Upholding The Law In A Free Society

One of the basic tenets in any society is the rule of Law. In its simplest form, the Law allows for conflict resolution in a fair and impartial manner, while promising justice to those that have been wronged. Additionally, it includes ways to enforce laws (eg. the police department or investigators) and ways to punish those that break laws (eg. the jail system or fines).

When talking about a free, libertarian society, many question: “What would the rule of Law look like without a government?”

The simplicity of the answer might surprise you: very much like it is now, but handled by private organizations providing a voluntary service.

In modern society, all aspects of the Law, including the writing or amending of laws, are either handled or heavily subsidized and controlled by the government. You, as a citizen, do not have a direct influence over which laws are passed and which aren’t, how laws are enforced, what punishment or compensation is fair, and who the judge presiding over a case will be.

Let’s find out how all this would work out in a free society by first understanding why it’s preferable to have multiple arbitrators of law instead of a very select few.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Imagine two men, Alan and Bob, find themselves stranded on an island. There is no government and no laws. Alan and Bob are doing well until Alan is out hunting and manages to take down a boar. As he’s about to start carrying the carcass to his hut, Bob approaches Alan and explains that he had seen the boar first and therefore has right over the boar and its meat.

Now we have property conflict.

At this point, Alan and Bob have to choose one of two options: either come to a peaceful resolution (eg. each taking half the meat) or they can fight for it.

Now let’s say that there’s a third man, Charlie, on the island. Because Alan and Bob cannot reach a peaceful resolution, they go to Charlie, who is know to be honest and wise, and ask him to resolve the matter for them.

Charlie hears both sides of the story from the two men, and decides to resolve the conflict by allowing Alan to keep the boar because he was the one who killed it. Alan and Bob, having agreed beforehand to comply with Charlie’s resolution, shake hands and carry on with their lives.

Charlie has created the island’s first law.

Later, Charlie and Alan get into another conflict. Similarly, they have three options: peaceful resolution between them, violent resolution, or a third party resolution. After opting for the latter option, they go to Bob, who decides on a resolution for their conflict.

Now Bob has created a law.

It is here that we see the biggest difference between the island’s conflict resolution and the one we’re used to in modern society. On the island, everyone has the power to create and enforce new laws. There is no single person “above the law”. Additionally, if Charlie attempts to arbitrate over conflicts that he’s involved with, Alan and Bob can immediately see that this is an unfair situation.

As the population on the island gets larger, say 10 people, each conflict has the possibility to be resolved by various other citizens, and the question arises of who will be the one to arbitrate. Over the course of time, some citizens will be recognized as more honest and fair than others, and these will be chosen more than others.

As a free society’s population gets larger, publicly traded organizations whose sole purpose is to provide conflict resolution, would form. Their reputation, honesty, fairness, and impartiality will be the deciding factor on whether or not they are chosen to resolve conflicts.

And because there are many organizations providing the same service, the hiring of a particular organization to resolve conflict would be entirely voluntary, eliminating conflict of interest. The free market would ensure that the best (fairest) organizations rise to the top.

This system sits at the core of law enforcement in a free society.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

In order to understand how law enforcement would work in a government-free society, it is best to play out a likely scenario and figure out what public organizations would be required to fill in the role at each step, and how they would handle the situation.

We’ll start with a man named Dave, a citizen of a completely free society where law enforcement is handled by organizations instead of the government.

Dave has a vast range of options when it comes security companies and organizations providing personal security and insurance services. His choice is Citizenect, and because he does not consider himself a high-profile target, he opted for the Basic package. It does not provide personal bodyguards but the monthly subscription cost is also cheaper.

One day, Dave is walking to his car after work and he’s mugged at gunpoint. The mugger gets away with Dave’s cash and his watch. Immediately after the act, Dave calls Citizenect who send over two agents.

After assessing the situation, they issue a check to him for $3,000. This covers his losses and the emotional trauma. They also promise to bring the mugger to justice.

Citizenect then put their in-house investigators to work, in order to 1) figure out who it was that mugged Dave, and 2) recoup their money. Both their reputation and their bottom line is at stake here as failure to find the mugger would hurt the trust of their customers.

After an extensive investigation, the investigators decide that it was a man named Earl who mugged Dave.

Armed with this information, Cizenect contact Earl and ask him to pay them $5,000 in damages for the crime he committed. Earl is now presented with two options: either agree to the mugging and pay Citizenect or claim that he’s innocent.

Let’s say that Earl chooses the latter. Citizenect, not wanting to be seen as someone who harasses innocent people, allow Earl to make his case. For the sake of this scenario, we’ll assume that after hearing his version of the story, Citizenect still believe that he is guilty.

At this point, Citizenect contact Earl again and threaten to use force if he does not comply with the payment, and Earl is again facing the two options from before.

The situation gets more complex when we introduce another security company, TrueSec, whom Earl pays for protection, not unlike Dave and his Basic package with Citizenect.

After the initial contact, Earl calls TrueSec and explains the situation. Now Citizenect’s charges are put on hold as TrueSec investigates the situation on behalf of their client.

If TrueSec’s investigation results in Earl being innocent, what we essentially have is the same situation as we had on the island, with Alan and Bob fighting over the boar. Neither security organization will back down as that would lower the public’s opinion of them as a reliable security organization, so they turn to a mutually agreed conflict resolution organization, just as Alan and Bob turned to Charlie.

Enter the Association for Mugging Resolution, AMR, an organization known for being an expert in mugging resolution. Both Citizenect and TrueSec meet with AMR and present their case on behalf of their respective clients. AMR listens to both sides of the story and then passes judgement based on previous cases and their experience as an organization handling these types of cases.

Earl is found to be guilty and told to pay $5,000 to Citizenect. Now that the conflict has been resolved, TrueSec back down and allow Citizenect to use force against Earl if he does not comply with the punishment against him.

Earl’s only option now is to pay the money. If he cannot afford the fine, Citizenect can reach an agreement with his place of work to wire them an appropriate amount from his pay-check every month, which would cover the fine and interest. If he is unemployed, Citizenect might insist that he work at a place of their choosing in order to cover the fine. If Earl is not to be trusted or dangerous, they might even restrict his movement to a certain region or, in the worst case scenario, a secure building, from where he can work to pay off the fine and serve his punishment.

Earl’s mugging will now be recorded by the various criminal records organizations, and media outlets would take note and report on it if they deem it necessary. Additionally, security organizations might not want to cover Earl anymore, as they would consider him as too high a risk, which could give rise to organizations specifically focused on providing security and insurance to know criminals like Earl for a higher premium.

Finally, auditing organizations would check and verify that Citizenect, TrueSec and AMR all provided a fair service, while other organizations would record Citizenect’s and TrueSec’s conduct along the case to provide a way for citizens looking to hire either security company.

The matter is now resolved, according to the rules created by a free society, upheld by public organizations under the watchful eye of the citizens themselves and the free market.

NO GOVERNMENT REQUIRED

As we can see, nowhere along the process did we encounter a situation where a government organization was necessary and irreplaceable. All actions were undertaken by companies and organizations with no need for government intervention. From investigation to apprehension of the suspect to punishment enforcement, various businesses and organizations would be involved but the process can be handled efficiently, transparently and in a fundamentally better way than if it was handled by government organizations.

In a free society, there is no conflict of interest, and all services are purchased voluntarily. Laws are created and upheld by the citizens themselves and the people would still have the protections they require. Criminals would still be brought to justice, and victims would still receive their due.

No matter how you look at it, upholding the law by the rules of a free society and the free market is simply a vastly superior system.