Caging the Devils: The Stateless Society and Violent Crime
by Stefan Molyneux
Lew was kind enough to publish The
Stateless Society, I received many emails asking the same question:
how can violent criminals be dealt with in the absence of a centralized
is a challenging question, which can be answered in three parts.
The first is to examine how such criminals are dealt with at present;
the second is to divide violent crimes into crimes of motive
and crimes of passion, and the third is to show how a stateless
society would deal with both categories of crime far better than
any existing system.
the first question is: how are violent criminals dealt with at
present? The honest answer, to any unbiased observer is surely:
they are encouraged.
basic fact of life is that people respond to incentives. The better
that crime pays, the more people will become criminals. Certain
well-known habits – drugs, gambling, prostitution in particular
– are non-violent in nature, but highly desired by certain segments
of the population. If these non-violent behaviours are criminalized,
the profit gained by providing these services rises. Illegality
destroys all stabilizing social forces (contracts, open activity,
knowledge sharing and mediation), and so violence becomes the norm
for dispute resolution.
wherever a legal situation exists where most criminals make more
money than the police, the police are simply bribed into compliance.
Thus by increasing the profits of non-violent activities, the State
ensures the corruption of the police and judicial system – thus
making it both safer and more profitable to operate outside the
law! It can take dozens of arrests to actually face trial – and
many trials to gain convictions. Policemen now spend about a third
of their time filling out paperwork – and 90% of their time chasing
non-violent criminals. Entire sections of certain cities are run
by gangs of thugs, and the jails are overflowing with harmless low-level
peons sent to jail as make-work for the judicial system – thus constantly
increasing law-enforcement budgets. Peaceful citizens are legally
disarmed through gun control laws. In this manner, the modern State
literally creates, protects and profits from violent criminals.
the standard to compare the stateless society’s response to violent
crime is not some perfect world where thugs are effectively dealt
with, but rather the current mess where violence is both encouraged
we turn to how a stateless society deals with crime, however, it
is essential to remember that the stateless society automatically
eliminates the greatest violence faced by almost all of us – the
State that threatens us with guns if we don’t hand over our money
– and our lives, should it decide to declare war. Thus it cannot
be said that the existing system is one which minimizes violence.
Quite the contrary – the honest population is violently enslaved
by the State, and the dishonest provided with cash incentives and
violence – in its many forms – has been growing in Western societies
over the past fifty years, as regulation, tariffs and taxation have
risen exponentially. National debts are an obvious form of intergenerational
theft. Support of foreign governments also increases violence, since
these governments use subsidies to buy arms and further terrorize
their own populations. The arms market is also funded and controlled
by governments. The list of State crimes can go on and on, but one
last gulag is worth mentioning – all the millions of poor souls
kidnapped and held hostage in prisons for non-violent ‘crimes’.
existing States terrorize, enslave and incarcerate literally billions
of citizens, it is hard to understand how they can be seen as effectively
working ‘against’ violence in any form.
how does the stateless society deal with violence? First, it is
important to differentiate the use of force into crimes of motive
and crimes of passion. Crimes of motive are open to
correction through changing incentives; any system which reduces
the profits of property crimes – while increasing the profits of
honest labor – will reduce these crimes. In the last part of this
essay, we will see how the stateless society achieves this better
than any other option.
of motive can be diminished by making crime a low-profit activity
relative to working for a living. Crime entails labour, and if most
people could make more money working honestly for the same amount
of labour, there will be far fewer criminals.
who have read my
explanation of dispute resolution organizations (DROs) know
that stateless societies flourish through the creation of voluntary
contracts between interested parties, and that all property is private.
How does this affect violent crime?
let’s look at ‘break and enter’. If I own a house, I will probably
take out insurance against theft. Obviously, my insurance company
benefits most from preventing theft, and so will encourage
me to get an alarm system and so on, just as occurs now.
situation is more or less analogous to what happens now – with the
not-inconsequential adjustment that, since DROs handle policing
as well as restitution, their motive for preventing theft
or rendering stolen property useless is higher than it is now. As
such, much more investment in prevention would be worthwhile, such
as creating ‘voice activated’ appliances which only work for their
the stateless society goes much, much further in preventing crime
– specifically, by identifying those who are going to become
criminals. In this situation, the stateless society is far more
effective than any State system.
a stateless society, contracts with DROs are required to maintain
any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens
are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house
or send their children to school. Any DRO will naturally ensure
that its contracts include penalties for violent crimes – so if
you steal a car, your DRO has the right to use force against you
to get the car back – and probably retrieve financial penalties
does this work in practice? Let’s take a test case. Say that you
wake up one morning and decide to become a thief. Well, the first
thing you have to do is cancel your coverage with your DRO, so that
your DRO cannot act against you when you steal. DROs would have
clauses allowing you to cancel your coverage, just as insurance
companies have now. Thus you would have to notify your DRO that
you were dropping coverage. No problem, you’re off their list.
DROs as a whole really need to keep track of people who have
opted out of the entire DRO system, since those people have clearly
signaled their intention to go rogue, to live off the grid, and
commit crimes. Thus if you cancel your DRO insurance, your name
goes into a database available to all DROs. If you sign up with
another DRO, no problem, your name is taken out. However, if you
do not sign up with any other DRO, red flags pop up all over
happens then? Remember – there is no public property in the stateless
society. If you’ve gone rogue, where are you going to go? You can’t
take a bus – bus companies won’t take rogues, because their
DRO will require that they take only DRO-covered passengers, in
case of injury or altercation. Want to fill up on gas? No luck,
for the same reason. You can try hitchhiking, of course, which might
work, but what happens when you get to your destination and try
and rent a hotel room? No DRO card, no luck. Want to sleep in the
park? Parks are privately owned, so keep moving. Getting hungry?
