Gian Piero de Bellis
Polyarchy : a Paradigm
(2002 - 2013)
From state policing to community righting
The starting point: ethos and nomos (^)
It is an often overlooked fact that the most complex phenomena of human life, like the origin and development of languages, of ethical principles, of behavioural norms, are the result of innumerable individuals and their spontaneous actions and interactions, over the ages.
It is then very likely that, at a certain point in time, when a relevant amount of experiential materials have been produced such as common forms of speech and behaviour, somebody will intervene to structure into formal rules what had already become, in large measure, consolidated practice.
From here it is only a small step to thinking and believing that
the systematizers are also the originators of those practices,
because to the human mind it appears very plausible to attribute a particular
social phenomenon to the existence of a specific maker/inventor at a precise
date or period.
This "social creationism," according to which, for every complex experience there is a superior entity that has designed and produced it, has been especially characteristic of those historians for whom history is reducible to what Popes, Kings, Presidents, Parliaments or the like have devised and decided in the course of their existence.
Clearly, this view
represents also the vested interest and manipulative effort of
those in power, eager to attribute to themselves ingenious social capacities
they do not have, in particular the ability to design norms that are then
accepted by the people at large.
As a matter of fact, all norms that have emerged in the course of history, everywhere on earth, are the result of spontaneously produced and persistently recurrent actions arising out of human needs and aspirations. In other words, they are successful habits of behaviour that have developed and set firm over time and are shared by a growing number of people through imitation and internalization. Ethos (attitudes, ways of life and beliefs) gives rise to nomos (norms), i.e. what is then taken as normal behaviour, characterizing and binding the members of a group together.
Roman law and Common law have no different origins. They both come from the development and refinement of mores (customs) of individuals in communities. This fact has been obscured and forgotten as soon as any type of domineering power, be it religious or political, arrived on the scene.
The slippery turn: cratos and lex (^)
Roman civilization has been largely identified with the system of laws that regulated social and contractual relationships and facilitated the resolution of conflicts between Roman citizens (ius civile) and between foreigners and Roman citizens (ius gentium).
What is not always clear is that those laws had their roots in religious practices and revered traditions passed from generation to generation.
The first written juridical formulation in the history of Roman Law consisted of the Twelve Tables, made at the request of the plebeians who complained that the patrician consuls administered by resorting to obscure juridical uses in an arbitrary way. After ten years of arguing about this, a code of law was compiled as a summary of what were then the best juridical practices in Greece and Rome, and a final text was produced between 451 and 449 B.C.
The lawyers themselves, in the process of solving controversies between their clients, gave the impulse to the development of laws, intended as norms that came to be repeatedly applied in litigations. Thus, a law was something discovered by the parties involved in a dispute and a means capable of resolving it through their consensual use. There was no a priori legislation regulating civil matters and so there were no such things as ready-made laws, covering all cases, to be imposed on the parties.
For that to start happening we have to wait until the end of
the Roman Empire in the West and the advent of emperor Justinian. Around the year 533 a written text known as the Digest or Pandects was produced which systematized ways of behaving and of dealing between people that had been practiced throughout Rome's long history. To those usages the emperor gave the force of laws, backed by the power of the state.
The Institutes of Justinian (Codex Justinanensis) are the clearest example of the incorporation of social conventions and ethical norms into a code of laws to which the power (cratos) gave its seal of approval and support.
Another example from later times is the absorption of the Lex Mercatoria (autonomously
developed and administered) into Commercial Law (exogenously
decreed and imposed), a process that was first started by the
feudal kings and was then completed by the rulers of the nation
The Lex Mercatoria arose out of the practices and conveniences of the merchants that were crisscrossing Europe trading wares. They devised and refined norms that ostracized dishonest dealers and promoted security and ease of transactions. It could have continued in this way if it were not for the totalitarian nature of power that is eager to invade any sphere of life, especially if there is something to gain from it. It seems also that some dishonest merchant, in order to avoid being punished by his own colleagues for some misdeed, put himself under the protection of the king and of his law. This spelt disaster for the survival of the Lex Mercatoria as an autonomously administered set of principles and norms.
By then the germs had been spread for a replacement of ethos (moral practice) by cratos (political power) and the passage from the spontaneously devised norms of the people to the top-down enacted laws of the state.
From the year 1000, with the expansion of trade and the renewal of artisan production, Europe gradually became a more and more urbanized civilization. In parallel, there emerged new forms of administration of law and of the keeping of public order that can be characterized under the name of policing.
The terms policy, police and policing all derive
from the Greek word polis (city).
Policy is the art and science of government applied to the inhabitants of a polis.
To police means “To prevent or detect and prosecute violations of rules and regulations” (Webster’s Dictionary) and, generally, safeguarding the smooth proceeding of life in common.
During the Middle Ages, the task of keeping order was performed at a local level and by various bodies. The cities had special patrols and watchmen to protect property and people. The lord of the manor counted on the peasants to provide security services under his personal guidance. Even the Church and the monasteries had their own protective institutions.
