved – victim, perpetrator, and other family members – to decide in the place of the victim.
This is why we need government. But is it? Is the best course to interject strangers into this decision? Why not family, close friends, the pastor at the church, support programs at work? Why are those with a relationship with the victim and/or perpetrator not in the best position to offer guidance and counsel regarding making the decision?
In other words, in order to do what is best for the (possibly mentally incapacitated) victim, who is in the best position to, if not decide, at least influence the decision of prosecution – a family member or a stranger?
In the end, it seems to me that Victor is right – ultimately the victim must decide. It also seems clear that the best people to guide or assist in this decision are those who are close to the victim. This course – one that recognizes the victim’s right – of course, leaves room for error.
As if there is not error today. The criminal justice system is as corrupt and error-prone as one might imagine.
A libertarian society does not promise heaven on earth, nor should this be the standard. It does provide for the victim deciding what is just; it does not externalize this decision on the entire society. Leaving this decision in the hands of the victim – and certainly the victim of such crimes – comes with risks, but this is life.
What is certain is that such an approach will serve the needs of the victim far better than does the current system.
This should answer the question I posed at the top.