To read this article, please navigate to my Medium channel, Blockchain Faith.
It is not in the least bit presumptuous to design a new legal system based in personal self-sovereignty and mutual benefit, for peacefully out-competing and thus, replacing all legal systems based in privilege and oppression. There is no presumption being made about the future. The future of a chaotic system is unpredictable, because the granularity of knowledge about the system’s present state is always coarser than the granularity of the differences that can lead to divergent outcomes. In other words, we can never know perfectly where we are going, because we can never know perfectly where we are. Certainly, human society is a chaotic system, full of uncertainty and tumult. We can design the new legal system to fulfill all our design objectives given all factors we know of, but cannot know whether, or how, the design will be implemented.
What we strive for is the most optimal design, given what we know, without any presumption of destiny. In that spirit of optimizing the design, we propose phrasing voluntary laws in accordance with their intended effect. That is, as personal promises to accept a certain consequence “B” in the event one commits a certain act “A.” So for example “The penalty for a slap in the face shall be two counter-slaps” becomes, in promise-based law:”If I slap you in the face, I promise I will let you slap me back twice, unless my slap was justified by proportional self-defense.” This is a silly example, of course, but illustrates the point: voluntary laws are essentially socially directed, personally made promises to other society members. For example, some voluntary laws are social promises to provide no less than a specified remedy for specified wrongs, subject to certain defenses. Application of TROTWET ensures that voluntary laws are in fact social promises. It is helpful to the people who must understand and implement their own laws, if the laws are phrased in a way that more naturally aligns with their ordinary meaning, and does not obviously implicate revolutionary consequences.
This is the thinking behind VLDA’s pivot to “social promises” and “social promise societies” as better terminology for engaging the general public. “Voluntary law,” with its revolutionary overtones, will not be discarded, but reserved mainly for the smoky back rooms where the socially aware exchange ideas, such as places like this blog. And perhaps for discussing reforms in state laws.
* * *
Image credit to Robbi Robbins (Brilliant Hues)
Some Rights Reserved under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
I’ve been away for a while, and starting to feel like I owe my cherished readers an explanation for the long pause in new posts. All is well with me, and the pause does not indicate any waning of enthusiasm for the principles written about here for the past few years. Besides the usual friffage of fascist toil and family life, I’ve been busier than usual with political activism. That is a topic for another day.
There been no lassitude. I’ve been busy finishing up my book, “An Introduction To Voluntary Law.” I’ve reorganized it, written more than a dozen new chapters, and edited some of the chapters already posted here. It’s coming together very nicely, and I hope will be ready for publishing early next year. Finishing the book is not just an arbitrary goal. It is a closing of the philosophical circle. There is a vision, an analysis, a plan – quite a bit more than I’ve already published here. My statement of introduction to a new type of law, and a new type of hope, is nearly complete.
Plans are in the works to set up a registered non-profit, to obtain funding for carrying the mission of the Voluntary Law Development Association to the next phase. The new entity will be a non-profit, public benefit educational institute for development of voluntary law, for instruction and certification of voluntary law society members for various roles, and for empirical research in the science and practice of voluntary law. Next year and beyond will be occupied with developing the resources, human and financial, for carrying out these missions.
The website vlda.org will be revamped too. With publication of the book, there will be less need to lay out the basic principles in detail on a website. The site will evolve more towards a news hub for the few people interested in my personal thoughts and doings in the area of voluntary law. While the purpose of vlda.org will diminish, the amount of online content and instruction in voluntary law will increase, under the new educational institute.
Among the colleges of the new Institute, a College of Social Engineering will begin its founding project: configuring the network tools that will enable the world’s first online social promise society. Every voluntary law is a social promise, and nothing more, and every social promise society will be a voluntary law society as I’ve been writing about here. We won’t call social promises “laws,” because people have forgotten what law is, and the term confuses hearts and minds. In the end, real and functioning social promise societies will teach people that social promises are the only laws worth following. And that only laws worth following are actually “laws.” A great deal of what people call the law today will be finally recognized and rejected as barbaric, destructive diktats.
