One of the first and most common objections to anarchism goes something like “But in anarchy, there are no laws! How would justice prevail? How would we hold everyone accountable to the same standards?”. The short answer is: Not so! There are laws, justice would prevail, and it would be applied even more fairly than it is today, in the statist system of corporatist nepotism and protectionism. We’ll do our best to explain.
You claim that law, justice, and accountability are possible in anarchism. How?
First, remember that the morality of a thing (or immorality, as it were) is more relevant than its practicality (not to say that anarchism isn’t practical, but let’s address this first). So for example, we know that stealing $10,000 from someone to pay for someone else’s lawyer – in the name of justice – is, in fact, unjust and therefore contradictory.
Now – the law, simply, is the non-aggression principle (criminal law), contract law (which is principally an extension of the latter, but civil law), and as a whole, common law. Now for justice. So let’s imagine that person A steals something from person B. B wants it back, plus damages. B goes to what we will call a “Dispute Resolution Organization” (DRO) – basically, an arbiter. Now, A can also employ a DRO, or he can represent himself to the DRO, or if he chooses not to or cannot employ one, the community (which we assume is truly concerned with justice, otherwise any state that deals in justice is acting against the will of its people) can employ a DRO for him, or the DRO can represent him pro bono/gratis. Now, it is in the interest of the two DROs to come to an equitable decision – even at the just loss of the guilty party – because otherwise, in the free market, its client base will see that it is acting immorally/inequitably and refuse to do any further business with them. Still, if one party did in fact receive an inequitable ruling, the community would realize this and there would be an appeals process.
Accountability, then, is to God and to every other human, or the community – your neighbors.
What if a person doesn’t recognize the authority of the DRO?
This is possibly the most important question in this whole discussion, because it’s one of the hardest to reconcile. But in fact, it’s simple: any person’s complete refusal to recognize justice invalidates their right to justice. So if I kill someone and then refuse to recognize any jurisdiction or attempt at the exercise of justice, I’ve relinquished my right thereof, and am therefore subject to retribution by the DRO, the injured party, or any interested party. Justice is of course somewhat inter-subjective and majoritarian to an extent, but it is also objective; i.e., murder of an innocent person is objectively unjust.
Who pays for criminal investigations, and who conducts them?
The DRO (or a subcontractor, same difference) conducts the investigation. The cost of the DROs, again (just like lawyers or arbiters in today’s system) must be paid either by the involved parties, or pro bono, or the community – the latter being similar to “The State” or churches/charities/NPOs which front suits they deem worthy today.
What do you do with the alleged criminal when you’ve found him? If you imprison him, who pays for it, and must it be by his consent?
If the plaintiff subscribes to a police force, the police force would do a preliminary investigation to validate the claims, and then attempt to make the arrest. If not, when he hires the DRO, the DRO would subcontract to an arresting police force – and either of the parties would have a penal arm as well (remember, these are simply voluntary/free market justice systems – much of the practicalities would play out like today, it’s just that the individuals have the right to choose their arbiters and the DROs are in effect held accountable by the community and therefore NOT as susceptible to corruption).
The imprisonment again would necessarily be funded by the plaintiff or its financier, and does NOT have to be by consent of the defendant as he is accused of breaking the law of non-aggression. Remember that we are in effect delegating our own right to retribution to the police or DRO. If we make fraudulent claims and our agent acts on those, we are in fact instigating an act of aggression and would be held accountable for damages once the facts come to light (again, not much different than today’s system). So people wouldn’t just be able to make arbitrary claims at will.
Is there protection against abuse (bribery and corruption)?
Yes! We must expect the community to recognize injustices and deal with them accordingly in the free market, holding accountable rogue DROs and bribers (in addition to granting an appeals process as stated earlier). Additionally, one would assume a higher level of transparency in the arbitration/investigation process (if the client, specifically the defendant, demands it) which would maintain accountability (so we wouldn’t see kangaroo courts). The community acts as today’s state (“the state is the people”), it is just a voluntary state of sorts. So we’re postulating that the community will tend to act in the interests of justice just as the state is commissioned to act today, since the state is to represent the will of the people.
As stated previously, we concede that we assume a society of (at least somewhat) moral intellectuals, and therefore we do not advocate this system tomorrow. It would first require an enlightenment or wider understanding of how everything works (perhaps by greater discussion of anarchism with the rest of society).
What about something like what we know as “statutory rape” (or corruption of a minor) in the case of two consenting individuals?
In a free society, we would probably be required to give the actions of adolescents greater weight than we do today. Most adolescents today are capable of understanding the consequences of having sex, and therein lies the solution. In order to make voluntary agreements, even such as sex, both parties need to have sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the transaction. So where it might be pretty easy to demonstrate that a 16-year-old (unless perhaps he or she was mentally incapacitated in some way) was capable of making this decision, obviously a 5-year-old would not be – which is why at a practical level even today, we would not consider the decisions of a 5-year-old binding, whereas the 16-year-old can make voluntary exchanges (for example, buying a CD) without a parent around. In a free society, parents often serve as the first line of defense for their children, but once capable, the teenager’s right to voluntary contract him- or herself must be recognized.
How is the common law decided? How is it changed?
The common law would be decided on the non-aggression principle; which is to say that aggression, or in general “the initiation of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property”, is retributable. It must be mutable; in other words, if precedent is found to be outdated or unjust, a different DRO has every right and is in fact required to overturn it. There would also be a need for an established appeals process. But again, the community is expected (as it is today) to hold the DROs to refrain from arbitrary and unjust rulings.
What if the community dislikes or doesn’t care about an economically troubled individual who needs legal help?
Let’s imagine that a great deal of the population is concerned with the equal application of justice to those who can’t afford it (as is the majority of decent people). So in a voluntary society, we would see the establishment of a “public justice fund” which acts as the taxpayer-funded system of today, but it would basically just be an NPO. The purpose of such a fund would be to objectively assist those who meet certain criteria (low income, etc) with funding cases at law (this is the intent of today’s system, overwhelmingly by the support of the taxpayer, so it’s not hard to imagine that it would still manage to have overwhelming support voluntarily). Such a fund might allow its contributors to subscribe to pay a certain amount every month/year via Paypal, or send around flyers seeking donations, etc. If “justice for all” really is the will of the people, there are almost infinite solutions to this sort of problem in the free market.
This all seems pretty logical, but it’s such a scary idea!
We completely understand; been there, done that. Give it some time to sink in. Meditate on it for a while. Subscribe via email so our next post can rack your brain even more. You’ll come around. We have faith 😉
Remember the Scriptures:
They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
We know that mankind knows God’s Law through nature. All rational men know inherently that aggression against others (murder, theft, violence) is wrong. When governments add any laws further than God’s Law, the moral standard is lowered to the legal standard and we all suffer. Christ advocates non-aggression throughout his teachings as the manner in which we should interact with others; He does not advocate “just a little” aggression. The idea has been drilled over and over into our minds that Jesus’ commandment of non-aggression is only applicable when we think it suits us; meditate on the fact that His Law is timeless and without situation, and not subject to our own ideas of practicability.