Justice

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For the first time ever in recorded human history, in 2027 a major society began righting wrongs and restoring damaged rights.

True, I'm being a little unfair to the quite enlightened traditions in Somalia, to settlers of mediaeval Iceland, and to villagers throughout Europe in the same era--who resolved social outrages like theft, homicide and assault by arraigning the perp before a group of elders and (in Iceland, at least) ordering the guilty to restitute his victims. Those were however exceptions to the norm, and resulted from the admirable application of common sense, rather than from a systematic, logical analysis of the faults of that norm--which was for society to be governed by laws handed down by a ruler, who also operated what he called a "justice system" to punish breakers of his laws, with scant regard for the victims if any and with no patience for any kind of oversight. England 's jury system that began in 1215 did bring some oversight, but rulers there and here have done their utmost ever since to gut it of any serious power.

Here in America, everyone learned during the years leading up to E-Day what true justice is all about, and so were ready, when employees of the government monopoly walked off the job, to build a free-market alternative, and in three short years since then the result has been astounding. Let me tell you about its main features.

1. Courts compete for business on the basis of efficiency and of excellence in judgments rendered. All disputes are of course between A and B, to resolve a complaint by one about the conduct of the other; the fictions of the State, or the People, are never parties to any dispute because they never existed in reality and nobody any longer pretends they do.

So if the relationship between A and B is governed by a contract, that contract spells out the court company to be used in the event of a dispute. If it is not (for example if B, a stranger, allegedly aggresses against A) then A appeals to his chosen court which invites B to appear and defend himself; if he fails to show, B normally loses by default. The court orders the loser to compensate the winner, and both the order and its subsequent execution are in the public record--readily available on the Net to anyone interested to check the character of A or B. Thus, if B were found to be at fault yet failed to pay restitution, that fact would be known to all poised to do business with him (e.g. by offering him a job), and it usually aborts the deal there and then. Knowledge that such a heavy loss of reputation could be ruinous is the powerful motivation for B to obey the order.

Though paid in the first instance by the plaintiff (or his insurer, see below), the court's fees are then recovered from the loser, which gives him extra reason to settle out of court if he knows his case is weak.

Representatives can be hired to present a case well, but unless the court's terms of business specify it up front, there is no obligation to do so; "pro se" cases are normally welcomed. Knowing that, competition among attorneys is real, so their fees are far lower than they were during the era of the cartel; nor do they act as "officers of the court"--they represent only their clients and although sometimes still known as "lawyers," they are not attorneys "at law" because there are no laws. Juries are available, though not under compulsion, and jurors are paid realistic expenses which are met according to the contracts applying. That may mean the winner pays, for example, if the loser stated up front that he did not desire a jury. Juries were sometimes a safeguard when government monopolized courts, but these days they are not so common because judges prosper only as they render fair verdicts, not as they do the government's bidding. I think that over time, their use will fade away.

2. Aggression is rare. "Crime" doesn't exist any more, for crime was the breaking of a government law and now there is neither government nor law. So if A damages B in some way, we call that "aggression," for it violates the self-ownership principle which is the bedrock of this free society. It's rare, because the re-education that led to E-Day was absorbed by every member of society able to read, and the exceptions were very few. When a person understands what freedom means, he wants it, and when he wanted it, he got it--just by withdrawing support from government, whereupon it totally collapsed, having no resource of its own. So this free society began with very close to 100% support; everyone set out, in his own interest, not to initiate force.

The main exception to that, since 2027, has been the hard problem of released prisoners--and it's worth telling that sad tale, lest any suppose that I'm painting too rosy a picture.

By 2025 (the last year statistics were published), there were four million Americans imprisoned by their governments, and none of them was allowed access to the Academy or any other material that would re-educate him about liberty in a coherent way. Accordingly, these four million were not ready to roll on E-Day; they were the exceptions. When released by the walk-out of all the guards, they therefore had no idea how to behave and little idea of what was going on.

Three quarters of them had committed only victimless crimes, so when they returned to their families or friends, they were plunged into some intensive homework and were able to catch up. For them, the problem was solved within three months, and in any case, there was never more than a small risk that they would harm anyone.

The other million were the problem, for they had actually hurt victims in the past, and they too had been prevented from learning the better way to live. Of those, about three quarters had families or friends to go to, and happily they too were able to get up to speed with some intensive homework within six months--though during that period some of them did cause mayhem.