All that explains the pause. See you on the other side.
Legally recognized fictional entities, as we know them today, are creations of state laws. These entities exist in two basic forms: personal and collective. Personal fictional entities are alter-egos of a natural person. For example, a business owner may provide a fictional identity for one or more businesses she owns and controls. Each business may be given a separate name, bank accounts, and financial records. Depending on the status of registration of the fictional entity with state authorities and its compliance with state regulation, the owner or owners of the fictional entity may be protected from liability for non-criminal acts attributed to the fictional entity. When the fictional entity has more than one owner, it is a collective entity.
In general, fictional entities can be justified for their supposedly socially beneficial purposes, including (for example) encouraging passive investment in collective enterprises, development of business enterprises as transferable assets, providing collective redress for harms committed by agents of the collective, and many other purposes. This post does not concern state-created fictional entities, and therefore will not spend words considering the merits or detriments of such beasts. The topic at hand is recognition and treatment of fictional entities under voluntary law. Debating the merits of generic collective entities under voluntary law is pointless for any political purpose, because nobody will be forced to recognize a form of collective against their will. We might expect, however, that the merits of particular collectives or legal forms for collectives might be hotly debated in voluntary law societies.
Fundamentally, in a stateless legal system based on personal sovereignty, the legal effect of the fictional entity depends on its recognition under the laws of each person encountering it. With its characteristic infinite adaptability, voluntary law can provide for recognition of any form of fictional entity, and any rules for treatment of such entities. Recognition cannot be forced on those who do not hold to those laws under which the recognition is granted. However, social pressure to recognize certain forms of fictional entities may arise. For example, laws enabling socially adept collectives will tend to be favored, creating social pressure for recognition of those laws. Indeed, we might think of states as the result of a sometimes violently aggressive social process for recognition of a fictional collective entity: namely, the state in its various forms. But under voluntary law, social pressure is rooted in personal sovereignty and non-aggression, whereas state-sanctioned pressure is aggressive by nature of being rooted in the concept of state sovereignty over a territory.
Given that social pressure for recognizing collective entities can arise under voluntary law, what forms of voluntary law will provide for the most vigorous forms of collectives, capable of encouraging widespread adoption of those forms? Will it be the corporate form, similar to that recognized by states? Only time will tell, but there are reasons to think that the prevalent form will differ from statist corporate laws in some fundamental respects, most obviously in matters of taxation or tolls, determination of liability for corporate action, and assertion of collective property rights. In other respects, collectives operating solely within voluntary law societies might (or might not) resemble corporations and other collectives based in state law. For example, such entities may have officers, employees, and shareholders, and shares of some types of collectives might be traded in open markets similar to stock exchanges. Or not; these collectives can be organized in any useful way that a group of people is capable of agreeing to.
Before speculating about the future of collective entities, some fundamental matters need to be considered. Personal sovereignty of natural persons is at the root of voluntary law. By definition, a fictional entity is not a natural person, and thus, cannot possess the sovereign power to make its own law. Any system in which a fictional entity is granted lawmaking power as if it were a natural person falls squarely outside of the bounds of voluntary law, by definition. The grant of lawmaking power to fictional entities is well-known in other systems, including all systems that rest primarily on dominion over a territory (empires, republics, democracies, city-states, etc.). States are themselves the premier example of such fictional entities, abrogating for themselves the power to make law in a territory. But no fictional entity can ever possess the legal status of a natural person under voluntary law, by definition. Every natural person can have but one natural identity.
Some natural persons may, nonetheless, prefer to adopt different identities for different purposes, even within voluntary law societies. For example, different identities may be desired for convenience in dealing with disparate groups of people, or because the presence of split personalities in the same person makes the maintenance of a single identity impractical.
