Some norwegians decided they would rather live on a remote and frequently-exploding piece of rock on the edge of the world than be anyones subject: thus, medieval Iceland. If an Icelander thought a crime had happened, they would go to court and plead the case themselves. If the court pronounced a guilty verdict, it would demand a penalty from the criminal. Usually this was a fine paid to the victim; even murders were punished with wergeld. If the criminal paid the fine voluntarily, all was well. If they refused or didnt even come to court then the court could declare the criminal an outlaw, meaning it was legal to kill him and take his stuff.
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(if this sounds familiar, its from another, very different david Friedman book what about the lack of good punishments? Once a trial was underway, prosecutors would usually cut a deal: the offender would bribe the prosecutor with a certain amount, and the prosecutor would drop the case. The size of the bribe would vary based on how much the offender could pay, the extent of their crime, and the facts of the case (and therefore the likelihood of the magistrate choosing hanging. This not only helped tailor the punishment more best precisely to the crime, but helped defer the cost essay of prosecution: victims (or their were incentivized to press charges because they could recoup their costs through the bribes paid to drop them: What both modern and contemporary. The possibility of compounding provided an incentive to prosecute-it converted the system into something more like a civil system, where a victim sues in the hope of collecting money damages. And while compounding might save the criminal from the noose, he did not get off scott free. He ended up paying, to the prosecutor, what was in effect a fine. 10th through 13th century Iceland was in the same position as the Vlach Rom: a legislature (the Althing some courts, but no executive branch. Unlike the rom, the Icelanders problem wasnt foreign oppressors it was that they were the viking equivalent of those hard-core libertarians who live in compounds in Montana where the feds cant reach them. In this case the feds were the forces of King Harald fairhair, who had just taken over and centralized power in Norway.
Prosecuting took a lot of time and money and was generally a thankless task. And the government didnt want to go to the expense of imprisoning people, so they usually just hanged convicted offenders (if the crime seemed really bad) or pardoned them (if it paper didnt seem to merit hanging). The exotic anarcho-capitalist part comes in as English civil society creates its own structures to work around these limitations. Merchants, landowners, and other people with wealth banded together in everyone in the group would pay a fixed amount yearly, and if one of them got robbed the group would use the money to hire a prosecutor to try the criminal. Group members would publish their names in the newspaper to help inform thieves whom it was a bad idea to rob. But this wasnt about leaving poor people out to dry. The groups would also help indigents who couldnt afford their own prosecutors, partly out of a desire to crack down on crime before it reached the point where it could inconvenience them. They wouldnt help people who could have afforded insurance but declined anyway, though otherwise there would be no incentive to buy.
Competitive dictatorship is the mechanism we routinely use to control hotels and restaurants; the customers have no vote on what color the walls are painted or what is on the menu, but an absolute vote on which one they patronize. They do encounter the same problem as the gypsies: can you just commit a crime, then accept your ostracism and integrate with another society somewhere else? The Amish have some internal mechanisms to prevent this: congregations are usually on good terms with each other, but if Congregation a accepts a member being shunned by congregation b, then all of Congregation Bs members will shun all of Congregation As members. In practice, this makes it easy to switch rules as a member in good standing who honestly doesnt like the laws, but hard to break the laws and get away with. Of course, you can still leave the Amish community and go join broader American society. But have you seen broader American society? 18th century England had a government, a court system, and some minimal law enforcement with but it really sucked. There were no public prosecutors; anyone who felt like it could bring a criminal to court and start prosecuting him, but if nobody felt like it then the crime remained unpunished.
