Coexistence, Introduction To Voluntary Law (Book)

Coexistence With Other Legal Systems

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Voluntary law is based on the most granular possible social unit: the person. As such, voluntary legal systems are uniquely suitable for co-existing with competing legal systems, while being uniquely difficult to eradicate. There is no head to cut off. Nor does the person who adopts a voluntary law require any action from any person who chooses not to participate. Those who choose to participate must place their reputations at stake, but only within the society defined by voluntary law.

Voluntary law reaches only persons who are voluntarily within its society of laws. Outside of that society, anything whatsoever may exist: a republic; a democracy; an empire; a petty dictatorship; a socialist paradise; a fascist totalitarian state; lawless anarchy, a prison; a school; a plantation of slaves; a land of the free; a spiritual paradise that needs no laws; or hell itself. Voluntary law societies can co-exist with all these other things. The only essential requirement for the voluntary law society to exist is for two or more people to comply with its essential principles in their dealing with one another. Coexistence with non-voluntary forms of society and law, or with states of nature is potentially complex. Only a few of the more salient issues and aspects are touched on here, as is appropriate at this early stage, before anyone is using voluntary law on a large scale.

A principal aspect of coexistence concerns the modularity of voluntary rules. One is not necessarily entirely within, or entirely outside of, voluntary law society. One can be within voluntary law society for one set of rules, while being an outlaw with respect to other sets. Examples of this modularity at work have been provided earlier. Adopting voluntary law for limited purposes might leave fellow society members without recourse under voluntary law for forms of aggression outside of the applicable law’s reach. Such limits are inherent in voluntary law, and many examples have already been discussed. The compensating principle, as has also been discussed, is that whatever actions of a person that are not actionable under that person’s voluntary law are publicly known to other society members. A person with unreasonable laws may thereby be avoided and shamed.

If conflict regarding an excluded topic of law arises under unavoidable circumstances, the people involved are no worse off than if neither had adopted any voluntary law. For example, suppose a couple has adopted compatible voluntary laws in the area of family law. One of the couple has not adopted any voluntary laws providing remedies for breach of contract, nor any more general principle that is applicable. In these circumstances, neither one of the couple can bring a contract claim against the other. If a breach of contract occurs between them, they can either settle it outside of voluntary law, agree on a law to be applied for purposes of the dispute, or leave it unresolved. Selecting any of these three alternatives will not damage their reputations as society members. In contrast, if a dispute involving family law arises, and one fails to comply with the applicable voluntary law to resolve the matter, that person’s reputation will be at risk.

Modularity may be subject to hierarchical relationships within the structure of voluntary law. For example, a prudent person might adopt a rule providing for damages in case of all acts of violence, coercion or fraud, without adopting specific rules in some areas. This will inform others that the person is reasonable, without losing flexibility in specific areas.  General principles such as non-aggression will unavoidably come into conflict with laws imposed by some external source. Even narrower rules may sometimes similarly conflict with external rules. Coexistence therefore entails understanding how such conflicts may be treated under voluntary law.

Nearly every person who exists on Earth is accustomed to being made subject to a plethora of rules imposed by non-voluntary means. So far as voluntary law is concerned, all such rules are merely the proclamations of outlaws; and insofar as voluntary law extends can provide neither the basis for a claim nor a defense against one, without the consent of all parties involved. One cannot make one’s voluntary law identical to a state law by an act of adoption, because states by definition do not require the consent of every person who will be made subject to their laws. A so-called state that requires prior personal, non-coerced consent to every law written is no longer a state, but some kind of voluntary organization. It might even be a voluntary law society. The point is that personal adoption of the law of a state or any other non-voluntary law involves a logical contradiction, and is by definition a mere nullity, an act having no meaning whatsoever. That is not to say that substantive aspect of state laws cannot be borrowed from written precedents and adapted for voluntary purposes. This is to be expected, especially for rules based on old traditions sensitive to human needs. Any involuntary reach of such rules is negated entirely, as soon as the rules are adopted as voluntary laws.