Let us presume that different identities can, in some cases, be adopted and used legitimately without fraud. Whatever the motivation for adopting the different identities, each of the multiple identities is necessarily tied to the same natural person. Because we have assumed a lack of fraud, it follows that whenever a dispute involving the natural person arises, the multiple identities and the respective laws adopted by those entities will be known to all parties involved. If the natural person has adopted conflicting laws, under TROTWET the least advantageous one of these laws will be the one used for resolution of the dispute at hand. Any other approach would allow disputants to pick and choose from alternative laws to apply to different disputes, turning voluntary law into a useless game of words. If voluntary law is to have any social utility, the rule of “weakest law” for each natural person (or something like it) must be enforced. This means that although a person may adopt any number of laws and identities, only the weakest one of their adopted laws will be considered in the circumstances of any particular dispute. Each person can be allowed only one controlling law, in any given circumstance — unless, of course, all parties to a dispute consent to the application of some law other than the one determined to be the weakest.
When a fictional entity is merely an alter ego of a single natural person, TROTWET works well as the prevailing rule and should suffice for regulatory purposes. However, many collective entities exist that are not under the control of a single person, being regulated by some structure of rights distributed among members or shareholders, for example. Collective fictional entities cannot be equated to natural persons, so how could they have legal status under voluntary law? There are infinite possibilities, limited only by the imagination of any two or more natural people who adopt their own laws, and the jurists who may mediate disputes between such persons. That said, even at this early stage, certain general possibilities are clear.
One possibility is recognition by contract. Suppose a natural person “Steve” organizes a collective “Peach” to develop and sell quantum computers and subspace communicators. The rights and responsibilities of “Peach” can be defined by contract between any two or more persons, and may vary depending on context. For example, two people who have adopted a compatible form of contract law can execute an enforceable written agreement in which one person is an officer of the fictional entity “Peach” and the other is a stakeholder of one type or another, for example, an independent contractor, investor, supplier, or customer. Both the officer and the stakeholder agree to treat “Peach” as if it were a person in the event of any dispute arising under the agreement. Naturally, the agreement will also include a choice of law clause to eliminate uncertainty by the law under which the agreement will be interpreted, and other provisions for dispute resolution. The choice of law may also specify a form of governance for the entity. Thus, for purposes of disputes arising under the agreement, and only for such purposes, the entity “Peach” can readily be accorded a status that is equivalent to that of person by those who have voluntarily agreed to do so. If the contract somehow lacks a choice of law provision, its legal effect can be evaluated under TROTWET, based on the laws of the natural persons who have executed it.
Another possibility is recognition of fictional entities by adoption of law. This may be used instead of, or in conjunction with, recognition by contract. Such voluntary laws may take various forms. For example, a law may state that the natural person adopting the law will recognize the legal status of any fictional entity that is currently certified as complying with a specified set of standards for personal and/or collective fictional entities. The law may also specify the certifying agency, or a class of acceptable certifying agencies. There is nothing to prevent a voluntary law from referencing a state law regarding fictional entities. For example, a person is not prohibited from adopting a law that recognizes all legal entities in good standing with the California Secretary of State, for purposes of the person who adopts the law only. It might sometimes be convenient for people to adopt laws that grant recognition to state-created entities. Such recognition enables the entity to resolve disputes with the grantor under voluntary law. Under some circumstances (e.g. in societies gradually transitioning to voluntary law), state-sanctioned entities might be eager to receive such recognition, for example to increase their customer base and avoid unnecessarily expensive legal process, without running afoul of state requirements for collective entities.
To avoid uncertainty regarding choice of law, personal recognition of a class of fictional entities could, and probably would, be accompanied by a choice of law provision. For example, a person’s law might limit recognition to entities that agree to settle disputes under some particular statement of voluntary law. Without such a clause in the voluntary law that provided recognition to the fictional entity, the recognition would be meaningless. Status as a person within voluntary law society requires, by definition, that the person has adopted a law applicable to the dispute at hand. Fictional entities cannot adopt laws, not being natural persons. Therefore, to be accorded legal status under voluntary law, the applicable law of the fictional entity must be defined by each natural person who chooses to recognize that entity. When a dispute between the fictional entity and a voluntary law society member arises, the fictional entity could agree to resolve the dispute according to the society member’s law. If that option was not acceptable, and it could not negotiate some other settlement of the matter, the fictional collective entity could forgo legal recognition under voluntary law in the matter. This would essentially remove any “corporate shield” erected to protect the property of the entity’s members. In general, the legal rights of collective fictional entities under voluntary law are subject to the laws of those they come in dispute with, without any restraint from operation of TROTWET.
