Law Without Government

October 20th, 2011   Submitted by Seth King

Arguably, the biggest hurdle to pass for anyone new to anarcho-capitalism is the ability of the free-market to arbitrate and enforce law. Indeed, I have met many diehard libertarian activists who are familiar with the concept of free-market anarchism, but have yet to wrap their heads around justice without the state. To be sure, it does take a fair amount of mental gymnastics and imagination. But if you’re willing to take the time to problem solve in your head I believe you will come to the same conclusion I, and so many others, already have.

These videos will walk you through the basics. If you have any questions or concerns about topics left out in these videos I encourage you to first play around with the problem in your head and see if you can figure it out on your own. Then, if you still have questions or concerns I warmly invite you to post them in the comment section below. Let’s get this topic worked out so that we can compete against the state in a meaningful and efficient manner – in the marketplace.

25 Responses to “Law Without Government”

  1. SnowDogNo Gravatar says:

    I’m pushing the Woodlands, TX as an example of a free market city. It has almost 100,000 people, with a mall, concert hall, sky scraper, business district, industrial district, houses, parks, bike trails, lakes, and more, but it has no government. All rules exist as agreements between the land-owners, including maintenance fees for the common areas and the community associations needed to maintain the city. As agreements the rules don’t change, and they are not enforced in the criminal court system. If a rule is broken and someone complains, the landowner will receive a letter in the mail. If he’s found to have violated a rule, he will pay an agreed-upon fine, or his violation may be prosecuted in civil court.

    The point is that with this method of government, any type of system can be devised to arbitrate disputes and restitute or punish criminals. The agreement could include money for a community court system and police protection.

    Ironically, the Woodlands is now being forced to incorporate because there’s nothing in Texas law which will allow it to exist as a non-city.

  2. Interesting video. Thanks for publishing.

  3. augustNo Gravatar says:

    Nice videos but I think they really took a wrong turn at the question of capital punishment!

    In a free-market (voluntaryist, I hope) society, there can be no room for capital punishment. Society must evolve beyond midieval retribution and embrace restitution as by far the most equitable and just conflict resolution.

    If violence is allowed as punishment, this will open the door for all levels of authorized violence which is causing most of the problems with our current dysfunctional system of justice.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Your position only makes sense to me if you are a pacifist. Would you consider yourself a pacifist?

      • augustNo Gravatar says:

        No. I believe that violence is fully justified to defend yourself -only up to the level in which you are being attacked.

        Retribution is counterproductive. Look what happens when you hit a kid for misbehaving. They do not learn the value of the damage they have caused. Hitting just humiliates them and makes them resentful. It also teaches them that the way they (and society) should solve problems is with violence and retribution.

        Look at what happens when a government is misbehaving towards another government. If the U.S. drops bombs on the country to punish it’s leadership, it kills thousands of innocent people and makes the survivors hate the U.S. government and people who support it. Leading to events like 9/11.

        Apply this same logic to any example of retribution between these two and the results are the same.

        Restitution actually teaches the aggressor the value of the damage they inflicted, which is the only cure for their bad behavior. It also restores the victim back to their pre-crime state, which retribution does not do at all.

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          But what if your aggressor refuses to voluntarily go along with your court and continues to pose a threat to you and others? And what if this person is unwilling to be captured alive?

          Furthermore, how can one pay retribution to murder and rape victims? To these sorts of victims the only sort of closure can be the assurance that the aggressor is no longer among the living.

  4. augustNo Gravatar says:

    Unlike with our system of retribution, I imagine that under a system where there is no capital punishment, it would make no sense to prefer death over capture?

    The family, friends and coworkers of a murder victim have a legitimate restitution claim against the culprit. Murdering the murderer does not create any level of justice for the victim, they’re still just as dead.

    Rape is easy. Have a private arbiter decide a restitution amount based on damage and pain and suffering to the victim, lost wages, all costs of the police, detectives, courts, insurance, etc. If the perp had a history and high likelihood of not paying, surely there would be jail-type work camps to house and employ these types of criminals. This is the best way to hope to “correct them” and teach them the value of the damage they inflicted, and it does a far better job of restoring the victim.

    Locking them in a cage for 5 or 10 years really does hardly anything to fix the problem. It makes them resentful, angry, a social outcast and unemployable when they get out. All of which makes them far more likely to re-offend.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      If I, or a loved one, got raped or killed, no amount of money would be “worth it” as restitution, especially no amount of money a criminal is likely to ever “work off.”

      When a person commits an act of cold-blooded rape or murder, they really have anything they receive in return coming to them. That’s not to say that the ultimate penalty should always be enforced, but merely that what’s in the aggressor’s best interest does not trump that of which is in the victim’s best interest.

