If the state can legitimately criminalize only wrongs that cause or risk harm, and if it respects the fact that an actor who sets out to commit a crime can always change his mind until he takes the last step, we are apt to end up with a law of attempts in which an attempt is a crime only when the actor has taken the last step, or comes very close to taking it. What are perhaps the most familiar theories of attempt —objectivism and subjectivism—do in fact gravitate toward such a restrictive law of attempts. In contrast to these theories, I suggest that an actor who intends to cause or risk harm is akin to a traitor. The wrong of treason consists in the formation of a treasonous intent in violation of one's duty of loyalty to the state or nation. The wrong of attempt consists in the formation of an intent to cause or risk harm to one's fellow citizens in violation of one's duty of loyalty to them. The traitor and the attempter are each guilty of defying the law that legitimately prohibits the formation of such intentions.
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