“The Tyranny of Government Courts and Prisons”
Murray N. Rothbard | April 12, 2011
Compulsory labor permeates our legal and judicial structure. Thus, much-venerated judicial procedure rests upon coerced testimony. Since it is axiomatic to libertarianism that all coercion — in this case, all coerced labor — against everyone except convicted criminals be eliminated, this means that compulsory testimony must be abolished as well. In recent years, it is true, the courts have been alive to the Fifth Amendment protection that no alleged criminal be forced to testify against himself — to provide the material for his own conviction. The legislatures have been significantly weakening this protection by passing immunity laws, offering immunity from prosecution if someone will testify against his fellows — and, furthermore, compelling the witness to accept the offer and testify against his associates. But compelling testimony from anyone for any reason is forced labor — and, furthermore, is akin to kidnapping, since the person is forced to appear at the hearing or trial and is then forced to perform the labor of giving testimony. The problem is not only the recent immunity laws; the problem is to eliminate all coerced testimony, including the universal subpoenaing of witnesses to a crime, and then forcing them to testify. In the case of witnesses, there is no question whatever of their being guilty of a crime, so the use of compulsion against them — a use that no one has questioned until now — has even less justification than compelling testimony from accused criminals.