Thus, legalizing blackmail appears to increase the likelihood that someone will detect a norm violation, but appears to decrease the costs the violator incurs once his transgression is detected.
Assume that we cannot predict how blackmail changes the expected cost of violating norms.
Even if these complications are only roughly correct, they sufficiently illustrate how blackmail would interfere with norm internalization.
By rendering impossible the public punishment of a norm violator, blackmail also removes the opportunity for shame and reintegration.
Blackmail Inhibits the Communication Processes That Refine and Reform Inefficient Norms
If norm violators are blackmailed, another consequence is that group members will spend less time in self-conscious discussion of the norm.
Blackmail Inhibits Gossip-Based Articulation of Norm Boundaries
Like common law courts, gossip applies the general norm to the particular situation, thereby refining the norm itself.(58) Blackmail would replace gossip and therefore impede this process of refinement.(59) One might object that, whatever the value of adjudication, permitting blackmail would merely reduce, not eliminate, adjudication of norms through gossip.
The difficulty is determining whether blackmail would suppress gossip below this point.
Blackmail Inhibits Criticism of Dysfunctional Norms
Blackmail will significantly restrict intragroup criticism of norms.
With blackmail, an individual deciding whether to criticize a norm will consider two additional factors: how his criticism affects the possibility of paying blackmail or receiving blackmail payments.
Even if we were to assume, contrary to the claim of Part I.A, that legalizing blackmail would increase the expected cost of violating norms, legalization would still probably inhibit norm reform.(70) By this contrary hypothesis, the net effect of blackmail on criticism would depend on the sum of two offsetting effects: (1) legalization would increase the expected cost of violating norms and therefore increase the benefit of reforming inefficient norms; and (2) legalization would create expected profits from blackmailing norm violators and therefore create costs to reforming even inefficient norms.
Legalizing blackmail would affect the most persuasive critics differently than the least persuasive critics.
The less one gains from violating a norm, the more likely it is that the marginal costs of norm criticism (foregone blackmail profits) will outweigh the marginal benefits of criticism.