This is an explanation for passage 3 of LSAT preptest 65, the December 2011 LSAT – the comparative passage. The passages are about blackmail. The first passage proposes a theory for blackmail, despite it’s inconsistencies. The second passage describes how blackmail wasn’t specifically banned in ancient rome, yet was nonetheless illegal.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- It’s not clear why blackmail is illegal. It is a combination of two legal acts.
- Blackmail laws are unclear as a result.
- We can make a theory of blackmail. Blackmail is illegal because it misuses a third party.
- Roman law had no category for blackmail. Actions were considered illegal based on whether they caused harm.
- Blackmail was considered harmful. A blackmailer had to show why they should be allowed to reveal information.
- Truth wasn’t enough. There had to be a public purpose to revealing the information.
The two passages discuss theories of blackmail.
First, there is our own theory of blackmail. It’s not clear why blackmail is illegal, since free speech is allowed. But threats aren’t legal. Passage A claims that blackmail is illegal because we use third parties to make threats.
Roman law had a different view of blackmail. Truth and free speech weren’t important values. There had to be a public purpose to reveal information. Blackmail wasn’t illegal as such, but it would be illegal if it caused harm.
It’s worth rereading both passages to see how they relate and how they differ. You need to have a clear idea of our blackmail and roman blackmail before you look at the questions.
I want to be very clear about Roman law. It was much more restrictive than North American law. In the US, you can say something harmful about a public figure, as long as its true, and you’re not blackmailing them.
In ancient Rome, you could not harm people by telling the truth about them, unless there was a clear purpose to doing so.
So if you embarrassed a public figure with the truth, he could sue you because you harmed him. Truth was not a defense. Only public interest was a defense.
Blackmail was therefore illegal by consequence of this law. If you couldn’t harm someone by telling the truth, then you certainly couldn’t harm someone by telling the truth AND blackmailing them.
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