Apr 20.

Stefan Molyneux


Stateless Prisons

Containing Danger without Enslaving Citizens
By Stefan Molyneux, MA
Host, Freedomain Radio – www.freedomainradio.com

One of the great challenges of anarchistic philosophy is the challenge of prisons, or the physical restraint of violent criminals. I have dealt with this topic once before, but I am still receiving numerous requests for clarifications on how a stateless society might deal with violent criminals. So – let us examine the punitive mechanisms that might exist in the absence of a coercive state system.

Firstly, we can assume that in the absence of a state, private protection agencies (called here DROs, for Dispute Resolution Organizations) will necessarily band together to deny the advantages of a modern economic life to those individuals who egregiously harm their fellow citizens. Such necessities as bank accounts, credit, transportation, lodging, food and so on, can all be withheld from those who have been proven to have committed violent crimes. Also, in a stateless society, since there is no such thing as ‘public’ property, violent criminals would have a tough time getting anywhere, since roads, parks, forests and so on would all be owned privately. Anybody providing aid or comfort to a person convicted of a violent crime would face a withdrawal of services and protections from their own DRO, and so would avoid giving such help.

However, this solution alone has not been sufficient for some people, who still feel that sociopathic and violent criminals need to be physically restrained or imprisoned for society to be safe.

First of all, before tackling this issue, I would like to point out that if the problem of violent sociopaths is very extensive, then surely any moral justifications for the existence of a state become that much more untenable. If society literally swarms with evil people, then those evil people will surely overwhelm the state, the police, and the military, and prey upon legally disarmed citizens to their hearts content. If, however, there are very few evil people, then we surely do not need a state to protect us from such a tiny problem. In other words, if there are a lot of evil people, we cannot have a state – and if there are few evil people, then we do not need a state.

However, let us imagine what happens to a rapist in a stateless society. All general DRO contracts will include ‘rape protection’, since DROs will want to avoid incurring the medical, psychological and income costs of a rape for one of their own customers. Part of ‘rape protection’ will be the provision of significant financial restitution to a rape victim. (Women who can’t afford ‘rape protection’ will be subsidized by charities – or lawyers will represent them pro bono in return for a cut of the restitution.)

If a woman gets raped, she then applies to her DRO for restitution. The DRO then finds her rapist – using the most advanced forensic techniques available – and sends an agent to knock on his door.

“Good morning, sir,” the agent will say. “You have been charged with rape, and I’m here to inform you of your options. We wish to make this process as painless and non-intrusive as possible for you, and so will schedule a trial at the time of your earliest convenience. If you do not attend this trial, or testify falsely, or attempt to flee, we shall apply significant sanctions against you, which are outlined in your existing DRO contract. Our agreement with your bank allows us to freeze your assets – except for basic living and legal expenses – the moment that you are charged with a violent crime. We also have agreements with airlines, road, bus and train companies to prevent you from leaving town until this matter is resolved.

“You can represent yourself in this trial, choose from one of our lawyers, or we will pay for any lawyer you prefer, at standard rates. Also, as per our existing contract, we are to be allowed access to your home for purposes of investigation. You are free to deny us this access, of course, but then we shall assume that you are guilty of the crime, and will apply all the sanctions allowed to us by contract.

“If you are found to be innocent of this crime, we will pay you the sum of twenty thousand dollars, to be funded by the woman who has charged you with rape. We will also offer free psychological counseling for you, in order to help you avoid such accusers in the future.”

The trial will commence, and will return a verdict in due course.

If the man is found guilty, he will receive another visit from his DRO representative.

“Good afternoon, sir,” the agent will say. “You have been found guilty of rape, and I’m here to inform you of your punishment. We have a reciprocal agreement with your bank, which has now closed down your accounts, and transferred the money to us. We will be deducting double the costs of our investigation and trial from your funds, and will also be transferring half a million dollars to the woman you have raped. We also have reciprocal agreements with the companies that provide water and electricity to your house, and those will now be cut off. Furthermore, no gas station will sell you gasoline, and no train station, airline or bus company will sell you a ticket. We have made arrangements with all of the local grocery stores to deny you service, either in person or online. If you set foot on the street outside your house, which is owned privately, you will be physically removed for trespassing.

“Of course, you have the right to appeal this sentence, and if you successfully appeal, we would transfer our costs to the woman who has accused you of rape, and pay you well for the inconvenience we have caused you. If, however, your appeal fails, all additional costs will be added to your debt.