A society member may belong to different voluntary communities that hold to different or even contradictory laws. Such contradictions may be treated as any other rule of outlaws, or publicly adopted within the framework of voluntary law. If conflicting rules are adopted as voluntary laws, the adopter should be careful to limit the scope of at least one of the sets of laws to members of the community in question. Otherwise, it will not be clear which law to apply in any given conflict. Consistent with principles discussed earlier, justice will require that any ambiguity will be construed against the adopter. In practice, this will result in the principle of TROTWET being applied whenever it is unclear which law has been adopted. Unfavorable ambiguity may be avoided by adopting the law only for members of a particular community, presuming it is possible to determine who the members of that particular community are. Even in that case, it may be desirable to specify a general law to apply in cases that do not involve any member of the community, lest some unfavorable law of the community be applied generally. Moreover, the person who adopts the law of a particular voluntary community, if not limited to a concrete text of certain date, is essentially appointing the community as his legislature. Such appointments are always unnecessarily risky, as has been discussed earlier. For these and similar reasons, prudent people might generally avoid adopting conflicting laws of different communities as their voluntary law, or delegating the power of adopting their law to communities that might act unpredictably.

Such caution will not leave the prudent society member without options. Instead, the member may preserve her personal sovereignty while participating fully in communities holding to conflicting rules, by participating in such communities as an outlaw. In other words, the prudent person might agree to abide by laws made in traditional ways by various communities (e.g., clubs, religious organizations, political parties, etc.) but regard these traditional community laws as being outside of their own voluntary law. Similarly, a person might comply with laws or diktats of a coercive government or criminal gang as a matter of expedience, without making compliance a requirement of their own voluntary law.

To avoid conflicts with voluntary law that dealings with outlaws might engender, the society member might agree to waive her rights under voluntary law, to the extent contradicted by the community rules, in exchange to corresponding waivers from all other members of the community. Making this sort of waiver outside of voluntary law insulates the society member from unintended consequences of accepting laws not under her personal control, and may become a popular option for reducing risks of membership in diverse communities. If the outside community does not include any other voluntary law members (i.e., all are outlaws), the waiver is without any meaning, because voluntary law provides no rights against outlaws anyway. In such circumstances, it is likely that no request for waivers would be made. Conversely, if some outlaw community or collective is requesting that a society member waive voluntary law for some limited purpose, this is a sign that voluntary law is alive and well. Such waiver requests indicate that the outlaw community includes among its members other voluntary law members, who fear liability that might otherwise accrue were no waivers given. Waiver requests increase the leverage and influence of voluntary law societies, and are an indication of expanding membership.

As noted, communities consisting entirely of outlaws have no need for waivers and will not request them. Such will be the relationship between the state and any voluntary law societies, at the outset. Outlaws affiliated with the state will make demands of society members, and society members will be unable to make any offsetting claims against the outlaws under voluntary law. Whatever actions the member takes to cope with such demands are entirely outside the province of voluntary law. Thus, no suggestions need be made here. People already cope with such demands, and may continue to do so as they see fit, whether or not they are members of any voluntary law society. But if a member of an outlaw organization is a voluntary law society member, such person may be subject to claims under voluntary law for their actions, even if the action is permitted or required by the law of the outlaw organization. Rule of outlaws cannot directly control outcomes of proceedings under voluntary law, but may influence outcomes in ways that will be discussed below.

Outlaws may ban the adoption of voluntary laws, but such bans obviously have no legal significance within voluntary law. Bans may discourage some from adopting voluntary laws, for those afraid to resist bans against expressing personal codes of honor. Such bans are nakedly totalitarian, however, and directly contrary to state laws protecting free speech. Therefore it may be expected that repression of voluntary law societies would take other, less obviously objectionable forms.

For example, tax collectors may declare that enforcement of voluntary laws requiring privacy in commercial transactions is illegal under state law. This might be enforced, for example, by the tax collector bringing some state-law charge against a voluntary law society member for bringing a claim against another society member based on breach of transactional privacy arising from a report of a private transaction to the tax collector. Such enforcement action by the tax collector would penalize or even criminalize private indemnity agreements. This may seem outlandish, but there is a tangible risk that certain outlaws may try to criminalize privacy or other obligations under voluntary law as instruments of some sort of criminal conspiracy, or on some other basis.

Other examples can easily be imagined, where state actors would certainly bring criminal charges for actions permitted under voluntary law. For example, a death sentence pronounced and executed with utmost probity under voluntary law would be sure to invite criminal charges against many involved, under the law of many states today. Every powerful state can be expected to defend what it claims as its exclusive authority. It is inevitable that some actions that are perfectly legal under voluntary law would subject society members to liability under the law of outlaws. Such persecution by outlaws will vary according to the circumstances under which the voluntary law society exists. Persecution is an external environmental factor, not an inherent aspect of voluntary law itself. Like any other external factor, voluntary law societies are free to adapt to predictable outlawry by adopting laws to deal with it such as make sense under the circumstances.

