The Nature of Crime
A crime is an act in defiance of the State. It has no ethical or moral implications beyond how ethical or moral one thinks the State is. Adolf Hitler was not a criminal; Anne Frank was. The Founding Fathers were criminals and traitors to Great Britain. The State itself is, by definition, incapable of committing a crime, as are those who are allied with the State, such as large banks and defence contractors. Now, some people have argued that in the case of a Constitutional system, like America, those who betray their sworn oaths to uphold Constitution are criminals, regardless of whether they have won the favor of the president. Those people are communists. The State cannot commit crimes.
Rather than fighting the assertion that people who defy the will of the president are traitors and criminals, I would like to point to possibility that crime can, in some cases, be moral. For a crime to be immoral, taken as a whole, it must have negative effects on humanity. Truly Pareto efficient actions are done so quickly and without hesitation that it is useless to analyze them. When analyzing the morality of opposition to the State, it is pretty safe to ignore the effects of such opposition on the politicians themselves, since they are so few in number relative to the masses. Whether one politician or another gets elected or retires in shame pales in comparison to the fate of millions, even though our limited human intellect focuses more on the few than the many. Likewise, most politician’s reactions to the events of the day are self serving, and so can likewise be ignored.
Crime is not inherently morally good either. Obviously, murder, rape, etc are evil and those who commit these crimes should be punished in accordance with the law. I think many people don’t recognize the purpose of the structure of the law in maintaining order. In modern Western countries, when someone is murdered, the relaives and family of the victim are neither allowed revenge or are allowed to even participate in the trial, beyond a role as a witness if that applies. The reason this is done is to minimize the changes of a feud. Instead of the victim getting revenge, the State itself judges and punishes the criminal, using unbiased members of society as jurors. Thus, there is no second stage of revenge and no spiral of violence. But the purpose of this structure is not primarily justice, although that is a byproduct in many cases, it’s stability and order.
Are Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg criminals? Absolutely. They have opposed the president and the State. Are they immoral? To answer that question, one must look at their impact on humanity as a whole.