Rethinking What Justice Means – And How The Modern State Has Subverted It

I’m going to propose some hypothetical situations for you to consider.  My hope is that by following the logic of what a free man would do, you’ll come to see that our justice system has systemic problems that can only be corrected through an enlightenment of the population.

Consider our first case.

If one of your loved ones was raped by some sadistic freak, what would you want done to the man?

Let us suppose that you could do anything you wanted to him – violate him in anyway you wish, take his property, destroy his home, shoot him dead, anything!  Suppose that there are no police and no repercussions for your actions.

Really take a moment to think about this before reading the next paragraph.




I’d be willing to bet that out of the myriad of answers that the public may give to such a situation, none of them entail doing the following:

Building a personal jail to house the man out of your own pocket.

Putting the man in the personal jail and then paying for his food while you keep him there.

And also paying for his medical care, his entertainment/sports gear, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.. etc.. etc..

Let us take a moment to consider why this is the case.  Our innate sense of justice automatically precludes us from spending our own sweat and labor in punishing people who have violated our person or property in some way.  It is entirely pointless to spend tens of thousands of our own dollars erecting an elaborate system of punishment to punish a person who may have only taken a thousand dollars from us in the first place.

Our innate sense of justice demands one of the following as vengeance for transgressions of person and property:

1.  For the victim to be made whole again.  At least as whole as possible. (restitution, monetary compensation, perhaps even forced servitude)

2.  If the victim can not be made whole again, then some physical retribution should be extracted from the perpetrator.  Perhaps both.  And that retribution should be carried out by the people who were wronged themselves.

3.  We might also want to isolate ourselves from the perpetrator, and encourage others not to do business with him.  Perhaps branding him in some way so that others know he is a criminal.

I feel pretty confident in asserting that most peoples’ answers as to what they would do to the rapist fall into one of those three broad categories of retribution.  The key philosophies that emerge from this exercise are making the victim whole while doing proportionately similar harm back to the perpetrator.

Consider for example that instead of raping a loved one, the perpetrator had simply stolen one of your t-shirts out of a gym locker.  Most peoples’ reactions to this would be much less extreme in the forms of compensation and punishment they would personally enact if given the chance.

Does our criminal justice system actually deliver us justice when we have been wronged?  I would argue the answer to that question is a resounding no.  Consider that in order for our present justice system to enact “justice”, it must first rob from the very victims it is providing justice to.   Under our insane system, a rape victim must pay taxes which are then used to pay for the incarceration of her attacker.  In effect, a rape victim is being victimized twice – once by the attacker and the other by the State.

This fundamental notion of what justice actually represents is paramount in changing the way society views the State.  For example, if I was to argue that the State should be voluntarily funded, the immediate reaction by most statists would be to argue “who is going to protect our property and carry out justice?”  Given our current State imposed justice system, I feel that society has been brainwashed into forgetting what real justice actually is.

Does our system of criminal justice ever attempt to make the victim whole?  How is the victim of a violent crime compensated by locking their attacker in a dungeon?  The answer is obvious: they are not.

So you might ask, what should we do with rapists?  Take their property and then let them lose on the streets?  If people are not willing to voluntarily pay to lock up their attackers, what is the most appropriate way to deal with rapists?

Again, we are right back to the original myriad of possible answers that individuals might enact on their own.  But I would like you to consider something that might be even more punishing than a prison cell.  Society has very tribal tendencies.  We root for our local sports teams.  We engage in flag waving patriotism over the particular pile of dirt we happen to be residing on.  We don’t like it when foreign governments try to tell us how to live our lives, and so on.  One of the ways that tribal societies deal with justice at the “grass roots” level is to simply ostracize those who are guilty of crimes.  Ostracism as a form of punishment works fairly well in small tribal communities where everyone knows each other.  It can be the equivalent of a death sentence if the criminal has no other place to go.

Consider the following choice of punishments for a rapist, and which one you would rather chose:

1.  The rapist could be locked in a cell for a decade under our current system.


2.  The rapist could be branded across the face with the word “rapist” and his identity could be entered into a privately run publicly accessible database that employers or anyone else could look at.

To my line of thinking, option two is equally as punishing as option one is.  What restaurant would serve a rapist or allow him onto their property?  What grocery store would let him wander their aisles?  What employer would hire a man who had the word “rapist” stricken across his face?

Society would imprison the man for free by ostracizing him from the community that he lives in.  He would be forced to live as an outcast for the rest of his days.  This is a POWERFUL form of punishment that is fit for the worst crimes that don’t rise to the level of outright execution, such as murder.

For those crimes that don’t rise to the level of rape or murder, I think monetary compensation is enough.  Consider that monetary compensation is a form of slavery.  If I take the property you own as restitution for a crime you have committed, I have in effect taken the sweat and labor it took you to earn those goods in the first place.  If you don’t have enough money to pay me now, then I should be able to take a portion of what you earn in the future until I am made whole again.

Consider that if forms of punishment are chosen by society that don’t involve locking people in prisons, the need for a coercively funded State to administer “justice” is greatly reduced.  From this standpoint, the plausibility of private courts and private security guard services carrying out “justice” becomes greatly enhanced.

A few facts and figures on our present situation.  At year-end 2009 the incarceration rate was 743 incarcerated per 100,000 population.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics 7,225,800 people at year end 2009 were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.  This is a higher incarceration rate than Soviet Russia had at the height of the gulag system.  The cost to operate such a system of “justice” is enormous.   The following chart is taken from “Direct expenditures by criminal justice function, 1982–2006″U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Hundreds of billions are spent every year keeping a large portion of the American population behind bars.  This mass incarceration of the public is only possible when a coercively funded State administers “justice”.  Consider that private security agencies are only interested in protecting private property and people.  They have no incentive to run around locking people up for victimless crimes since they will lose money on such propositions.

If justice was left in private hands, I think we could expect private security guard agencies to still have local jail cells and other methods of keeping suspected criminals detained.  However, the need for supermax prisons would go away entirely.  It seems entirely plausible to me that private security services could either be funded by a person buying protection coverage directly from a security firm or by them purchasing an insurance contract that included private security coverage.  Renters might have protection services included as part of their rental agreements.

While exceedingly rare, private fire departments do exist in some areas.  People can buy coverage from such a department by taking out a contract directly.  This private system of fire protection works well enough and could easily be extended to include “police” services as well.  There is no reason to have “police” be funded through coercion.  The very notion that robbery should be legitimized as a way to fund the police is an anathema to the core values of justice itself.

The following presentation by economist Hans Hoppe gets into the details of how a system of private law might be organized and funded.  Hoppe doesn’t delve too deeply into how people would be punished under such a system, but I hope my article provides you with some food for thought as you listen to Hoppe’s lecture:


  • Anonymous

    There is no person as highly respected as the Medical Examiner. They will be believed even if they claim that a  murdered victim died from an accidental fall. Rarely are the findings of the Medical Examiner contested. It would not be difficult for a buddy of the Medical Examiner to strangle his wife and dangle her from a ceiling pipe. The findings would surely be suicide. It is frightening that any politically connected or wealthy person can murder whom ever they wish, most Medical Examiners can use a few extra bucks. The solution to ending the problem of  perfect murders would be to have the Medical Examiner water boarded after he turns in each of his findings.