Front Page Titles (by Subject) Stateless Defense of Rights - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
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Stateless Defense of Rights - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Stateless Defense of Rights
“Society Without A State.” In Anarchism. [Nomos XIX: Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. Eds. J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman.] New York: New York University Press, 1978, pp. 191–207.
Can an anarchist society—a society which prohibits one agency from holding a coercive monopoly in defense services such as courts, police, army, and law—function successfully? It is conceptually possible for private, nonstate, nonmonopoly agencies to supply these defense services. Historically, this possibility has been realized. Ethically, private agencies would not have to resort to the immorality of coercing taxes from unwilling individuals to acquire their income. Since state coercion (aggressive violence or its threat) violates human rights, we need to explore the possible mechanisms by which a free, stateless society could efficiently provide protection services for person and property. These mechanisms would dissolve the present state-provided services into social and market arrangements.
How then would a market society settle disputes over alleged violations of persons or property? No problems arise if the plaintiff and defendant voluntarily submit their case to an arbitrator (chosen after a dispute has acquired or beforehand according to the terms of a contract). In fact the private American Arbitration Association which has created a body of private law, often makes the government court system play a secondary role. Similarly the effective law merchant and admiralty law developed outside the government system of justice. These private courts enforced acceptance of their decisions by threat of social ostracism and commercial boycott against the offending party. A party who refused to abide by the private court’s decision would risk losing his trustworthiness and credit ratings. Private arbitrators would be chosen in a free market on the basis of reputation for expertise and fairness. Through competition they would not owe loyalty to vested interests or political connections. In the arbitration process, the parties could provide in advance for a set number of courts of appeal.
But what mechanism would the market employ for torts or crimes of aggression which involve no prior contractual procedures for arbitration? Or how would a market system be able to enforce decisions against contract breakers who refuse to honor arbitration awards?
The principles to be followed are not to violate rights and to use socially accepted procedures. It is likely that police and court services would be provided by crime insurance companies to their clients. These insurance companies would pay their clients who were victims of crime or contractual violations and then seek to recoup their losses by pursuing the aggressors in court. “Courts might either charge fees for their services, with the losers of cases obliged to pay court costs, or else they may subsist on monthly or yearly premiums by their clients, who may be either individuals, or the police, or insurance agencies.” Market prudence would make it likely that rival court and police systems would have prior contractual arrangements to deal with conflicts between clients who use different protection agencies. The police and court systems could employ “defensive force—force in defense of person and property—” to enforce legitimate decisions against guilty parties.
Severe market checks of competition would minimize the possibility that private courts would become corrupt and dishonest, or that private police would become criminally coercive. Private agencies would not possess the mystique of legitimacy now possessed by the monopoly government courts and police. Thus clients would feel free to do business with only those agencies with the best reputation for honesty and peaceful procedures. The evolving law code a free market would prohibit aggression against person and property, and would arrive at detailed legal principles on the basis of custom, reason, justice, rights, and social acceptability.