In a thriving ecosystem of voluntary law, solutions will no doubt be found that are not foreseeable or perhaps even conceivable today. Nonetheless, some productive approaches are not hard to foresee. Every positive duty under voluntary law lies primarily on the person adopting it, so any person who wishes to avoid liability under some state law may adopt a law that excuses compliance with the diktats of outlaws if reasonably necessary for a substantial defensive purpose. For example, an officer of a state agency might adopt a law that excuses herself from liability for lawful conduct under such-and-such agency rules. There are two ways to write such rules, as positive laws or as affirmative defenses. If written as positive law, the limit will exclude the officer from bringing claims against those who do her harm by conduct that that is required under the same external rules. If written as an affirmative defense, the limit will not be effective against a claimant who does not have a corresponding equally strong or stronger shield, under TROTWET.

Accordingly, most such limits would be written as positive laws, if possible.   Is it possible? Consider a voluntary law that authorizes a claim for theft, unless the theft was done in compliance with state law. Is the “unless done in compliance with state law” an affirmative defense, or part of the positive law? Such questions will be decided, if ever, by the voluntary law jurists of the future. To aid them, it is suggested that the distinction be made based on whether or not the rule authorizes a positive claim, even if subject to a limiting circumstance (e.g. that the theft not be in compliance with state law). Under that approach, the example given above is a positive law. Conversely, if every limiting circumstance is treated as an affirmative defense, limits could never be used for protection against those who disavowed them. Some who do not need compliance exceptions might not disavow them, for various reasons. For example, a society member may wish to signal compliance to lessen the risk of state-initiated persecution, to encourage others to adopt voluntary laws, out of admiration for the state rules, to enable use of the limit in claim proceedings, to shift the burden of proof for affirmative defense to the defendant, or for some other reason. It is impossible to predict what balances might be struck. Nonetheless, if every compliance exception were regarded as an affirmative defense, this might tend to discourage adoption of voluntary laws by some. Persons who need the comfort of a limit and are willing to accept it for their own claims, might not dare to adopt the underlying claim as law. This might create unnecessary disincentives for adoption of voluntary laws.

Some may find limits and exceptions based on external rules distasteful, but at least the officers who adopt them are being honest and open about the limits of their liability under voluntary law. Those who do not approve may refuse to do business with them. If a great many people find limits as adopted by our hypothetical officer repugnant, those who adopt such limits will face real pressure to discard them, or lessen their reach.

Moreover, although a limit on liability based on some external set of rules might seem less than satisfactory to somebody who suffers at the officer’s hands, it at least makes the question of compliance with the external rules subject to adjudication in a voluntary law forum. A society member who believes she has suffered harm at the hands of the officer due to actions outside the cited external rules may bring her claim under voluntary law. There the claimant may obtain a different result than could be obtained in the courts of the state. The claimant need only prove the underlying harm (e.g., theft or imprisonment) and that it was not executed in compliance with the applicable external rule. If possible to raise as an affirmative defense, the compliance would be the defendant’s burden to prove. Limits and exceptions based on external laws, like waivers, would be a sign that the scope and influence of voluntary law is increasing. Such limits and exceptions would create tangible incentives for good behavior by the agents or subjects of the state who adopt them. Adoption of such limits and exceptions as voluntary laws would serve to bring compliance with the external laws on which the limits or exceptions are based under the purview of voluntary law, where the processes and precedents of the state courts are not binding.

Bans and prohibitions might be written the other way. For example, a voluntary law might provide that its adopter may bring any proper claim, regardless of whether the underlying actions were required by an external law. In other words, a society member may disavow defenses based on external requirements. However, one member cannot write another’s law. Thus, a rule of “no theft, no exceptions” cannot trump a rule of “no theft, unless authorized by state law” held by another. Analyzed as positive laws, under TROTWET and all other things being equal, the “no theft, unless authorized by state law” is the weaker tool. Thus, the one holding the “no exceptions” rule could not enforce it against the person who preferred an exception. If all other things were not equal, for example if the “no theft, unless authorized by state law” called for heavier penalties, it would still be the weaker tool if applying the other rule results in less liability under the facts of the case. Determination of the weaker tool should always be done in light of the facts at hand.

If “no exceptions” and “unless authorized by state law” are analyzed as affirmative defenses, under TROTWET it might seem that “no exceptions” is the weaker shield and should be applied. However, “no exceptions” is not a shield; it provides no defense. Instead, it is the negation of a shield. It should therefore be disregarded. This leaves no shield. As between a shield and no shield, no shield is weaker. Therefore a simple “no theft” rule with no affirmative defense deprives one who holds to “authorized by state law” as an affirmative defense, as noted a few paragraphs earlier.

