Question: According to Objectivism , should indigent criminal defendents be given free legal aide by the state to defend themselves? If so, who pays these attorneys? If not, how do we guarantee the rights of the accused who does not know enough about the law to defend himself properly?

Answer: There is no settled Objectivist view of this issue and The Atlas Society has no position on it. Any answer would have to be based in the essential purpose of government: to secure its citizens' rights to freedom from the initiation of force.

Objectivism opposes government entitlements that are based on the idea that one person's need is a moral claim that on the productive effort of another. Need is not a claim on wealth, in the Objectivist view.
So I personally would have thought that an Objectivist must be opposed to the government providing legal aid to defendants in criminal cases.
But then I read Christopher Robinson's argument that the government should conduct trials in order to find out the truth about a case. It therefore has no interest in successful prosecution as such: its goal should be to convict the guilty but be sure to let the innocent go free. So the government has as much interest in the defense as in the prosecution, and that therefore perhaps our government should devote far more resources than it does to "legal aid." I found this argument quite convincing.
Of course, it would probably be better to outsource legal aid and replace the public defender system with a voucher system of subsidies available to all defendants. This would replace the bureaucracy of the public defender system with the vigor and efficiency of private legal services.
This is a topic that scholars specializing in philosophy of law will need to address more fully in the future.


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