Naturally, some voluntary law society members would choose to not recognize collective entities. Others, unrestrained by TROTWET, might recognize collective entities subject to unacceptably onerous liability laws. Therefore, it is inevitable that certain collective entities would not be recognized under voluntary law, even if voluntary law is widely adopted. This would have consequences for members or agents of the collective who possess reputations under voluntary law. To preserve those reputations, such persons might need to subject themselves to legal process under voluntary law even in cases where they are not directly responsible for the underlying harm. It will therefore often be necessary to determine whether or not, and to what extent, particular members of a collective are liable for harms committed by other members of the same collective.
If the collective is not legally recognized, the voluntary law to be applied by the jurist must boil down to determining the law applicable between the claimant and defendant, as two natural persons who have both adopted voluntary law. Whether or not a member of a collective is responsible for actions of another member therefore becomes a function of the member’s law and that of the person bringing the claim, under conflict of law rules such as TROTWET. Each member of the collective is free to choose his own law regarding “agency,” meaning the circumstances when one becomes legally responsible for the actions of another. Each can limit liability for actions by other members of the collective by adopting a suitable law regarding agency. But limitations that are too severe will likewise severely limit ability of those who hold to the limitations to recover from others. To provide reasonable recourse from harm by collectives, conspiracies or other agencies, most people will therefore adopt laws that permit “joint and several” recovery for harms against each and every member of a group of people (including both principals and their agents) that have caused the harm. “Joint and several” means that each person in any way responsible for the harm can be held fully accountable to pay for the entire harm. Without laws providing for joint and several liability, it would be trivial for collectives and conspiracies to exercise coercion without effective recourse.
For example, suppose a collective “Evil, Inc.” wishes to harm another while shielding all of its principals from liability under voluntary law. Each of Evil, Inc.’s principals (e.g., controlling shareholders and officers) could renounce joint and several liability, such as by limiting liability to direct actions only. Then, Evil, Inc. could hire a special agent (who could be an outlaw, or a society member with lax laws) to perform the heinous deeds desired by the principals, for example, dumping hazardous waste to avoid costs of proper disposal. Under TROTWET, principals of Evil, Inc. who did not personally direct the agent could not be held accountable for the actions of the special agent under voluntary law, even if they had tacitly approved the action. Actions for recovery would be limited to proportional recovery from the agents and their direct supervisors, one or all of which might be outlaws, or relatively poor; thus would legal redress be frustrated. A small fraction of the legal damages might be paid, if at all; while the beneficiaries of Evil’s conduct would not suffer any legal consequences. However, these beneficiaries would not enjoy tranquility for long. If the harm was serious enough, another collective such as “Revenge, Inc.”, will step in to exact revenge. Principals with overly lax laws regarding liability for actions of their agents will make tempting victims for the same treatment by others. For example, the executives of Evil, Inc. might find hazardous waste being dumped on their own properties by agents of Revenge. Thus, to avoid being victimized by the agents of their adversaries, principals would adopt reasonable laws regarding agency liability. Such laws could take various different forms, but would generally make principals jointly and severally liable for actions of agents made to further the principal’s interests. The agents would of course also be liable for their actions, and to protect themselves might demand indemnity from the principals, before accepting their offer of employment. Thus, liability for collective or other agency action can naturally be imbued by social pressure and enforcement of principles against hypocrisy, such as TROTWET, just as can liability for any other anti-social or destructive behavior.