No groceries, no restaurants – no food! What are you going to do?
those without DRO representation are going to find it very hard
to get around or find anything to eat. But let’s go even further
and imagine that, as a rogue, you are somehow able to survive long
enough to start trying to steal from people’s houses.
the first thing that DROs are going to do is give a reward to anyone
who spots you and reports your position (in fact, there will be
companies which specialize in just this sort of service). As you
walk down a street on your way to rob a house, someone sees you
and calls you in. The DRO immediately notifies the street owner
(remember, no public property!) who boots you off his street. Are
you going to resist the street owner? His DRO will fully
support his right to use force to protect his property or life.
you have to get off the street. Where do you go? All the local street
owners have been notified of your presence, and refuse you entrance.
You can’t go anywhere without trespassing. You are a pariah. No
one will help you, or give you food, or shelter you – because if
they do, their DRO will boot them or raise their rates, and their
name will be entered into a database of people who help rogues.
There is literally no place to turn.
really, what incentive is there to turn to a life of crime? Working
for a living – and being protected by a DRO – pays really well.
Going off the grid and becoming a rogue pits the entire weight of
the combined DRO system against you – and, even if you do
manage to survive their scrutiny and steal something, it has probably
been voice-encoded or protected in some other manner against unauthorized
re-use. But let’s suppose that you somehow bypass all of that,
and do manage to steal, where are you going to sell your stolen
goods? You’re not protected by a DRO, so who will buy from you,
knowing they have no recourse if something goes wrong? And besides,
anyone who interacts with you will get a substantial reward for
reporting your location – and, if they deal with you, will be dropped
from the DRO system.
there be underground markets? No – where would they operate? People
need a place to live, cars to rent, clothes to buy, groceries to
eat. No DRO means no participation in economic life.
it is fair to say that any stateless society will do a far
better job of protecting its citizens against crimes of motive
– what, then, about crimes of passion?
of passion are harder to prevent – but also present far less of
a threat to those outside of the circle in which they occur.
let’s say a man kills his wife. They are both covered by DROs, of
course, and their DRO contracts would include specific prohibitions
against murder. Thus the man would be subject to all the sanctions
involved in his contract – probably forced labour until a certain
financial penalty was paid off, since DROs would be responsible
for paying financial penalties to any next of kin.
you say, but what if either the man or woman was not covered
by a DRO? Well, where would they live? No one would rent them an
apartment. If they own their house free and clear, who would sell
them food? Or gas? Who would employ them? What bank would accept
their money? The penalties for opting out of the DRO system are
almost infinite, and it is safe to say that it would be next to
impossible to survive without a DRO.
let’s say that only the murderous husband – planning to kill his
wife – opted out of his DRO system without telling her. Well,
the first thing that his wife’s DRO system would do is inform her
of her husband’s action – and the ill intent it may represent –
and help relocate her if desired. If she decided against relocation,
her DRO would promptly drop her, since by deciding to live in close
proximity with a rogue man, she was exposing herself to an untenable
amount of danger (and so the DRO to a high risk for financial loss!).
Now both the husband and wife have chosen to live without DROs,
in a state of nature, and thus face all the insurmountable problems
of getting food, shelter, money and so on.
let’s look at something slightly more complicated – stalking. A
woman becomes obsessed with a man, and starts calling him at all
hours and following him around. Perhaps boils a bunny or two. Well,
if the man has bought insurance against stalking, his DRO leaps
into action. It calls the woman’s DRO, which says: stop stalking
this man or we’ll drop you. And how does her DRO know whether
she has really given up her stalking? The man stops reporting it.
And if there is a dispute, she just wears an ankle bracelet for
a while to make sure. And remember – since there is no public property,
she can be ordered off any property such as sidewalks, streets and
if the man has not bought insurance against stalking, no problem
– it will just be more expensive to buy with a ‘pre-existing condition’!)
they may seem unfamiliar to you, DROs are not a new concept – they
are as ancient as civilization itself, but have been shouldered
aside by the constant escalation of State power over the last century
or so. In the past, desired social behaviour was punished through
ostracism, and risks ameliorated through voluntary ‘friendly societies’.
A man who left his wife and children – or a woman who got pregnant
out of wedlock – was no longer welcome in decent society. DROs take
these concepts one step further, by making all the information formerly
known by the local community available to the world as whole, just
as credit reports do. There are really no limits to the benefits
that DROs can confer upon a free society – insurance could be created
for such things as:
- a man’s
wife giving birth to a child that is not his own
- a daughter
getting pregnant out of wedlock
problems for a married couple
- …and much
of the above insurance policies would require DROs to take active
steps to prevent such behaviours – the mind boggles at all the preventative
steps that could be taken! The important thing to remember is that
all such contracts are voluntary, and so do not violate the
moral absolute of non-violence.
in conclusion – how does the stateless society deal with violent
criminals? Brilliantly! In a stateless society, there are fewer
criminals, more prevention, greater sanctions – and instant forewarning
of those aiming at a life of crime by their withdrawal from the
DRO system. More incentives to work, fewer incentives for a life
of crime, no place to hide for rogues, and general social rejection
of those who decide to operate outside of the civilized worlds of
contract, mutual protection and general security. And remember –
States in the 20th century caused more than 170 million
deaths – are we really that worried about hold-ups and jewelry thefts
in the face of those kinds of numbers?
is no system that will replace faulty men with perfect angels, but
the stateless society, by rewarding goodness and punishing evil,
will at least ensure that all devils are visible – instead of cloaking
them in the current deadly fog of power, politics and propaganda.
Molyneux [send him mail]
has been an actor, comedian, gold-panner, graduate student, and
software entrepreneur. His first novel, Revolutions
was published in 2004, and he maintains a
© 2005 LewRockwell.com