When trade and crafts spread wider and wider, and cultural life
flourished again, artisan guilds and universities had their own
guards to supervise regular events and activities.
A relatively recent example of this direct and differentiated security provision is the Thames Police of London established in 1798 with funds coming from insurance companies and with the aim of reducing thefts in the London port and recovering stolen goods.
Apart from these instances, it should also be noticed that in many places people had no need of any external or institutional power, operating on a permanent basis, for the regular business of life to be carried on without any trouble. In the small communities, the reprobation and ostracism of an individual found guilty of some 'offence' were motives strong enough to deter from immoral or, simply, unorthodox conduct. As a matter of fact, over the centuries, conformity and compliance with current moral norms were more widespread traits than dissension and revolt, unless the survival of the individual and his family was at stake.
Out of this dynamic of acceptable or reproachable behaviours
emerged, in the course of a long history, consolidated modes
of conduct that became the habits of a social group.
So, before the existence of the concept of policing as the art and science of government, people living in communities were already practicing self-restraint and implementing communitarian order through the spontaneous formation and consolidation of social norms not mediated by any institutional power.
State policing (^)
The absolute monarchies that dominated in Europe up to the French Revolution tried to put under their control the administration of justice and the maintenance of order.
To superintend the realm, a series of centralized bodies came into effect that absorbed many of the roles and functions previously performed by other institutions (the commune, the parish, the guilds, etc.).
for instance, in 1692 Louis XIV replaced town magistrates with
royal intendants. This was aimed at facilitating the exaction of taxes from
the towns and quelling fiscal revolts. So, as usual, policing the kingdom
was coupled with draining resources towards the centre.
Nevertheless, the so-called absolute power of the kings over their subjects was never very strong and never succeeded in marginalizing or dominating the other existing authoritative bodies like the Church, the aristocracy and, later on, the bourgeoisie of the Third Estate.
It is only with the coming to dominance of the central state
that any intermediate body was practically abolished and the
task of policing was assumed totally by the centre and was based
on the production of laws whose compulsory observance was equated with the
keeping of order.
It could be said that the struggle conducted by the king (the most important feudal master) against the Church, the aristocracy and the free towns, in order to assume control of a series of roles and prerogatives previously exercised by those powers, came to completion only when the king disappeared (or remained merely as a figurehead) and a new feudal master emerged: the central nation state.
This monopolistic and highly pervasive power resulted from the
French Revolution in conjunction with the reforms introduced
by Napoleon Bonaparte.
It is to the French Revolution and to Napoleon that we owe the first centralized police force, put under the command of a single minister, Joseph Fouché (1799-1802 and 1804-1810).
In 1812 was formed the Sûreté (which would be the model for later investigative bodies such as Scotland Yard and the FBI), headed by an ex convict turned police informer, François Vidocq, who boasted that, whenever three people congregated in Paris, one of them was on his payroll.
The pattern of development of policing in France was imitated by other central states in Europe, all on their way towards setting up an apparatus of state control whose functions were basically those of:
- surveillance and repression
- prosecution and punishment
- imprisonment and detention
So, at the end of a long process, the absolutism of kings was perfected and carried to new heights by the totalitarianism of the states. For this to be accomplished, the force of brute power had to be sustained, as usual, by the manipulative force of ideas.
The deceitful foundations of state policing (^)
As already highlighted, throughout history, any form of power has tried to replace normative customs spontaneously formed and accepted with legal rules enacted and imposed. This was one because uniform regulations coming from the top were deemed a better way to homogenise people into a nation and control them than multifarious local customs brought into play from the bottom.
The reaction to legal rules imposed from the top is manifest in two currents of feeling and thinking, namely:
- The school of juridical naturalism, for which the origin of rights resides in human nature;
- The historical school, for which the origin of rights is to be found in the culture of a community.
Both those tendencies, as long as they remained living realities, opposing centralization and oppression in the name of individuals and communities, were strong bulwarks against the heavy weight of power, ready to reduce everybody to an obedient subject.
Many battles for civil liberties have been fought in the name of natural right, and many liberation struggles had as their motivating impulse the desire to follow the rules historically shaped by the community instead of those artificially imposed by an external power.
Unfortunately, the continuous widening and strengthening of the
power of the nation state, from the French Revolution onwards,
have negatively affected also the notions held by these schools
Two juridical scholars have observed the following outcomes:
Juridical naturalism. “The advocates of natural right, intended as a right outside the state, and based on human nature, end up by demanding state laws that implement that natural right." (Eugen Ehrlich, Fundamental Principles of the Sociology of Law, 1913 German Edition).
Historical School. “The final outcome of the Historical School, as Sir Ernest Barker has pointed out, was a vindication of 'national law'.” (Alessandro Passerin d’Entrèves, Natural Law, 1951).