Property can be held in the name of a collective entity, with the legal effect depending on the law of the person making a claim on the property. If the claimant recognizes the collective entity, and if this recognition is not contested by any representative of the entity, then the property can be used to satisfy a judgment under voluntary law, or as the basis for a counter claim by the entity. If the claimant does not recognize the entity or its recognition is not accepted, then the property can be reached only indirectly as an asset of a member of the collective, and cannot be used as the basis for a counter claim. For example, if Ted does not recognize PollutCo, and PollutCo’s agents and officers do Ted some harm, Ted can sue the agents and officers if they hold to voluntary law. If Ted wins a judgment, it can be satisfied from the assets of the agents and officers named in the suit. However the jurist may consider the money held in the name of PollutCo to be effectively owned by the defendants, because PollutCo is merely an unrecognized fiction in the case at hand. So if the employees and officers do not pay, the jurist may order that a lien be attached to the PollutCo’s accounts until the judgment is satisfied. This lien would not, of course be recorded in state records or enforced by state sheriffs, if a state exists and has registered PollutCo. It would be recorded by a private recorder of voluntary law liens, and enforced by a contingent-fee peace officer, a.k.a a “bounty hunter.”
Conversely, PolluteCo cannot make voluntary law claims against anyone that does not recognize it as a legal entity, because it has no inherent status under voluntary law except as a fiction. For example, it cannot assert property rights against those who do not recognize it as a legal entity. Accordingly, PolluteCo might protect property by appointing a natural agent (or agents) to hold it in trust for the benefit of PolluteCo. Each of these agents would, by contract and/or adoption of law, recognize PolluteCo as a legal entity and grant it certain rights related to the property, under a license or other agreement. Each of the agents would also adopt a form of property law that that is perceived as mutually beneficial by the pertinent executive of PolluteCo and by the agent. All legal enforcement of PolluteCo’s property rights would be done by the applicable agent, under that agent’s chosen voluntary law. The benefit of any judgements received would flow to PolluteCo by virtue of the trust agreement with the agent.
Just as natural persons can recognize fictional entities, can fictional entities recognize each other under a sort of quasi-voluntary law? Not without being under a legal system other than voluntary law. Law making by fictional entities belongs to another class of legal systems that includes law making by territorial-based fictional entities (namely states), and law making by property-based fictional entities (for example, by private defense/justice collectives under anarcho-capitalism). It may be convenient for fictional entities to deal with one another as if each were a sovereign natural person or subject to some higher authority that governs collective entities only. Therefore, even in a society otherwise wholly under voluntary law, we may expect disparate classes of legal systems to co-exist for indefinitely long periods of time. In a state of healthy coexistence, each legal system would be restricted to its natural and proper domain: voluntary law to legal issues involving one or more natural persons, and fictional law to issues exclusively involving fictional entities. Laws from one system might influence laws in another, but would not be directly applicable in alien domains. Laws covering fictional collectives might fall into two general classes: collective-voluntary law, in which each collective is sovereign and adopts its own laws effective against other collectives under a conflict-of-laws regime such as TROTWET, and collective-delegated law, in which associations of collective entities delegate sovereignty over law making for the entire association to a special collective.
Modern corporate governments, such as the United States, may be precursors of collective-delegated systems compatible with voluntary law society. If the United States were to recognize personal sovereignty as supreme, and rewrite its laws to govern participating collective entities only, it could persist indefinitely with voluntary law and collective-voluntary law systems, without any tension or clash between competing areas of sovereignty. Naturally, that is a big “if.” Yet, if the mass of its citizenry were willing to govern themselves as individual sovereigns, there can be little doubt that institutions of the old empire such as remained useful for organizing collective entities would seek to play the role of sovereign over the collective fictions that remained outside the sphere of voluntary law. If these vestigial agencies hold to the non-aggression principle (as would likely be the case if they recognized the supremacy of personal sovereignty and most individuals practiced voluntary law) they will compete for this sovereign role against more loosely-organized communities of fictional entities organized under a collective-voluntary law system. It may be that some social functions requiring collective laws are better served by one class of collective law or the other, so perhaps both classes could co-exist. This coexistence of voluntary law, collective-voluntary law, and collective-delegated law will be able to accommodate highly complex legal and social situations no doubt worthy of an entire branch of study, while always preserving the sovereignty of the individual against that of the collective. Individuals would be safely beyond the reach of coercive collective power, but collective social power would not be extinguished. Legal process would come in two fundamental flavors: individual versus individual, and collective versus collective. This blog focuses mainly on voluntary law, which is concerned principally with processes exclusively involving individual sovereigns.