The basic unit of Amish society is the church congregation; Amish settlements big enough to support multiple churches will have many congregations mixed together. Each congregation will have its own rules, especially about which technologies their members are or arent allowed to use. Amish people who violate their congregations rules, either by using forbidden technology or by the usual litany of sins, are punished with public confession or temporary ostracism. Amish people who refuse to abide by lesser punishments are excommunicated, though they can be un-excommunicated if they change their minds and agree to follow the courts orders. Amish congregations are nominally democratic, but in practice Friedman calls them dictatorship-like because everyone votes the way the bishop wants. But they are a competitive dictatorship; since there are so many different congregations in the same town, an Amish family who doesnt like their congregations leadership or legal system can move to another congregation and agree to be bound by their laws instead. This makes it a rare remaining example of a polycentric legal system outside anarcho-capitalist fantasies. Too like the lightning : Such a system can be viewed as a competitive market for legal rules, constrained, like other competitive markets, to produce about the product that the customers want.
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Nothing stops some of them from calling themselves a movies legislature or a court and claiming to make laws or pass sentences. But something does stop them from trying to enforce them: from the States point of view, a court that executes an offender is just a bunch of Gypsies who got together and committed murder. So the Vlach Rom romanian Gypsies organize courts called kris which enforce their sentences with threat of banishment from the community. Gypsies traditionally believe in marime, a sort of awful pollution that infects people who dont follow the right rituals; anyone who interacts with polluted people will become polluted themselves. Kris courts can declare the worst offenders polluted, ensuring their speedy ostracization from Gypsy society. And since non-Gypsies are polluted by default, the possibility of ostracism and forced integration into non-Gypsy society will seem intolerable: The effectiveness of that threat of ostracism depends on how easily the exiled gypsy can function outside of his community.
The marimé rules (and similar rules in other societies) provide a mechanism for isolating the members of the community. Gaije, non-gypsies, do not know the marimé rules and so do not and cannot obey them. It follows that they are all polluted, unclean, carriers of a contagious disease, people whom no rom in his right mind would willingly choose to associate with; when and if such association is unavoidable it must be taken with great care. The gypsy view of gaije, reinforced by the gaije view of gypsies as uneducated and illiterate thieves and swindlers, eliminates the exit option and so empowers the kris to enforce gypsy law by the threat of exclusion from the only tolerable human society. This reminds me of, the Use And Abuse Of Witchdoctors For Life : once your culture has a weird superstition, it can get plugged into various social needs to become a load-bearing part of the community structure. Amish also live under the authority of a foreign culture and have settled on a similar system, with a twist.
But maybe thats wrong. Maybe weve always been anarcho-capitalist. Maybe a state-run legal system isnt a fact of nature, but a historical oddity as contingent as collectivized farming or nationalized railroads. Legal Systems Very different From Ours, by anarcho-capitalist/legal scholar/medieval history buff david Friedman, successfully combines the authors three special interests into a whirlwind tour of exotic law. Law is a public good.
Crime victims have little economic incentive to punish the perpetrator; if you burn my house down, jailing you wont un-burn the house. If you steal my gold, i have some interest in catching you and taking it back, but no more than I do in catching some other poor shmuck and taking his gold. Its only society as a whole that wants to make sure criminals are reliably punished and the innocent consistently safe. This is the classic situation where economists usually recommend government intervention. But sometimes that doesnt work. Maybe you live in an area like somalia or medieval Ireland without a strong centralized government. Maybe you live in a strato-klepto-kakocracy run by warlords who cant even pronounce jurisprudence, let alone enforce. Maybe youre a despised minority group whom the State wants nothing to do with, or who wants nothing to do with the State. Gypsies living scattered in foreign countries have generally wanted to run their own communities by their own rules.
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Filed under: tv, beauty, 'memba Them?! In the daddy early '90s, mayim bialik played joey lawrence's floppy hat-wearing sister, Blossom Russo, on the tv series "Blossom." guess what she looks like now! 0 "blossom 'memba her?! Medieval Icelandic crime victims would sell the right to pursue a perpetrator to the highest bidder. 18th century English justice replaced fines with criminals bribing prosecutors to drop cases. Somali judges compete on the free market; those who give bad verdicts get a reputation that drives away future customers. Anarcho-capitalism evokes a dystopian cyberpunk future.
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