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Monday, April 24, 2006

Molyneux on Stateless Prisons

Stefan Molyneux (who puts out a popular podcast on this stuff) wrote an LRC article on stateless prisons a few days ago. In my carefree days I would've written a lengthy reply, but time is short so a few quick points:

(1) Why do libertarian males always use rape in the thought experiment??

(2) It seems that Stefan, in his desire to show that criminals would get punished a plenty in an-cap world, goes too far. He has the rapist being fined $500,000 and serving 5 years in prison, and getting all his utilities shut off, etc. In my view, the private judges deliver a verdict against you (which would almost always be a huge fine), and then if you don't pay all of the ostracism kicks in.

(3) To see it differently, even if the system were initially the way SM thinks, wouldn't most crime victims say, "Hey, rather than you serving 5 years, why don't you just give me an additional $300,000 and I'll drop the charges"?

3 comments:

  1. Excellent points Bob - here are my humble responses.

    This is actually the first time I've used 'rape' as an example, but I think it is helpful, since it is more complicated than theft, and less complicated than murder.

    Certainly I may well have gone too far in creating punishments, but if that is a criticism then we are probably agreeing far more than disagreeing. We have decided that the transaction is worthwhile - now we are just haggling on price! The reason I included a fine and a prison sentence is because if only a fine were involved, then a very rich person could just go on a crime spree and continue paying the fines.

    I think that a crime victim might well prefer to have more money for dropping the charges, but remember that the DRO also represents many other potential victims, and that is why incarceration for certain crimes would be beneficial. If the DRO lets a mugger go free, than he or she will just go and mug more people, which will cost the DRO more than the price of incarceration and so on.

    Does that make sense?

    Thanks for the feedback!

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  2. The reason I included a fine and a prison sentence is because if only a fine were involved, then a very rich person could just go on a crime spree and continue paying the fines.

    Well, I don't think this is really a good way to approach the issue. I don't think our job as an-cap theorists is to say, "What kind of world do I want to live in? How would people then need to be in order to generate my vision?"

    Instead, I think we should just try to predict what would unfold if private property weren't institutionally violated (by State). I think that it would indeed be possible for a very rich person to literally get away with murder, if "get away with" means not going to jail.

    By the same token, a very rich person right now can get away with buying mansions and burning them to the ground--but you don't read about this too often in the newspaper.

    I've actually written about this type of fear at Strike The Root. (It's the 2nd half of the article, where I talk about Bill Gates shooting dinner guests for fun, and how the system would easily adapt to that.)

    I think that a crime victim might well prefer to have more money for dropping the charges, but remember that the DRO also represents many other potential victims, and that is why incarceration for certain crimes would be beneficial. If the DRO lets a mugger go free, than he or she will just go and mug more people, which will cost the DRO more than the price of incarceration and so on.

    OK, so would doctors who botch operations pay the malpractice fines and go to jail as well? After all if you just let a surgeon get away with paying millions of dollars (as specified in the contract) to the family of someone who died on his table, then he'd be free to do the same to somebody else.

    (My point of course is that the fine is the deterrent. Other people wouldn't want to be victimized, but they would still get paid off as contractually specified. It's the same thing with your mugger.)

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  3. Systems like this have existed (e.g., Anglo-Saxon common law), and, in fact, Bob is right about how they play out. Private law systems never, as far as I know, incorporate long-term imprisonment.

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