Many laws would always be accompanied by an affirmative defense. For example, self-defense might usually be recognized as an affirmative defense to murder. So it might not be unusual to see a law such as “no murder, except if necessary for self-defense” facing a law such as “no murder, except if necessary for self-defense or authorized by the state.” The latter law might be held by executioners working for the state, for example. If a society member holding the first law brings a claim of murder against the executioner (who surprisingly, is also a society member) for a state-authorized execution, the claim prevails only if the exceptions are analyzed as affirmative defenses. As written above, both appear as affirmative defenses. If the second law is written as “no murder that is not authorized by the state, unless necessary for self-defense,” the exception to state authority might be regarded as part of the positive law. To provide greater certainty on the issue of positive law vs. affirmative defenses, the executioner could adopt different types of claims based on death of a victim. For example, the executioner might adopt both “murder without authorization of state law” and “murder with authorization of state law.” The executioner might then adopt much lighter penalties for the latter offense. Both of these claims are clearly positive laws, but only the latter could be proved against the executioner for an execution authorized by state law. Making the latter claim would not place any great burden of proof on the claimant. The executioner would surely stipulate that the execution was authorized by state law, to avoid the charge with heavier penalties.

These hypotheticals lead to a few basic conclusions. Perhaps foremost is the observation that voluntary law can be practiced in conjunction with external legal systems, without sacrificing the independence of the voluntary legal system or breaking its underlying principles. In some cases, society members might adopt rules of voluntary organizations for limited or general purposes, but more frequently, rules of voluntary organizations would likely lie outside the scope of voluntary law. Rules of non-voluntary organizations must lie outside of voluntary law, by definition.   Even those under bondage to a non-voluntary authority may participate in voluntary law under terms that lessen conflicts between the demands of their bondage and that of their voluntary law. Those under bondage would seek to build exceptions for acts required by their bondage into their positive laws. Exceptions cast as affirmative defenses, however, would be useless except against claimants who also adopt them. Either way, such exceptions would bring compliance with state law under the purview of the voluntary legal system, in some cases. The converse is not true.   Any person not in bondage would have little reason to adopt laws that condemn exceptions to voluntary laws based on state authority. Free people are better served by simpler laws.

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Photo Credit to Raymond Zoller

Some rights reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License

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Enforcement, Introduction To Voluntary Law (Book)

Enforcement of Judgments

“Enforcement,” broadly speaking, means the act of compelling compliance or obedience to some law, rule, or obligation. In voluntary law, just enforcement means compelling a person to comply with their own law, subject to due process of law. It means carrying out the sentence that the defendant has already declared appropriate for the proven offense, and nothing more. There are no predetermined limits how enforcement of a valid judgment may be accomplished. Any effective technique that is not contrary to the defendant’s law can be used. There is no central enforcement authority to control enforcers, or to protect them from claims of malpractice.

The lack of central enforcement authority does not mean that there are no practical limits on how law may be enforced. On the contrary, because enforcement powers are not vested in a privileged class and may be exercised by any willing person, the radical democracy of free communities operating according to principles of voluntary law will develop ruthlessly efficient mechanisms for preventing socially unacceptable forms of enforcement, while enabling the swiftest possible justice in almost every case.

To prove this point, little more is needed than observing that for enforcement to be legitimate under voluntary law, it must by definition comply with the voluntary law of the person enforced against. If an enforcement action breaks the applicable voluntary law, either a remedy exists under voluntary law for improper enforcement, or the transgression is the act of an outlaw who claims no protection under voluntary law. Socially unacceptable enforcement will be widely condemned, and against the law of most people. Widely condemned forms of enforcement can be used without consequences under voluntary law only against those who by their choice of law have made no objection to them, or against outlaws.

To bolster the point, it may be observed that voluntary law requires a significant community of persons to be effective and enforceable. Absent any such community, voluntary law and its enforcement are merely rules without practical significance. Enforceability of voluntary law is not a static value, but increases with the size and influence of the community voluntarily subscribing to it. If a sufficiently significant community exists, provable non-compliance with voluntary law in the obtaining or enforcement of a judgment, whether by claimants, defendants, jurists, or enforcers will have consequences. Such noncompliance is tantamount to hypocrisy, to a refusal to comply with one’s own chosen law. Status as a hypocrite or fool is uniquely fatal to personal reputation. In severe or pervasive cases, the offender will be ostracized and deprived of opportunities to do any business with community members from a position of trust. Deprivation of reputation will truly sting.

