Note:  This article was originally published on my blog.


Many of you reading this are already familiar with the theories regarding private justice in a free society.  Inevitably, when these ideas are introduced into the wide open spaces of a social media platform, it raises a lot of questions, usually in the form of a strawman holocaust in the comments section.

But sometimes, there are also some genuine inquiries. And it is for you, dear reader – yes you, the one with the curious mind – that I am writing about this today. You see, there was a brief moment in my life right after I found out that anarchism was a serious school of thought when I was not sure about its validity, but was genuinely interested in the ideas and proposed solutions for societal problems in a stateless society. While it is generally a trap to try and answer specifics (the strawman slayer is not looking for answers), I would like to share my thoughts and theories on one category of stateless society what-ifs for those of you who are genuine in your curiosity: violence, protection and justice.

The fear of living without police and courts in their current form is a primal one. There are other monkeys out there that might hurt us, and we want protection from that risk. So is there an existing industry that already specializes in risk mitigation? Yes, there is. The prevailing theories on how stateless protection and justice would work without government revolve around the insurance industry. Basically, instead of paying taxes for a placebo – enforcers that aren’t obligated to protect you and a court system that isn’t obligated to compensate you when you become a victim – insurance companies would have a list of protection services that you can pay a premium for. This is a familiar model, and has some distinct advantages over the law & order model. For one, if something unfortunate does happen to you and the insurance investigators determine that you were in fact the victim of a crime, you would simply get an immediate payout based on the insurance contract. The insurance company would then be free to work with security firms to find the perpetrator and/or extract compensation to cover their losses.

Prisons, as we know them, probably wouldn’t exist. Perhaps for for truly violent offenders, but they certainly wouldn’t be dungeons where we keep victimless criminals for the profit of private prison corporations and public prison guard unions. No, I imagine they would be replaced with institutions that truly resembled rehabilitation facilities. For non violent offenders, perhaps it’s just a place to go where they work off the compensation paid to their victims if they don’t have another way to reimburse the insurance company. Even if they did pay, they would most likely need to complete some sort of rehabilitation at that facility to the insurance/security firm’s satisfaction.



But what of consistency? We can’t just have all of these companies coming up with their own rules on right and wrong, and we? I’ve always found this argument to be a little odd, honestly. Do we currently have a single monolithic legal code that rules over all of humanity? The United States and India have completely separate governments and legal codes, but no one is losing their mind over it. If a US citizen commits a crime and runs to India, or moves to India and commits a crime there, does everyone just shrug and look confused? Obviously these legal systems have ways of interacting with each other. In fact, to argue against having more than one legal system is to outright advocate a one world government. But even with the existence of multiple legal systems, we can see a very distinct consistency to laws that address true moral violations. I am not aware of a government that lacks laws to address murder, assault(sexual and otherwise) and theft. This is because man creates law, and not the other way around. We instinctually understand morality just as a dog instinctively understands physics. Every human of sound mind basically understands what a genuine moral violation is, which is why every legal code accounts for them. It is only after being contaminated with indoctrination from church, government and other superstitions that we go out of our way to persecute other behaviors.

The good news for our stateless scenario is that private companies are even better at dealing with each other. What happens if we get in a car wreck and I have State Farm Insurance, but you have Allstate? Chaos and confusion? Cats and dogs? No, both companies investigate, and figure it out. They literally have entire departments dedicated to interfacing with each other.

But does this mean that different companies will have totally different sets of products? I doubt it. Does an insurance salesman show up to your house and offer you completely random shit, or do they tend to be the same regardless of the company – life, health, fire, flood, etc? Yes they are usually the same, because it only makes sense to insure against so many things. For example, what if one company wants to lock people up for using marijuana? Well, it wouldn’t, and doing so would be impossible even if that company had the desire. It is literally impossible to insure against a victimless crime. The beauty of an insurance based security and justice system is that it only makes sense to insure against genuine moral crimes, i.e. violations of people or their property.


So I guess we just hate the poor then, right?

The first objection I generally get to the insurance proposal is something along the lines of “What if people can’t afford insurance? I guess we can just rape the poor lol” (I might be paraphrasing). But lets go ahead and address affordability for a moment. How often do you call the cops because of a genuine emergency? Personally, I have never had to do so. But let’s say you face an attempted murder or serious assault every other year (in which case you probably live in an inner city slum full of government intervention, but that’s another article). What could it possibly cost to send a couple of guys to come neutralize the threat and make sure everything is okay? A couple hundred dollars at most? Even if you were expected to pay that out of pocket due to a lack of insurance, I would hardly consider it a significant financial burden. And with murders and assaults being statistically minor risk I can only imagine that premiums for basic protection coverage would resemble life insurance without health complications, or something comparably cheap. Add that to the fact that we are talking about a society without taxation, and affordability is a non-issue.

But inevitably there would be some unwilling or unable to pay directly, or through premiums. And I think they key to serving this group would be the local security firms. I imagine that insurance companies would have their own investigators and security personnel, who would be analogous to state and federal agencies. But on the local level would there would be local security firms that would most likely operate like local doctors. But the way local doctors used to operate before massive government intervention. One man that knows how this used to work first hand is Ron Paul. One of his 2012 campaign ads recounts the story of a black man who took his pregnant white wife to a southern hospital in the 70’s. He couldn’t get anyone to help him until Ron Paul came along, treated his wife and told him to forget about the bill.