The hard core of the problem was the remaining quarter million, for they knew no way of living except to steal, usually with violence well refined by the government's barbaric prison system, and had no understanding of the benefits of non-aggression nor anyone to guide them towards it. So they created a great deal of havoc; they were dispersed around the country, but one sociopath for every 1,400 residents is one too many for comfort.

What they understood least was that we free Americans have guns and know how to control them. So when they attempted violence, these aggressors were usually shot in self-defense. It's estimated that 20,000 of them died that way within a year of the prison gates being opened. That's sad, and even sadder is that in over 1,000 cases, the defender didn't draw fast enough, so that number of murders of innocent people marred the history of our new society. I wish it weren't so, but it's what happened; all the blame rests upon the government that (first) incarcerated these people like caged animals instead of letting the market administer true justice and (secondly) prevented them gaining access to the Academy so as to be rehabilitated.

The violence declined sharply after 2028. The surviving 230,000 ex-cons got the message--that aggression was far more dangerous than when their victims had been disarmed by law, and learned fast (with help from mentors they were able to locate) that there was now a safe and profitable way to earn a living, which made it obsolete anyway. I write in 2030, and think this very nasty problem is now over.

3. Apprehension is efficient. That large but one-time problem having been solved, aggression is an uncommon event, and when it does take place, if the aggressor is at first unknown, any of several competing detective companies can be engaged to locate him or her. Since they get paid for results, they work with an efficiency that no government police department would have recognized--and they almost all belong to a trade association, which maintains a common database to help the work.

So whereas in the Government Era it was commonplace to find a large minority even of murders that were never solved, today already the apprehension rate is well over 95%. Once identified, the accused are brought to court as in (1) above.

4. "Victimless crime" is no more - for two good reasons: (a) there aren't any crimes at all, as above, and (b) when the only victim is oneself (e.g., someone overuses drugs), there's nobody to file suit, and so far nobody has been so foolish as to sue himself. America 's long, disastrous drug war has therefore ended, the price of mood-enhancers has dropped to that of aspirin, and the entire, violence-ridden superstructure of drug trafficking has vanished. Some people do unfortunately still harm themselves, but there is no pretense that anyone else is responsible.

5. Insurance helps. The expenses of bringing a case against an aggressor are not trivial--especially if he needs first to be identified and located--so the old problem of making justice available to the poor as well as the rich has not gone away. It has, however, been elegantly solved--by insurance companies, and even by opportunists.

Insurers offer a range of protection policies, for premiums that started rather high but which have in recent months come down steeply as the new justice industry began to mature. The principle is simple: pay a modest annual fee, and if the need arises for you to sue someone, the insurer will assess the case, make immediate payment to you if he thinks it sound, and then take over the case by paying apprehension and court expenses and recovering and keeping all the adjudged restitution from the perp over time. Obviously, the premiums are set to yield a good profit, and the anticipated revenue stream is discounted to net present value, so the lump sum paid to the victim is less than the perp eventually pays the insurer--but it relieves the victim from any up-front expenses and so is a popular option.

Opportunists also serve a valuable function, in the case that a victim cannot afford those up-front expenses and does not have such insurance. They do the same job as the insurer, but instead of collecting premiums, they contract with the client to keep a portion of damages recovered. Thus, every member of our free society, rich or poor, has access to a justice system that compensates him in the rare case of suffering aggression. This is the first time that has ever happened, anywhere!

Overall, it's hard to overstate the immense contrast between our market-based justice system and what passed for one as little as three years ago. Then, most of the guilty suffered no consequence, some innocents were wrongly convicted, many who had harmed nobody were punished, and none of the victims were compensated--except by the kind of savage satisfaction that comes from vengeance. Now, there is much less aggression in the first place, and when it does occur, almost all of it is brought to adjudication--by judges whose future careers depend on their reputation for fairness instead of their loyalty to government--and whose outcome is one of restitution, never of retribution.

In the old world there was a complete disconnect between the original act of aggression and its resolution by a government "justice" system, based on law and punishment. The victim walked away with a thank-you at best, the perp was left to rot in jail, the taxpayers were forced to feed him, the government people got a good feeling and all the lawyers, a good living. Not for nothing was all that sometimes called "Just-Us"; but now, it is all in the past. There was no peace when there was no justice, but today, for the first time ever, there is justice; and so, there is peace.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"