Nonetheless, legal process between an individual and a collective could also occur under voluntary law, by mutual consent. Whenever a voluntary law society member decides to recognize a fictional entity by adoption of law, whether or not the fictional entity is also recognized by a state or by some other legal system by and for fictional legal entities, there is a possibility of an individual versus collective process. For the recognition of the collective to have practical effect, it must be agreed to by a managing principal of the fictional entity, either by preexisting agreement or by agreement at the time a dispute arises. Such an agreement may be made whenever the voluntary law member and the managing principal of the fictional entity both believe the agreement confers some advantage. For example, the managing principal might believe that participation in voluntary law provides improved public relations and more efficient legal process. A voluntary law member might also benefit from the more efficient legal process, and might believe that the voluntary law provides more just and socially beneficial outcomes than possible under state law. To a state regulator of fictional entities, voluntary law appears as merely another tool for dispute resolution, akin to private mediation and arbitration. The use of voluntary law by collective entities might find political opposition from state-licensed lawyers or other government-assisted legal cartels threatened by private dispute resolution beyond the reach of their monopolies. Such resistance would merely reflect political opposition to changes in the status quo, and not any fundamental shortcoming in dispute resolution under voluntary law. If voluntary law is to become widespread, it will certainly be accommodated by collective entities of all types, both state-recognized and not.
Accommodation of voluntary law by collective entities will depend on recognition of the collective entity by each individual of the multitudes who will practice voluntary law. Just as in other areas, social pressure can be brought to bear on collectives by the individual choices of society members in their adoption of law. It is impossible to predict exactly how collective entities might evolve, or what they might become, under this social pressure. For now, we can foresee some exciting possibilities, such as corporations and cooperatives competing for recognition from individual society members by developing and promoting more sensible and popular laws. The most successful collectives would attract the most members and supporters, and would thrive, displacing older forms based on political coercion. We can foresee systems for social cooperation in which equal rights, individual liberty, efficient division of labor, and complex massive collective projects can all thrive together, without any coercive taxation or regulation. We can foresee many diverse types of collective organizations coexisting and enabling very different lifestyles to be lived, side by side. We can foresee the end of wasteful paperwork and legal machinations to avoid paying taxes or to comply with regulations motivated by powerful special interests. We can foresee the end of cartels, corporate welfare, and other special privileges that enable the few to claim ownership or control over the many, by gradual abolition of the monopoly at the root of those evils.
Insisting on the sole sovereignty of the natural person will not disable collective entities, or banish them from voluntary societies. Quite the contrary. It is this true democracy, this rule by every person over herself under law published to all, which will free the collective to take on amazing new forms and accomplish unimaginably great and more perfectly moral things.
* * *
Photo “Headless Sightings Exhibit V” Credit To Krocky Meshkin
Some Rights Reserved (Photo) under Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
If you’ve read “The Nut” or other parts of this book and find it a bit impractical, you might be more of a practical sort than a philosophical sort of person. This book is not written for practical folks, because voluntary law is not yet a practical reality. It is still in a very early development stage, and may remain in development for a great many years. In fact, it may never be developed; only time will tell. Many thousands if not millions of person-hours of human labor will be necessary to bring voluntary law into the mainstream, fully developed and ready for widespread use by practical people.
This introductory book wrestles with fundamental moral and economic questions raised by restructuring of society and law based on principles of individual sovereignty and equality. It’s about the unglamorous work of digging the foundations for a new social order. It is a book for dreamers and peaceful revolutionaries. It is written for the most impractical of all people: those who believe that is possible to engineer fundamental changes in how human society is organized, using tools of purely non-coercive persuasion. It’s written for nutty people. Most people are not nutty, most of the time. But everybody can be a little nutty, at least once in a while.