      • augustNo Gravatar says:

        Restitution does not claim to make it worth it, just to provide the best outcome for victim, aggressor and society. It will never be possible to undue murder, but society could be structured in a way to make it less likely to occur.

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          I can agree with this.

          • GregNo Gravatar says:

            It should be up to the victims survivors what the punishment will or won’t be as they are the people who suffered a loss. If they want to retaliate and demand an eye for an eye that is their business. If they demand money as compensation or go so far as making the person for a slave for a time that is their business also.

            The mythical thing called society has no stake in the matter.

            The way violent crime is now handled is a joke. There is never any material restitution made and the entity which profits the most from crime is government. The victim(s) are victimized even further by the actions of the state when they are forced to pay for incarceration.

            The best way to solve crime is prevention and require people to post a bond if they want to live in a group setting otherwise ostracize them. In a free society nobody has to do business with people they don’t want to. Kind of like the Scarlet Letter only people get labeled as violent, untrustworthy, etc.
            Ebay is a great example of a free “society” which self regulates itself very well. No bond or a bad rating and people won’t trade with you so you have to move on or starve.
            Throwing people in cages is ridiculous.

  5. DROINo Gravatar says:

    I’m in agreement in what Greg said., his comment reminds of Rothbard’s position which I also agree with:

    • MaxNo Gravatar says:

      i complete agree with Greg. society has no voice when it comes to justice, as we can only speak for ourselves. the victim has the final say. however, i have questions of what takes place in the event that the victim has been killed.

      lets say a father of two sons dies, and his will is executed. and one son kills the other out of jealous rage. and the mother, having buried her husband, and now her son, does not want to seek retribution against her remaining child. is that justice? and what if the victim has no family to survive them?

      my question with Rothbard’s idea of using a will is what happens in the case of multiple victims if their wills conflict? for example, a home invasion occurs and both the husband and wife are killed. the husband’s will demands capital punishment, while the wife’s will demands financial restitution that is paid out to her nephew. who’s will is carried out?

      and what about someone who undergoes euthanasia? can angry family members claim murder and file a case?

      and lastly, what if it was later discovered that someone was wrongfully put to death? can their loved ones seek out capital punishment on the who demanded it in the first place?

      im not disagreeing with idea of private justice, as i am a full-fledged ancap. but i have yet to hear of fully satisfying take on how to handle unjustified homicide or non-self defense killings.

  6. MaxNo Gravatar says:

    i also want to add one last scenario. if someone who was wrongfully put to death only lost their case because of deception and lies on the part of the judge and those who committed perjury during the trial, lets say a conspiracy involving a dozen people, can the survivors seek out capital punishment against them all?

    and my very final question, in a stateless society with private courts handling disputes, how would capital punishment be carried out? do we not all have a right to unlimited appeals? the check on abusing this right is that society will distrust and ostracize anyone who rejects the judgment of numerous private judges. but would this be also be applicable to those who are found guilty of murder and refuse to hand themselves over?

    • GregNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Max,

      There are no real good solutions to somebody being murdered. Regardless of what is done after, the victim is still dead. There will always be murders as people resort to violence for many reasons at times. Our current system has done little to address this and in fact government is the biggest murderer there is. Governments have murdered well over 100 million people in the last 100 years.
      You have asked some complicated questions which aren’t easily answered.
      A great book I have read which addresses this issue is here: .pdf. It is free.
      My belief is only injured parties have a stake in justice where murder is concerned. Only victims have a moral right to demand and exact restitution, whatever that may be. Government and society have no legitimate stake.
      If nobody is around to demand “justice” for a murdered victim the murderer could seemingly “get away with it”. However if people quit dealing with that person and ostracized him or her they would suffer a huge punishment. And they would be known and labeled as a murderer. Who would willingly associate with them then? People would always be on guard around them. If they didn’t present their own plan of restitution and some way of making amends then they would have to live on their own and be self-sufficient, a difficult prospect.
      Capital punishment by institutions would not be compatible with a free society. That always leads to abuse and innocents being murdered by “society”.

  7. augustNo Gravatar says:

    In my fantasy Voluntaryist world, individualism would have to defeat collectivism at every opportunity. Instead of paying your debt to society, it would be paid to the victim. Changing to this wouldn’t be as hard as it seems because this is how our civil court system operates now.

    Also needed to abolish collectivism would be more widespread use of insurance companies. Currently most people have auto, home, health (kinda), and life insurance.

    Without a state I would also want “victim insurance”. That is, if I am mugged I would call my insurance company who would: cut me a check for my losses, send out their security company to investigate, apprehend, try and collect restitution from the perp.

    Or if my house were robbed, my insurance company would send their security company to investigate and collect restitution from the burglars.

