Roczniki Filozoficzne

Volume 71, Issue 3, 2023

Łukasz DominiakOrcid-ID
Pages 5-23

Is the Rothbardian Theory of Punishment Retributive?

Murray Rothbard claims that it is “evident that our theory of proportional punishment—that people may be punished by losing their rights to the extent that they have invaded the rights of others—is frankly a retributive theory of punishment, a ‘tooth (or two teeth) for a tooth’ theory.” The present paper argues that it is not. The role that Rothbard assigns for victims in determining punishment justifies classifying his theory of punishment as corrective rather than retributive, for vesting victims with rights over punishment defeats the retributive justice requirement that criminals are punished solely because they deserve it and in accordance with their respective deserts. Instead of giving offenders what they objectively deserve, the Rothbardian theory of punishment allows victims to seek compensation in various forms, including revenge.