For those of you who are unfamiliar with how a justice system in a free society would most likely operate, take a moment to view this video by economist David Friedman. It goes over the basics of how a justice system in a free society would operate. For the rest of the article, I will assume you are familiar with this model.
Now, you might be wondering what I mean by “casino justice.” Economists like Friedman, Hoppe and Murphy have done a great job of outlining how market produced security and courts could operate, but they don’t really get into the nitty-gritty details of how punishment might work. I think they intentionally leave that part a bit vague, assuming the markets will work it out in the end.
In this article, I want to throw out some food for thought about how punishment might work in a free society. The only thing that makes sense to me in a free society is a purely civil court system. I can’t see how a criminal justice system could exist in a free society, because I have trouble envisioning a system where people are willing to pay excessive insurance fees in order to keep prisoners behind bars for exorbitant lengths of time.
I also have trouble believing that insurance companies would want to go the prison route in the first place. All the data suggests that prison doesn’t reduce recidivism, and ends up producing more violent and sociopathic criminals. Since insurance is in the business of reducing costs, they are going to do whatever they can to reduce violence and recidivism amongst their offenders.
In civil courts, victims are typically awarded monetary damages that are to be paid by the offender. Such a system leaves potentially violent criminals free to roam the streets, and it also creates the problem of how to force offenders to actually pay the damages. Without criminal courts and the threat of prison, forcing a criminal to pay the damages he owes may become problematic.
It is at this point where I see the casino justice model becoming useful. Casinos keep a black book of prohibited persons, and operators typically share this information amongst themselves. If a casino spots a cheat, they will kick him out and let the other casinos know that they should be wary of him. In a free society, casinos would be free to openly publish this information and take other extraordinary measures to ensure cheats are known.
It seems logical to me that offenders who refuse to abide by court rulings would end up getting blacklisted by insurance agencies. Consider the huge ramifications this would have in a free society. A murderer who refuses to pay damages, or engages in new acts of violence while free, would most likely end up being blacklisted by all insurance agencies and all private courts. This means he would have no security protection and could not bring a case for damages in the event someone should assail him.
Private mercenaries could kill him, and no one could do anything about it. If his family or friends decided to take revenge, they would end up being blacklisted. Further, they would end up having to fight an armed private security agency alone, and face legitimate retribution from an armed public.
It is also unlikely that anyone would hire or do business with a known violent criminal who refused to abide by court rulings. It seems logical to me that insurance agency blacklists would be highly publicized and openly available, making background checks as simple as doing a Google search.
This system of blacklisting puts retribution back into the hands of the victim. The victim could chose to do nothing, or the victim could chose to kill or beat the offender himself, or the victim could hire someone to do the dirty work for him. The victim could also continue to harass the offender however and whenever he pleased.
Some people might argue that only “rich” or physically strong victims would have recourse under such a system, but this line of thinking ignores the possibility of charity and insurance contracts picking up the tab. For cases involving particularly heinous crimes, insurance agencies may actually offer coverage for mercenaries in the event the offender refuses to comply with court rulings. Further, since no one wants a murderer to escape justice, it seems logical to me that either pro bono mercenaries or charities will exist to help “bring him to justice.”
For cases where the offender is convicted of a lesser crime, yet still refuses to comply with court orders, courts and insurance agencies may limit his coverage, rather than prohibiting it outright. For example, a person who stole money and refuses to pay it back may be prohibited from bring assault cases before the courts. This means a mercenary or vigilante could beat him up, but not kill him. Obviously if the offender were to try and defend himself with a weapon, the mercenary or vigilante would be free to return fire. Looking at how most present day bounty hunters operate, it seems unlikely than an offender would take the risk of armed resistance against a group of highly trained mercenaries who are coming to give him a beating.
Yet another other possibility is that the offender might be prohibited from bringing cases of theft before the courts, allowing the victim to take what they want from the offender. This limited blacklisting has a nearly infinite number of variables that can be played with depending on the circumstances of the offense in question. In fact, extremely heinous crimes may result in an immediate blacklisting, without the chance for the offender to offer any compensation at all.
While this system isn’t perfect, I would argue that it is far superior to our present system of “justice.” Obviously our present system requires a state that enacts criminal laws, which also requires victims to fund the punishment of their assailant through the tax system. The expenses, opportunity costs, dehumanization and violent recidivism associated with our present justice system are all eliminated or greatly reduced under this casino justice model.