Montreal, October 31, 2005 • No 159




Francis Dumouchel is a law student at Université de Montréal.




by Francis Dumouchel


          In The Ethics of Liberty, his great reconciliation of Austrian economics and natural law ethics, Murray Rothbard commented that a new species of beings having “the characteristics, the nature of the legendary vampire, and [that] could only exist by feeding on human blood”(1) would not be entitled to individual rights, regardless of their intelligence, because of their status as deadly enemies of humanity. I wish to discuss this issue in more detail and argue that Rothbard, who was kind of a night owl himself, was unfair to those mysterious creatures. The libertarian theory of justice would in fact easily allow for a peaceful coexistence with vampires.


Cohabitations with Humans

          First of all, if the possibility of cohabitation with humans were the only criterion to be considered in deciding if a particular individual is entitled to rights, vampires could in turn invoke a similar criterion to pretend that they are a superior race according to natural law, thereby depriving humans of all their dignity. In fact, fictional vampires often do just this: “Humans are mere livestock; we prey on them like they prey on animals; this is the rule of nature”(2). This particular vision of the world can only lead to perpetual conflict, at least until one species has been eliminated. Whichever side emerges victorious from such a conflict, civilization itself is at risk of being destroyed in the process.

          How could the libertarian theory of justice help us to avoid this unnecessary war? We only need to recognize that every self-conscious being capable of individual rational thoughts(3) has a right of self-ownership and thus to life and liberty. In the same way that the aggression of one European toward one Asian does not justify a right of self-defense against an entire continent, the assault of one vampire against one human should not bring about the annihilation of an entire species.

          We must, of course, deal with the unavoidable empirical fact that vampires have a biological need to feed on human blood. We do not have to see this state of affairs as a threat, however. Rather, we can see it as an opportunity to discover a new natural resource flowing through the veins of each one of us. The solution that presents itself is obviously a free market in blood drawing and distribution. In many jurisdictions it is illegal to sell one’s blood; only donation to a state monopoly is permitted. This system is barely sufficient to guarantee a constant supply to hospitals; it could never meet the increased demand arising from the emergence of vampires. The inefficiency of government blood administration would inevitably lead to measures that violate personal integrity (such as forced donation) or to shortages and waiting lists. Vampires who could not afford to leave the country or bribe some bureaucrat would have no other choice than to resort to the use of violence in order to preserve their existence.

          In contrast, if the business were left to the private sector, several blood clinics would offer generous compensation in accordance with the level of demand and would compete against one another on price and quality of service. Even though some humans might hate vampires and not want to help them, every individual human acting in his personal interest would have an incentive to provide blood in exchange for monetary compensation, which in turn would provide humans with more luxuries or leisure time. An interdependence between species would slowly emerge. On one side, vampires could not suddenly decide to cease all voluntary exchanges, because it would severely jeopardize their chances of survival. On the other side, humans would not relinquish their newly acquired wealth for the mere satisfaction of getting rid of their neighbors.

"Even though some humans might hate vampires and not want to help them, every individual human acting in his personal interest would have an incentive to provide blood in exchange for monetary compensation, which in turn would provide humans with more luxuries or leisure time."

          It should be noted, of course, that the right to bear arms (such as wooden stakes, ultraviolet flashlights or liquid-garlic spray) would of course have to be assured for the human population to feel safe. Conversely, any threat to use these weapons without provocation should be considered as an act of aggression in itself.

Secondary economic advantages

          Having demonstrated the possibility of peaceful coexistence with vampires, let’s observe the secondary economic advantages that humans would enjoy as a result of this association. Vampires being immortal, at least with regard to aging and disease, their time preference is likely to be much lower than that of the average human. Consequently, they will also be more likely to invest in long-term funds or to start businesses to guarantee themselves constant and stable revenues. They will be able to pursue an extremely specialized education and attain unmatched levels of knowledge, allowing new scientific discoveries unseen by the more limited human mind.

          Their immunity to normal wounds would enable vampires to carry out dangerous jobs without concern, which would greatly reduce the costs of certain activities such as building skyscrapers or high sea fishing. Their nocturnal way of life would eliminate the inconvenience of finding night shift employees and thus allow many businesses to offer longer office hours at a reasonable cost.

          In short, the law of comparative advantage would apply to human-vampire relations just as it does to international free trade and to the basic division of labor among humans. We can see that collaboration with vampires, whose abilities far exceed those of humans in a number of circumstances, would lead to the overall enrichment of society. As this fact became sufficiently well appreciated in the general population, mutual prejudice would gradually vanish and a reconciliation of cultures would become feasible.

          Our fear of that which is different and foreign often drives us to understand a situation in a way that is more emotional than rational. However, if we calmly look at the facts of the matter, nothing prevents vampires from enjoying the same individual rights as humans. According to the legend, we can even see that vampires respect private property and the principle “that the house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress”(4). Indeed, a vampire will not enter a private dwelling without an invitation.

          The commitment to a natural law approach does not mean we must begin to make value judgements about the nature of things or beings. Let’s not forget that all ends are subjective, and that every individual with (arguably) free will is worthy of having his moral actions evaluated distinctly from those of his fellows. If libertarian philosophy can prevent conflict among humans and vampires, just imagine what it can do for the several cultures of humankind.


1. Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, New York: NYU Press, 1998, p. 156. Thanks to Bradley Doucet for grammatical and style corrections.
2. Quote from Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Tai Kit Mak’s anime film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000).
3. The question would be more delicate if we had to deal with beings that had a collective thought process, such as the Borg (Star Trek) or the Arachnids (Starship Troopers). In this case, every member of the community would be responsible for the actions of the whole group.
4. Common law principle which first appeared in the English case Semayne v. Gresham (1604), 77 E. R. 194.