“I can tell you openly that if you choose to stay in your house, you will be unable to survive very long. You will run out food and water very quickly. You can attempt to escape your own house, of course, leaving all of your possessions, and try to make it to some wilderness area. If you do successfully escape, be aware that you are now entered into a central registry, and no reputable DRO will ever represent you. Furthermore, all DROs which have reciprocal agreements with us – which is the vast majority of them – will withdraw services from their own customers if those customers provide you with any goods or services. You will never be able to open a bank account, use centralized currency, carry a credit card, own a car, buy gas, use a road, use any other form of transportation – and gaining food, water and lodging will be a constant nightmare for you. You will spend your entire life running, hiding and begging, and will never find peace, solace or comfort in any place.

“However, there is an option. If you come with me, we will take you to a place of work for a period of five years. During that time, you will be working for us in a capacity which will be determined by your skills. If you do not have any viable skills, we will train you. Your wages will go to us, and we will deduct the costs of your incarceration, as well as any of the costs I outlined above which are not covered by your existing funds. A small amount of your wages will be set aside to help get you started after your release.

“During your stay with us, we will help you, because we do not want to have to go through all of this again with you in the future. You will take courses on ethics. You will take courses on anger management. You will take psychological counseling. You will emerge from your incarceration a far better person. And when you do emerge, all of your full rights will be restored, and you will be able to fully participate once more in the economic and social life of society.

“You have a choice now, and I want you to understand the full ramifications of that choice. If you come with me now, this is the best offer that I can give you. If you decide to stay in your house, and later change your mind, the penalties will be far greater. If you escape, and later change your mind, the penalties will be far greater still. In our experience, 99.99% of people who either run or stay end up changing their minds, and end up that much worse off. The remaining 0.01? Oh, they commit suicide.

“The choice is now yours. Do the right thing. Do the wise thing. Come with me now.”

Can we really imagine that anyone would choose to stay in their own house and die of thirst, unable to even flush their toilet? Can we imagine that anyone would choose a life of perpetual running and hiding and begging? Even if the rapist had no interest in becoming a better person, surely the cost/benefit of the options outlined above would convince him!

There will always be a small number of truly evil or insane people within society. There are far, far better ways of dealing with them than our existing system of dehumanizing, brutal and destructive state gulags, which generally serve only to expand their criminal skills and contacts. Also, it is important to remember that the existing state prisons have barely any evil or insane people in them! The vast majority of those in jail are nonviolent offenders, enslaved and in chains because they used recreational drugs, or gambled, or went to a prostitute, or didn’t pay all their taxes, or other such innocuous nonsense – or turned to crime because state ‘vice’ prohibitions made crime so profitable!

Our choice, then, is between a system which removes the tiny minority of evil people from society, rehabilitates them if possible, and makes them work productively to support their own confinement – or a state system which spends most of its time and energies enslaving innocent people, while letting the evil and insane roam free.

Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.
  • Two comments.

    1) I think you’ve defined anarchism as “anarcho-capitalism” which isn’t necessarily the same thing at all. Anarchist economics can be organized on different principles, such as joint ownership/commons in land, rather than private property in all things (including roads, parks, forests and so forth). I don’t want to distract too much from the point of your essay, but it is an important issue which you gloss, and the economic sufficiency of an insurance-based system is doubtful to me compared with a system financed from land tenure (anarcho-Georgism, if you like).

    2) A more important observation on the nature of anarchism is that it is not actually a system at all, it is any system that you care to have, and indeed as many systems at one time as might be used by differently situated people or by any person in different situations. Right now, each of us choose to adhere to some kinds of systems if not all, we purchase insurance (or not), we pay taxes (or not), we join membership clubs (or not), we have families and friends (or, sadly, not).

    The importance of this is easy to miss. We have anarchy right now. Nothing stops us from going ahead and creating the structures that we’d like to govern ourselves by. Sure, there are aggressors who will try to interfere with us, such as the state itself. If we’re not adhering to it, then what we need are systems to make it less relevant, less threatening to us (or us to them). Conflict should be scrupulously avoided.

    So, what I’m saying is, you are, right now, absolutely free. What do you want to do now?

    whig / 4:57 pm /
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, as King Solomon might have said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    First, what you are proposing is nothing more than forced restitution. This idea is not new. In fact, thousands of years ago, it was written into the Mosaic Code. As an example, paraphrased loosely, “If a man steals his neighbor’s ox, he shall pay five times over.” This payment wasn’t to go to the State, but to the victim. The State was simply a tool used to make sure the restitution was made.