    Likewise, my insurance company would payout to my heirs upon my death and, if I had been murdered, would collect restitution from my murderer.

    Expecting this collectivist “State” to resolve these conflicts is really horrible when you compare it to these examples.

    Power corrupts. And when you give power to a fiction it is many times worse because it can so easily morph to hide from accountability. The natural rights of the individual must always outweigh that of our man-made collectivist fictional concepts. No more: religion; state; corporations; intellectual property; etc.

  8. Sean L. HellemsNo Gravatar says:

    I have been advocating for Anarcho-Capitalist at the college that I attend and the common argument that is raised is the question: What if my defense agency pays off the arbitrator? Of course there would be rating agencies and auditors and what not…but what if the defense agency pays off those rating and auditing agencies?

    A second question: What if a defense agency gets so large that it doesn’t care about what’s good anymore (profit-loss principles don’t apply to them because of their monopoly status) so they then decide (because they have weapons and what not) to take over everything?

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      If the agency that is there to protect you for any reason at all becomes corrupt in your opinion, you’re welcome to take your business elsewhere, unlike the current system, where we all know the government is corrupt and yet we are not allowed to take our business elsewhere. We are forced to keep paying into the corrupt monopoly.

      If the defense agency became monopolistic and violent, like government, then the people would have two choices, obey or disobey. That is the situation we are in now. We can either continue to pay taxes to our masters, or we can create new agencies to better protect us, with some risk of course.

      The real question is if that means we are doomed to constantly be ruled by a violent monopoly. I say no, because the real power of the government is that people BELIEVE in it. If the vast majority, or even a persistent minority stopped believing in the initiation of force, then institutions like government cannot exists. They simply cannot rule out of fear for very long. They need people to believe in their criminality.

  9. GregNo Gravatar says:

    Dispute resolution organizations (DRO) have many inherent problems to overcome if they wanted to stage a “coup” so to speak. Competition is one and the loss of all their clients is another. having enough money to do it is another.
    Read Practical Anarchy page 92 for a much better, detailed explanation.
    Also what would the Defense agency, DRO or whatever it is called actually take over? There would be no infrastructure, taxing authority or command and control system to take over? There would be no military to co-opt and take over. As most of the population would be armed they would have to fight at every door and the other agencies would probably band together and outnumber the one.
    And finally IF that was to happen how is that different or any worse than what we already have?
    Only a government can amass so much power and central control.

  10. Sean L. HellemsNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Seth and Greg. I will read the suggested material… But say my a super rich person decides to feed money into the firms in a particular area to violently control the people in that community?…So profit and loss doesn’t apply anymore, because these firms are getting money from an outside source…not from the consumers…perhaps the reading material that you gave me addresses this…I’m not sure.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t what you’re asking essentially “what if the super rich decide to wage war?” Okay, imagine the super rich start funding their own wars. It costs ten billion dollars a month to be in Iraq. Bill Gates could essentially fund his own war for about 10 months. It is possible they could do it, but what they’d RATHER do is wage their wars with YOUR money. They do that through government. Rich people might be able to do some damage, but nothing compared to the damage they do with your own money. Humanity has been digging its own graves since time immemorial. It’s time we stopped funding those who wage war against us.

  11. GregNo Gravatar says:


    It is relatively easy to come up with possible and maybe even plausible “what if” scenarios. The free market is a very successful self-regulating entity because everybody is looking out for his or her own self-interest without using force as a solution. (find and read the essay “I Pencil”, by Leonard Read) If you read enough you will find all your issues addressed in very credible ways. However, it is kind of disingenuous to expect answers for situations which don’t even exist yet. We know there are humans who will hurt and kill, cheat and rob their fellow man. That is a constant throughout all known history. The question you should be asking is what entity gives these evil doers the greatest ability and power to do evil?
    It is and always has been government.
    Free market solutions work and the problems which haven’t been solved by it will be, once government monopolies are removed.
    If government worked their would be no force involved as everyone would see it was in their own self-interest to “buy” it just like they willingly buy an Ipod, Big Mac, Starbux coffee, etc. Nobody puts a gun to your head and tells you must buy those things and others like them. But government doesn’t offer real value and thus the force. Thus the propaganda trying to sell you on its worth. And all the guns and theft and threats. You could not ever sell government solutions to anything in a free market.
    But just look where you and everybody willingly spend your money and see what you get in return. Compare and contrast free market products and government ones. It is obvious where the true value lies. Government doesn’t work in a free society. Its product is never freedom and liberty. It doesn’t sell you on a better deal it just robs and gives you an inferior one.

  12. augustNo Gravatar says:

    Worst case scenario it would just end up how it is today.