In a later interview Dr. Paul said that the campaign made the ad without his knowledge, and while he doesn’t remember the specific incident, he assumes the story is legit because that is simply how things used to work. Being part of the medical profession since the 1950’s, he remembers a time when the local doctor treated the disenfranchised poor for free, while still remaining one of the wealthiest people in town. So would a local security firm do the same? I think they would have even more of an incentive to do so than doctors. They most likely live in the same community, and therefore will have a personal stake in neutralizing violence in that community, even if some of their work is essentially charity. Insurance firms would probably send regular retainers to local security companies once they have a certain threshold of customers in the area, just to make sure emergency responders are available and on call. Another source of revenue would of course be payouts for responding to insured victims. Then there would probably be the basic security and patrol services that local businesses would shell out some money for. With so many possibilities, some regular freebies are hardly beyond the realm of possibilities.

When not actively engaged in one of the above activities, a private security company in the insurance ecosystem would be engaged in the truest form of police work – preventative security. Working with the locals to prevent bad things from happening in the first place. If you want to see an an example of how this is already being accomplished, I highly recommend this podcast by Tom Woods:

At the very least, they wouldn’t be road pirates on the prowl looking for trouble. Even the Huffington Post has recently admitted that police should be more like fire departments

First world problems

So on heels of discussing the poor in rich countries, what about places of the world that aren’t quite so developed? No discussion of anarchism is complete without some variation of LOL SOMALIA™. But in this case, I think it’s fair to ask. People who propose the insurance idea are usually referencing first world societies with sophisticated legal and insurance systems. But not every culture has the benefit of first world capital, the tradition of Anglo-American common law, or the philosophical influence of the renaissance. But in the absence of government, that’s okay. People who live in simpler societies come up with simpler solutions. For a recent example, take a look at the vigilantes of rural Mexico. A few years ago, having come to the sensible realization that cops and criminals were one in the same, mexicans began forming militias, referring to themselves as vigilantes. They armed themselves, and simply drove the local police and the drug cartels out of town. Any town that wanted their services could provide food and housing, and the vigilantes would flush the scum out of the city.

The closest we ever came to an anarchist society in the US was the frontier, and the settling of the west. As outlined in books like The No So Wild Wild West, settlers and fronteirsmen would simply choose people to be arbitrators based on their skill at arbitration. If people started disliking the judgements being made, the arbitrator would simply be replaced. In simple and rural societies, this type of system is seen over and over again. Think town/neighborhood watch. Village elders. Minutemen. A combination of these things functions quite well as a suitable criminal justice system. So while the insurance model is the most likely candidate for the societies that we live in, there is no reason that the village elder model couldn’t exist alongside it, even in the same location. I imaging the world would be made up of a patchwork of these risk abatement systems in the absence of the state and its enforcers.

Jungle Law and Enforcement

Usually, there are two more concerns that come up with this topic. Insurance is nice and all, but how do you enforce anything? Do you apprehend people and take them to jail? Can they just say fuck you insurance man? And what about jungle law and retaliatory violence? What prevents mob justice in the streets, an insurance salesman? The short answer is that each of these problems is the solution to the other, but let’s look at each in turn.

First, a look at jungle law and mob justice. Admittedly, these are not ideal. But if I’m being perfectly honest, there are worse systems of justice in existence. If an angry mob kills a proven murderer, or cuts the balls off of a proven rapist, I can’t say that I have a huge problem with it. At least it is a consistent system that is less likely to protect any particular class. Jungle law is just the natural consequences of initiating violence against your fellow primates. But it is certainly not ideal since there are often problems with keeping the justice being dished out measured and proportional. That is why more modern societies tend to prefer more sophisticated systems like village elders and insurance in order to minimize retaliatory cycles and mob violence.

But what reason do people have to honor these systems? What motivates an accused criminal to show up to a trial set by a private arbitrator? What causes him to comply with judgements made? A road trip to Arizona gave me the insight I needed to answer this question. I was talking with a WWII pilot that was stationed at a POW camp in the Balkans toward the end of the war. One of the peculiar things he noticed, was that they didn’t really need to worry about guarding the perimeter. In fact, the prisoners were happy to guard each other. They would give one of them a billy club and a hard hat at night, and the would see his tracks in the snow along the perimeter the next morning. You see, the NAZI prisoners knew exactly what awaited them if they left that prison. The people in the local town would quickly realize they were NAZIs, and kill them.

And that is how the threat of jungle justice solves the enforcement problem. If the insurance model is a playing field, vigilante action is the boundary line. You can reject the private security and justice system in its entirety, and venture beyond the perimeter if you want. But if you have truly done something wrong, the consequences you will face are likely far greater than cooperating with whatever terms you have been offered within the system. Let’s take a look at a possible conversation between a convicted criminal and a guard in a hypothetical ancapistan prison.

Prisoner: “Fuck you I’m leaving”

Guard: “Oh. Very well. Just to let you know, you have not completed the rehabilitation program as outlined by the arbitrator in your trial. You are therefore blacklisted, and no security or insurance firm will offer you protection outside of this facility. Oh, and we can’t have you re-victimizing that girl you raped, so I’m about to call her father and let him know you’ll be out front in a few minutes. We will also keep him updated on your whereabouts for the protection of his family. We can’t have you victimizing anyone else either, so we will keep tabs on where you go, and inform everyone in your community, and anyone you come in contact with that you are a convicted rapist that has not made restitution, and are therefore not under the protection of any arbitrator, security force or insurance firm. So that should go over well. Good luck out there bud!”

Prisoner: “…..”

Jungle justice gives the system an enforcement mechanism, and by staying within the system an individual can avoid jungle justice. This symbiotic relationship turns the idea of modern prisons on its head. You don’t need the prison to spend its time and energy keeping prisoners locked up. The prison is now a fortress that is the only refuge for condemned prisoners.

Hopefully this clears up the what-ifs surrounding this subject those of you who genuinely want to know. Again, these are all hypotheticals, but they are the prevailing theories among those of us who like to philosophize anarchistically. No one can predict the future, but I would take the one outlined above over what we currently have any day.