If you are one of those usually-not-nutty people, this chapter is for you. It will suggest a few practical things for you to think about. After that, you can put this book down, at least until you are “in the mood for nutty.” Not everybody has the time or inclination to change the world, but at least after reading this chapter, you will have a sense of some of the practical goals that the dreamers and revolutionaries aim to achieve. If you think those goals are worthwhile, perhaps you will make your own practical contribution to making them a reality, without worrying too much about all the philosophical stuff. Nobody can really know how far any of these ideas will go, but one of the neat aspects of voluntary law is its power to have a positive impact on human society, even if only practiced in the most limited possible way.
Once put into practice, the concepts in this book will provide practical products and services to improve the quality of all human life. For instance, the problem-solving club — another name for a voluntary law society. Imagine you can join a club that provides you with big discounts on your insurance and legal bills. Membership in the club not only saves you a lot of money; it also makes resolution of serious disputes with other club members much faster. For example, complex divorces and business disputes are handled in a matter of weeks instead of years, for a small fraction of the cost of a lawsuit. Now imagine that membership in the club is free. To join, all you have to do is to agree that you will resolve all your disputes with other members of the club according to a relatively simple, easy-to-understand rule book that can never be changed without your consent, and make your agreement a matter of public record. You can quit the club anytime you wish, but then you will lose all of the benefits of membership. Imagine the club is very large and influential, yet has no dues, no officers, and is designed so that it cannot be owned or controlled by anyone.
Because membership and status of members in the club is a matter of public record, being a member of a club also provides you with access to a reliable “friend-finder” service. Imagine you can find other members of your club in every city, all over the world, using a free computer search. Imagine that you can also see a “reputation score” for every member of the club, based on how well the member has maintained her reputation as a trustworthy member of the club who faithfully follows the club’s rulebook. Perhaps you get reputation information by paying a small fee to a reputation service, or perhaps by using a free advertising-supported reputation service. Imagine that you can use the freely available membership information and reputation services to find new friends, customers and service providers around the world. Imagine that by building a reputation as a good and faithful club member, you can attract customers for your business and be successful, regardless of what university you went to or who you have political connections to. Imagine that new customers seek you out as a fellow club member, or as a member of a respected neighbor club, and having a good reputation as a club member is as good as gold.
Imagine that there was not just one club for you to choose to join, but many different clubs, together making up a sort of spontaneous, decentralized “freedom tree.” All of the clubs run the same basic way; they each just have a different rule book for resolving disputes. Some of the clubs have very well-known rule books and millions of members, others have rule books that although publicly available to everybody are not widely read, and have far fewer members. Some clubs have not changed their rule book in a great many years; other clubs change their rules from time to time, causing splits in their membership because not all members choose to follow the new rules. Imagine that your children or grandchildren can learn about the major clubs and the differences in their rules before they are twelve years old, and can rely on the information they learn as a child about the major branches of the “freedom tree” throughout their lives, because the club rule books do not need frequent updating. Imagine that the rule books of all the major clubs are accurately translated into every major world language. Imagine that you are free to change club membership as your views or life situation changes, or to start a new club by creating a variation on an existing rulebook. If you are really talented and dedicated, imagine you can write a whole new rulebook for a new club.
The spread of problem-solving clubs can create a new basis for toleration of different viewpoints, both inside of political boundaries, and across them. Imagine that the members of all of these problem-solving clubs recognize and respect the legitimacy of members of other clubs, in a manner similar to how citizens of nations respect citizens of other nations. Imagine that widely accepted, fair rules exist for resolving disputes between members of different clubs, based primarily on the rule books adopted by the people in the dispute and the time at which they joined the clubs. Imagine that people of different religions and beliefs use these rules to live consistently within their own beliefs while tolerating and doing business, if they choose, with members of other clubs that hold to different beliefs.
Since club rules are determined by individual selection, the rules tend to be quite stable and quite succinct. Contrast that to other forms of government, where new rules, regulations and laws are continually passed and imposed on the populace. The stability and succinctness of club rules makes it easier to assess the legal risks of various transactions between members of the same club, and even between members of different clubs. Imagine that this stability and clarity leads to the development of expert legal systems that are available online. Imagine that for answers to legal questions concerning club members, you can consult an automated legal oracle regarding your legal rights and obligations, and avoid the need to hire an expensive lawyer.