    Second, you are really giving us nothing more than what appears to be no-fault insurance. A woman would buy rape insurance against the possibility that some man would attack her. Presumably, she would also buy theft, assault and battery, life, and good name insurance as well in the event that he decided to kill her by beating her, steal everything she had including her clothing, and leave her naked in the street. Should anything like this occur, the relevant “insurance” companies (DRO’s) would negotiate peacefully or duke it out in court, with the loser paying the winner and attempting to recoup some of its losses from the perpetrator.

    Today we have universal no-fault auto insurance (basic liability, personal injury, uninsured motorists, bodily damage, comprehensive, collision, etc.)in case of an accident. This is comparable to what you have described. The State is the means we have chosen by which these ends are reached. You have chosen DRO’s. No big difference.

    Third, your system of coercive restitution (DRO, insurance) must inevitably become universal and total to work properly. If it doesn’t, there will always be a means of escape (loopholes). Everyone would have to be included, submit DNA samples, retina, facial, and vocal scans, fingerprints, ID cards, etc. Anything which could be used to identify a person would, by necessity, be required. From everyone. Before a crime was committed or after. Freely or forcibly. Isn’t this the direction our society (and every society worldwide) is headed?

    What if the man involved wasn’t part of a DRO? What if he were destitute to start with? Who would pay? Would he be represented by pro bono lawyers? Would the woman still receive her half-million? If she did, doesn’t this mean that other people, generally “good”, who subscribe to that particular DRO would be required to pay more to make up the loss? Would you force everyone to purchase “insurance”? Whoa, hold it, wait just a minute! Isn’t this what we have today in the form of the welfare state, taxation, and redistribution of wealth?

    Fourth, you are presuming (I assume) that there will be some kind of universal money system which the offended DRO could use to apply complete pressure on the convicted rapist. I thought that in a Libertarian society there would be any form of payment (cash, credit, barter, sex, vouchers, etc.) and that no one could be forced into a particular system. What if your rapist said, “I’m not buying in.” What if half the population refused to cooperate? How would you force him to comply?

    Perhaps I’m not understanding your proposal correctly. Allow me to express in my own words what I believe you are saying. OK?

    I hear you saying to an alleged rapist. “You have been charged with a crime. You are under arrest. You will be put on trial. You will appear at this trial. You will be found innocent or guilty. If innocent, you will be set free. (Incidentally, you never mention restoring this man’s reputation or good name in society, which is a major complaint about our judicial system today.) If you are found guilty, you will come with us and do everything we tell you to do, up to and including forced incarceration and labor, rehabilitation, and thought, mental, and emotional manipulation. Of course, all this is for your own good since we know better than you what is best.”

    “On the other hand, should you choose to not allow us to exercise our will against you and attempt to fight back or flee our justice, we will use every means at our discretion and disposal to hunt you down like a dirty dog and either force you to submit or kill you in the process.”

    Really? Haven’t I just described our judicial system today? Personally, I fail to see the difference except that one is “ours” and the other is “theirs”.

    There will always be individuals who do not control themselves properly in society. As long as there is one person who allows his own selfish desires to inflict damage against someone else, there will be a need for corrective, forceful action. If six billion people live in some libertarian nirvana, utopia, heaven, etc., (take your pick), but the six billionth plus one person is a violent, malevolent sociopath, nobody is safe until he (she) is forcibly dealt with. Civil government, call it what you will, (dictatorship, democracy, DRO, etc.) is going to be with us for a very long time.

    Government is not imposed from the top down as so many people believe. It permeates from the bottom up, beginning with self-government, which emanates from God. We have the government today that we deserve because we, and generations before us, have failed to govern ourselves rightly. Furthermore, because there are so many “evil” people in society today (greedy, selfish, impatient, envious, lustful, murderous, hateful, etc.), and because “evil men wax worse and worse”, this cycle of societal government is going to continue until it exhausts itself and collapses, at which point some other form will take its place.

    Mr. Molyneaux, you have only designed another form of civil government. Yours may be better than the one we now have, but it is still a government. Nevertheless, your idea is plausible and worth considering further. Good work. Carry on.

    Finally, Isaiah 9:1-7 mentions the ultimate government. This government is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. It says that “Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end.” Love never ends.

    Government is not an option. It’s not a choice of government or no government, but rather which government, whose government, we decide to live with and submit ourselves to. We have to learn how to choose wisely.

    Roger Mitchell / 4:57 pm /
  • This will just create an opportunity for someone to have a private outlaw town – where anyone can buy things at 10-times bigger price, but without a proof of being in a DRO.

