The familiar irony of ‘real existing socialism’ is that it never was. Socialist ideals were used to legitimize regimes that fell far short of realizing those ideals—indeed, that violently repressed anyone who tried to realize them. This paper suggests that the derogatory concept of ‘the criminal’ may be allowing liberal ideals to operate in contemporary political philosophy and real politics in a worryingly similar manner. By depoliticizing deep dissent from the prevailing order of property, this concept can obscure what I call the ‘legitimation gap’. This is the gulf between (a) liberal accounts of state legitimacy, and (b) the actual functioning of liberal states. Feminists have long pointed out that the exclusion of what is deemed ‘personal’ from political consideration is itself a political move. I propose that the construction of the criminal as a category opposed to the political works similarly to perpetuate unjust forms of social power.