There is no need to wonder how voluntary law will operate in the absence of community in which everyone’s personal reputation matters. Community is a precondition to operation of voluntary law, just as opposing teams, a ball, and a playing field are preconditions to operation of the game of football. Accordingly, it must always be assumed that enforcement of voluntary law occurs in a community of persons who adhere to voluntary law and are generally aware of how the law is being broken and enforced. In short, it must be assumed that reputation matters.

In view of the necessary assumption, it follows that enforcement must be performed in compliance with a valid judgment of a neutral jurist, or the act may cause the enforcer to be liable to the person enforced against. In essence, enforcement is an aspect of due process. So long as an enforcer follows the applicable due process rules and faithfully executes the judgment, performance of the service enhances her reputation and protects her from liability. If she ignores due process requirements, she puts herself at risk of a claim for damages and loss of reputation. Any person subject to voluntary law will therefore be well motivated to check that the judgment they have been asked to enforce is validly obtained and granted. In addition, such enforcer will be careful to exercise compulsion only to the extent permissible by the applicable voluntary law. For example, if the applicable substantive law does not permit a death penalty, the enforcer is not permitted to kill, nor would any valid judgment require an execution.

If an outlaw is hired to enforce a judgment, the outlaw has no enforceable liability under voluntary law, whether or not the judgment is valid. Instead, liability falls to the society member who has hired the outlaw. In addition, action may be taken against the outlaw outside of voluntary law. For example, suppose a claimant obtains a money judgment but the defendant lives in a place where a state government claims a monopoly on the power to place liens or levy accounts. The defendant refuses to pay the judgment regardless of the claimant’s entreaties, takes no steps to have the judgment overturned, and displays no concern about loss of reputation. As it happens, the jurist who hears the case is also a state-licensed arbitrator, and arranges the voluntary law judgment in a form that complies with state requirements for an arbitral award. The claimant therefore registers the award and obtains a state-enforceable judgment. She enforces the judgment by recording a lien against real property held by the defendant. If the recordation of the lien violates voluntary law, recourse under voluntary law is against the claimant who recorded it, not against the state for facilitating the recordation of the lien. Similarly, if the claimant hires an ordinary thug who is not a society member to beat up the defendant for non-payment of the judgment, there is no recourse against the thug under voluntary law, and only against the claimant who directed the thug to do violence. Other recourse may be taken against the state or against the thuggish outlaw, outside the province of voluntary law.

These examples illustrate why, at least for serious cases, most claimants will chose to hire professional enforcement help from a fellow society member. A professional enforcer will be more familiar with the applicable rules and better prepared to defend against malpractice claims. More importantly, the employment of a society member to handle the enforcement will shield the claimant from most enforcement liability, save perhaps for negligent hiring of an incompetent enforcer.

A professional enforcement system comprised of voluntary law society members can be funded by the offenders. To enable such funding, most offenses will carry a monetary penalty of some kind in restoration of the injury, even if some other penalty is also applicable. Whatever the form of penalty assessed, reasonable costs of obtaining a judgment and enforcing it may be added to the judgment. The amount of reasonable costs may be estimated in view of prevailing market conditions for cases of the type at hand, and assessed proactively or retrospectively by the jurist. Essentially, the offender may be required to pay for the police, the judge, and the lawyers on both sides. Although competent professional services are seldom cheap, costs should be more competitive than in monopoly systems.

Voluntary law therefore in no way disadvantages the poor claimant. On the contrary, a claim-funded open enforcement system creates incentives for vigorous enforcement against wealthy society members in proportion to the magnitude of their offense. It might seem, however, to advantage the poor defendant, and create incentives for poverty. Who would deign to enforce a judgment against somebody with no money, and no property? To the extent this is true, it is no worse than civil remedies in any other justice system. Instead, a social benefit is provided in that no class of taxpayers exists to be forced to pay for enforcement of costly criminal penalties against poor defendants, such as bare imprisonment.