    Syarzhuk / 4:57 pm /
  • I don’t see how you can have courts and lawyers in an anarchistic system. The presence of lawyers indicates the presence of laws which indicate the presence of government. Who has made these laws if not a government? How can you have a trial without government? You can call it something else but it’s still government.

    Anonymous / 4:57 pm /
  • Stefan is correct in one assertion – if large numbers of people are evil government cannot work. However, if a vanishingly small fraction of people are evil, why do we need some giant, institutionalized bureaucracy (no matter what term is used for it) to deal with that fact? Why not leave it entirely to the individual to ameliorate their own risk as they see fit? There is not any court (at least one cannot make a rational case for one) in which one may seek redress for damage by accidents of fate that are not caused by a human. If the incidence of damage by human-caused (culpably) events is comparable or less, where is the need? If the price is coerced membership in a government or a DRO, where is the gain? Is there any basis to make a special case for retribution in the case of human-caused harm that does not ultimately rest on the irrational concept, promoted by every religion, that every man and woman born is essentially evil? Other mechanisms may arise to deal with rogue violence, mechanisms that to not require coercion. I think Jim Bell may have invented one that is about right…

    Anonymous / 4:57 pm /
  • Your model for a stateless penitentiary system is an orwellian burgeois nightmare: One commits a felony and there goes all one’s house conveniencies, and if one wants them back, one has to be a wage-slave for the DRO. What would prevent the DROs of outlawing most citizens in order to make a profit from cheap felon work force? What you propose is not anarchism, it is a corporate dystopia.

    My question is: why does that person commits the felony in the first place? What personal, psychological, social circumstances induce that individual to harm another? I believe crime would be reduced within a social context that prevents it, with a psycho-prophylactic culture. For example, rape would rarely occur in a healthy society with little sexual dissatisfaction and fewer taboos for bodily contact between people.

    And if it does occur, it would command therapy on both parties. In a profoundly individualistic society, justice would be a personal matter. Remember, impersonal authority is statist alienation.

    Fernando / 4:57 pm /
  • What if someone got together with a bunch of rapists, murderers, thieves, etc. and started a DRO that would provide them with all of the services. Then, what incentive would the rapist have to comply with the DRO? He could just escape and go join the DRO that will provide him with his services. In fact, he’d probably belong to it already.

    Anonymous / 4:57 pm /
  • Some of the comments criticizing this article are painfully irrational and smack of blind faith statism. Do you people not understand that this is a VOLUNTARY system?! The DRO/voluntary model is the only model capable of effectively dealing with crime and injustice. Molyneux should be applauded for his work in this area. Not a single argument raised in these comments/critiques has any weight or hasn’t already been fully disputed countless times through rational argument and logical iteration. Great post.

    fingolfin / 4:57 pm /
  • Above comments notwithstanding

    This is the best way of dealing with crime in a society thats based on voluntarism and the non-agression principle i’ve come across.

    There is a big difference between this method of resolving violent crimes and what the state does.. The State is responsible Most of the violence that goes on if we consider wars, jails, police brutality…… to say its no big difference between what was proposed and the state, after reading this article sounds like an emotional response.

    Its this kind of thought and innovation that allowed us the freedoms we have now.. who cares what some band of rapists are doing on some island.. at least they’ll only be raping and murdering each other if they’re that hungry for violence. The whole point is to protect the people who want to be free from such offenses.

    Thanx for the Article, very helpful!! 🙂

    Save On Your Next Trip!!!! / 4:57 pm /
  • To the anonymous poster 3 posts above:

    Which organization would deal with or form any reciprocal arrangement with a DRO aimed specifically at providing services to rapists, murderers, and other outlaws? One that wanted to lose ALL of its non-raping-and-murdering customers.

    Some niche markets are just a little too small.

    ElimGarak / 4:57 pm /
  • So, you also advocate a strong national ID system? Otherwise, you could just have a stash of cash and vital supplies in the house, escape and get a fake ID. Hell, you could establish a fake ID long before and have a sizeable amount of assets already under your other ID.

    Who would administer this system? Would each DRO have to be able to validate every other's IDs? Ever hear of the n² problem? Or would they be able to control where their customers could go by only making agreements with some DRO. The right to move about freely isn't all that important after all!

    Maybe we would need a central authority of some kind, perhaps made up of representatives of every DRO chosen by the customers of each to ensure that each is fairly represented.

    Anonymous / 4:57 pm /
  • I think the proposed DRO system is well worth trying. Many times. Then, after (or during) the experiments, we would have direct evidence whether such a system works, and what the problems with it are. At the moment, we have nothing but speculation.

    Steven Wayne Lytle / 4:57 pm /
  • Comments are closed.

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