Imagine that the problem solving clubs become so popular and effective,that virtually everybody eventually joins one. Imagine that when this happens, wars between nations and terrorism become politically infeasible, because so many politicians, soldiers and civil military contractors are club members and do not want to ruin their reputations by killing or injuring other club members without justification. Imagine that when people realize that war is no longer possible, governments of the world evolve into voluntary, fee-for-service organizations serving the general public.
These are some of the practical services that voluntary law may bring about for you or your descendants. All of them are about making your life experience richer, deeper, safer, and more prosperous. All of them are aimed at enabling and protecting your personal empowerment within a community of equally empowered persons. All of them will make you happier and better off, without making anyone else worse off. Perhaps only some of these things are possible. Of course, the more distant, pie-in-the-sky outcomes do not need to become a reality to make voluntary law worth investing in now. Such outcomes are conceptually possible, but are not inevitable. Even if voluntary law does not become widely adopted enough to provide the greatest possible benefits, it can still provide benefits for a minority of people who choose to invest in it.
Another point: this is not an academic book. Like an engineering plan, this book straddles the practical and the theoretical; it is both plan and propaganda for social engineering. Although a great debt is owed to the academics who have written volumes about economics, non-aggression, anarchy and law, and so forth – great academics and visionaries like Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and many, many others, little or no time is spent tracing the historical development of the concepts underlying this book. No claim is made to originality, except for this one thing: the particular definition of voluntary law advanced in these pages, and the application of that blueprint as an invitation to begin building another, non-exclusive piece of the coming social order.
Changes in human society depend both on new technical capabilities and new ideas about what is humanely possible. Consider, for example, the development of the airplane. Human flight required both technical advancement in engines, and development of engineering concepts of the airfoil, making lift and drag quantifiable and predictable based on the characteristics of an airfoil and airspeed. It required both advances in enabling technologies, and new ways of thinking about flight. Similarly, the development of voluntary laws rests on advancement in wireless communications and computing technology, and new ways of thinking about law.
A better analogy to voluntary law may lie the development of open-source public registries, pioneered by Satoshi Nakamoto in the release of the Bitcoin application. This technology enabled the development of voluntary, decentralized trading networks centered around exchange of a stable electronic currency, by making it infeasible for governments to disrupt the public registry. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin represent but one application of block chain technology. Already, this technology is being applied in ingenious ways in other applications harnessing the power of decentralized voluntary networks. One such application, released in 2014, goes by the name of Bitnation, and is directed towards dispute resolution services within a voluntary network. Presently, Bitnation uses existing state-made laws, but is fully compatible with using stateless, voluntary laws. When such laws become available and are of acceptable quality, it is likely that networks such as Bitnation will make use of them.
Social networks like Bitnation are focused on providing an infrastructure for providing dispute resolution, enforcement and insurance services based on any law chosen by disputants. This book is concerned with a more foundational aspect — development of new and superior laws for the voluntary networks of tomorrow. As you read this book, you may come to understand why new laws are necessary, or at least, highly beneficial to voluntary dispute-resolution networks. You may come to understand why it is that existing laws, developed by and for state-based legal systems, are not optimal or even appropriate for dispute resolution in voluntary societies. And you may come to be persuaded that rules for dispute resolution within voluntary law societies need to have certain essential qualities to form a basis for coherent, workable laws within a voluntary framework.
New social orders require robust and coherent conceptual foundations. This book is directed at building up those foundations, by engaging you in a dialog about the nature of law in human society. It is hoped that positive engagement with this dialog will lead to a growing agreement about foundational concepts underlying law for voluntary networks. Such agreement will, in turn, lead to the development of conceptually sound rule books, which can be published and promoted as practical tools for providing dispute resolution services within voluntary networks. As these tools are adopted for use in existing and new service infrastructures, voluntary law will in time become a practical and widespread reality capable of providing the practical benefits that are spoken of, and more. Onward!