Some of my subsequent posts will form a rough draft of a book (tract?) I intend to write. Maybe titled “An Introduction To Voluntary Law.” Or perhaps “A Friendly Introduction To Voluntary Law.” To be followed, hopefully, by “A Children’s Guide to Voluntary Law.”
The Introduction may be titled “The Nut.”
You may find this book a little nutty. It may expose you to ideas that, at first glance, seem immensely impractical, if not completely impossible. To ideas that seem utterly useless in the world that we live in today. And to add insult to injury, to ideas that are speculative, and not the least bit scholarly or laden with footnotes. In a word, nutty. Nutty, and not without considerable risk, like running in front of a pack of raging bulls, clad only in a pink tutu, while inebriated by a fragrant Spanish sherry. If you don’t like nutty, put this book down until you are in mood for nutty.
This book is a nutty in another sense. Like an acorn is nutty, by including within it the essence of the oak tree. Given the necessary conditions, and the passage of time, the acorn sprouts, extends leaves and roots, extracts energy from the sun and directs the energy and matter it absorbs into the structure of an oak tree. You may find that the ideas in this book are a bit like that acorn. But instead of growing in soil, these ideas may, given the proper conditions, grow in your mind. Fed by your life energy and experience, these ideas may grow into massive and surprising forms, transforming your world view and the reality you experience. As these ideas spread from mind to mind, a towering forest may gradually arise, forever transforming your world.
If these claims seem grandiose it’s because they are grandiose. But show this book some tolerance! The ideas it contains are between a rock and a hard place, so to speak. These ideas are either truly nutty in the sense of being crazily useless, or are a nut of transformative philosophical and social change. There is very little territory in between.
If you have read this far, you are either in the mood for something nutty, or are intentionally exposing your mind to the risk of transformative change. All the while recklessly casting away any sensible apprehension over exposure to unproven grandiosity. Are you sure you would not rather be in your garage, working on a free energy machine? That might be a more productive use of your time. Please be extremely careful to spend your time doing something productive during your brief and transient life, and by all means be aware of the risk that reading this book may just make you a little nutty, too.
The warnings are out of the way. Let’s get to the business at hand.
If you think you have heard the term “voluntary law” before, you may be mistaken. This is not a phrase used with any commonly-accepted meaning. On the contrary, the phrase brings together two words that are not meant to coexist. “Voluntary” does not ordinarily pair with “law.” It is a sort of contradiction of terms. A crafty invention meant to convey a meaning that we are not conditioned to understand. We are conditioned to think of law as something imposed by a higher or more powerful authority on the rest of us, whether that authority be old traditions, gods, priests, monarchs, legislatures, electoral majorities, judges or special committees. Putting “law” together with “voluntary” enables us to consider voluntary arrangements as more than just things that exist subject to imposed laws. Not only that, but to realize at least one way in which voluntary arrangements are capable of peacefully expanding beyond imposed legal frameworks, and after sufficient social evolution has occurred, displacing such frameworks altogether.
If you must have a touchstone, think of natural law. But voluntary law is not natural law. Voluntary law is any system of dispute resolution, characterized by:
- No claim against another is legally enforceable unless the claim is permitted by a rule that has been voluntarily adopted, and not superseded by later adoption of a conflicting rule, by each defendant prior to the time when the events giving rise to the claim occurred.
- The identity of any person who has adopted a rule of voluntary law, the rules each such person has adopted, and the time when each such rule is adopted, is recorded and such record is publicly discoverable.
- A publicly discoverable set of rules is defined for just resolution of conflicting laws in the context of any arbitrary dispute, based principally on the content of the laws that are in conflict, and the times at which adopted by the parties to the dispute.
Mark this page. This simple definition can be unfolded in surprising and complex ways. Although this book will only wade in the shallows, enough complexity may be encountered within these pages to make it helpful to refer to this definition from time to time. The definition can be expressed differently, but its essence will not be changed.
Underpinning this system of voluntary law is a moral precept that rejects the imposition of any substantive law on any person, without their prior knowledge and consent. Under this new moral precept, forcibly imposed forms of law are condemned as barbaric and evil by nature, if not always in effect. That which is traditionally viewed as a necessary evil is shown to be merely evil, and in time, unnecessary.
Voluntary law systems may evolve toward higher forms or more robust expressions of natural law. Such is conjecture. It’s not a provable thesis, because the perfect composition of “natural law” is not discoverable by experiment. If we define natural law as that law most consistent with the thriving of productive communities and most equitable distribution of the productivity resulting from such thriving, then perhaps voluntary law is better able to achieve such ends than the traditional forms that oppress us today. It seems highly unlikely to be worse, once widely understood and adopted.
The definition of voluntary law rests on a few key concepts. “Person” is a critical concept. Also “voluntary.” Later chapters will delve more deeply into consideration of these terms. Non-aggression is “baked in” to the system of voluntary law, by way of the limitation to voluntary action. Those who adhere to the non-aggression principle as a basis for political order will find much to like about voluntary law.
Those who emphasize individual civil rights and fear too much accumulation of private property in the hands of a few can also find much to like about voluntary law. Traditional property rights are not an essential characteristic of voluntary law. Property rights beyond self-sovereignty are optional, not essential.
Instead of imposing concepts of property rights beyond self-sovereignty, voluntary law allows for different definitions of what property rights are, and how they are formed, within extremely broad limits wrapped up in the word “person.” Its essential characteristic of voluntaryness requires that each person owns and is sovereign over themselves. The more remote from that core sovereignty a concept of property is, the more its existence as property will depend on voluntary, individual acceptance by each person making up the masses of society.
Whether or not, or under what conditions, a thing can be owned, and what rights accompany ownership is not predetermined within voluntary law. Property rights arise by interaction between different definitions of property voluntarily adopted by different persons. These different property rights cannot be enforced in any manner consistent with voluntary law without reciprocal acceptance by each person upon whom the asserted property right would be enforced. Property that confers an unfair degree of forcible control over the lives of others cannot be amassed in such a system.
So voluntary law cannot honestly be placed on the left, or right of the modern political spectrum. It avoids the left-right paradigm altogether, and transcends it. No person can be forced into a community and thereby made subject to laws that are contrary to her moral lights or preferences such as she consistently and reciprocally will apply. Each person is free to join a different community, or to build her own if none to her liking exist. No person can force a definition of property on another, who consistently and fairly operates in ignorance and/or refusal of such definition.
And that’s the nut of it.