His jaws chattering, capers to and fro, goggling his eyes, squeaking, kangaroohopping, with outstretched clutching arms
Consider the following scenario:
Madeline is an infamous courtesan operating in Victorian London. She counts among her clients some of the most powerful establishment men in Britain. With her career on the wane, she decides to write her memoirs, which will reveal all the sordid details of her many dalliances. This will no doubt cause great scandal and (given the social mores of the time) will be the downfall of her indecorous clientele. Spotting an opportunity to make more money, Madeline offers her former clients a deal: if they pay her a large sum of money, she will keep their name out of the published version of her memoirs.
This thought experiment — which is based on the real-life case of Harriette Wilson — is an example of blackmail: Madeline threatens to do something that would upset or destabilize her clients, unless they pay her a sum of money.
Blackmail is recognized as a crime in most countries. For example, in England and Wales, blackmail is criminalized under s. 21 of the Theft Act of 1968 and carries a potential maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. But the fact that blackmail is criminalized is thought to be troubling by many theorists of criminal law. As they see it, there is a paradox underlying the criminalization of blackmail. […]
In this series of posts, I want to consider the so-called paradox of blackmail and its possible resolutions.