There is no real distinction between criminal and civil law under voluntary law, which provides no state or other privileged lawmaker to discriminate between criminal and non-criminal harms by diktat. Instead, “crime” in voluntary law societies might come to refer to irrational, wanton acts of destruction, or merely to intentional harms; or the term may fall out of use entirely. For the most heinous crimes, provided the defendant’s law allows a penalty of death or bodily injury, we may expect enforcement to be funded if not carried out by the claimant’s family and friends, or perhaps by sadists who relish the opportunity for legally sanctioned hunting of humans. Prolonged criminal penalties such as imprisonment, however, would be lacking. It is not possible under voluntary law to tax your neighbors to fund a prison for those who have wronged you, based on some theory of social benefit. Community-funded prisons are not forbidden, so long as the funding is voluntarily obtained, but there are good reasons to think such prisons would almost never exist in any form that resembles prisons as we know them today. Prisons are not generally economical. It is more economical to simply exclude outlaws and persons of irredeemably ill repute from the benefits of community.

For imprisonment to exist under voluntary law it must be permitted by the defendant’s law. What poor defendant would adopt a law with such penalties? Poor people would certainly adopt voluntary law to the extent they desired to do commerce with society members, but absent such incentives they would be outlaws. If outlaws, they may be imprisoned by any person with the power and desire to do so, although exclusion would be the more usual remedy. If by adopting a voluntary law that provides for monetary payment instead of imprisonment a poor person can avoid the threat of prison or exclusion, there is no reason not to adopt a reasonable law. Nor would a poor person chose a law with no penalties. By virtue of poverty, a poor person stands to gain more from penalties than to lose, and would not want to forfeit opportunities to recover if wronged by someone wealthy. Therefore poor persons who are rational and aware, or merely well-counselled, would chose reasonable laws allowing for monetary judgments for most ordinary offenses, perhaps in reasonable proportion to wealth or earning capacity.

In a robust and diverse voluntary law society, some members might adopt laws that essentially allow them a lifestyle as transient opportunistic thieves, within specified limits. For example, such persons may adopt laws that permit the taking of surplus, unattended or discarded food or clothing without penalty, and camping in empty spaces, so long as done without violence, in the absence of a reasonable alternative under the circumstances, and not in excess of personal necessity. Even more affluent persons may adopt such laws, as a sort of fallback position in case of sudden unexpected penury, even if temporary. Legalized thievery beyond basic personal necessities will not generally exist, because such rules will serve no useful purpose for the thief. Adopting law that provides no penalty for theft in general would announce the thief’s vile intentions to the community, and make it much harder for the thief to retain possession of, or obtain any benefit from, his stolen property. A professional thief will more likely try to play the role of a principled outlaw (e.g., a servant of the state only), hoping to fool some of the people some of the time.

Judgments against impoverished society members would not be without value. A poor person unable to pay a judgment would suffer damage to their reputation. If the poor person values their reputation and desires to be a productive member of society, this creates a sort of profit opportunity for any intermediary who is able to arrange an earn-out. Prisons would be replaced by intermediaries who are able to supervise and motivate the earning of income without violating the law of the convicts under their supervision. The convicts would pay a percentage to their victims and another percentage to intermediaries, until earning out the debt. A poor member of a voluntary law society finding themselves on the losing side of a claim has essentially two options: agree to some sort of earn-out, or sacrifice her reputation indefinitely. Naturally reputation must have considerable value to the defendant, or the debt will go unpaid. As noted above, it must be assumed that reputation matters, or voluntary law becomes unenforceable.

There will be contexts where reputation matters much and contexts where reputation is of little concern. This fact does not make voluntary law societies any less valid than other legal systems. State-based enforcement to any just degree also depends on preconditions, such as non-corrupt and well-funded judicial and enforcement systems, which are often absent. Moreover, it might be questioned whether merely punitive systems that do not tend to repair the harm done by the perpetrator or enable their rehabilitation are consistent with justice at all.

The question for those who would promote voluntary law and make its enforcement possible is simple: how to make reputation matter more, and in more contexts. It should be apparent that there are many possible answers to this question, many of which may be implemented gradually. A few specific strategies will be suggested later. For now, suffice it to say that critical precursors for development of reputation-based enforcement systems include the development of a community (or communities) that have effective control over desired resources, and a robust record-keeping system tied to secure personal identities. Neither of these precursors is out of reach. In fact, private reputation and identity tracking systems are already commonplace in narrow contexts such as creditworthiness, online selling, and social groups. When developed fully and extended to general applicability, a reputation-based system will more efficiently and justly deter pathological conduct than the blunt instruments of imprisonment or threat of execution. The essence of law enforcement is a system for discovery and development of personal reputation within a community, and voluntary law is designed to facilitate this essence.

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Photo from Nicholas Raymond at freestock.ca, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

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