So, in the end, we got a total distortion of the premises on which those normative conceptions were based. Instead of promoting individual rights and a variety of normative systems emerging from local communities, all within a universal framework of autonomy and mutual respect, even the exponents of those schools of thought went for top-down homogenization by means of national laws imposed on everybody who happened to live within the territory of the nation state.
Many who considered themselves quite progressive, thought that this was not bad, after all, because it could lead to the eradication of backward local customs. Moreover, to the classical liberal the business of keeping order everywhere was considered the proper task of the state, the supposedly benign watchman in charge of protecting people and redressing wrongs. So, even those who were not wholly sympathetic to state power did not oppose state policing because, in their minds, it amounted to the minimal state administering law impartially and granting security effectively.
However, this rosy picture never materialized - indeed, in its
stead, other highly unpalatable phenomena took place. For instance,
natural law was invoked in support of a presumed racial superiority,
claiming, for instance, that non-white races were 'naturally' inferior and
so laws sanctioning slavery and segregation were 'natural' laws. Or, some
state rulers thought that their national laws were superior to those of
other communities and so came to the conclusion that it was their 'progressive'
right to invade other territories and impose those laws on other
Even the supposedly appealing idea of the minimal state as just a provident watchman and nothing else was so distorted, in some cases by the very liberals that were advocating it, that eventually it disappeared from the scene.
In fact, that 'liberal' illusion had not taken into account the
voracious appetite of state rulers and functionaries for more
and more power. The tendency, postulated by Adolph Wagner, of
the state to grow in parallel with industrial growth was an already
visible reality at the time the idea of keeping the state in the limited
role of watchman was upheld.
Nevertheless, this very flawed idea carried the day and, without much thought, we moved from the Brotherly Watchman with a lighting torch (like in the Statue of Liberty) to the Big Brother with a long heavy stick. The Big Brother took to himself the power to invent and impose laws for everybody, calling them 'positive' laws and he assumed the monopoly of violence within a given territory, calling this the keeping of 'order'.
Let’s see a bit more precisely, then, what are the aims of this state policing as "law and order."
The contemptible aims of state policing (^)
State policing is based on the state having granted to itself three monopolies:
- the law-making monopoly
- the violence-using monopoly
- the sentence-passing monopoly
In any monopolistic situation, the monopolist can usually impose his will on everybody. Clearly that will must take into account, in a democratic as well as an aristocratic regime, the feelings and wishes of the populace at large, or of its more vociferous parts, in order to avoid the emergence of widespread discontent and eventual rebellion on which opponents can rely for replacing the existing power.
For this reason state policing is characterized by:
- opportunistic laws. The laws of the state, while they are not accidental, are highly dependent on the vogues of the time and the whims of popular opinion. Quite often they lack any strong rational basis in the sense that what is introduced and imposed is only a facade of bigoted restrictions, or a bogus progressive measure, according to what is more popular and vote-catching at that time.
- targeted violence. The openly violent actions of the state are certainly not perpetrated on the totality or even the majority of the population but on specific groups, according to what seems necessary to those in power. Those various groups, targeted by the state in both the past and the present, are characterized e.g. by race (Blacks, Jews, Arabs), religion (Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, etc.), occupation (for instance, the working classes as dangerous classes), political orientation (communists, anarchists, fascists, etc.), legal status (foreigners) or other qualifications.
These distinctive traits characterizing opportunistic laws and targeted violence are clearly visible in the main aims of state policing, which are:
- To favour the strong corporatist interests of those who are part of or are connected to the ruling elite. Under this aim we can list:
- laws restricting freedom of commerce by applying tariffs on so-called foreign goods and quotas for so-called foreign producers, in order to favour national firms;
- laws granting long-term patents to certain firms or individuals just because they happen to be the first to have devised or simply introduced certain products/procedures or just because they paid for their registration, legally stifling others who could have to the same ideas come at a later stage or who did not bother to patent what they had already discovered;
- laws protecting categories of national workers through licenses and professional registers that exclude outsiders and discourage new entrants, in order to limit artificially the number of practitioners and protect the existing corporatist bodies of professionals.
- To impose on minorities the modes of conduct of the majority. We are not referring here to universal principles of behaviour (do not kill, do not steal, etc.) for which there is no question of majorities and minorities, but to specific rules that the state wants to impose on all 'national' subjects as a code of what is politically correct. Examples of this are:
- laws prohibiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages (from the USA in the twenties and early thirties of the last century to Saudi Arabia in the present) and the use of stimulating substances, apart from those sanctioned and taxed by the state;
- laws prohibiting certain sexual practices (e.g. homosexuality) or certain relations (e.g. extra-marital affairs, inter-racial marriages) as if the state had the right to intervene in the most personal experiences of free individuals;
- laws discriminating against and segregating minorities according to the colour of their skin, ethnic origin, religious faith, political convictions, country of origin, or other, in order to favour the national racial element (whatever that means) or the religion of the majority or the dominant political ideology, or any other arbitrary aspect.
- To safeguard at all costs the existence of the state. This is by far the main preoccupation of the state and it results in a huge number of laws designed just for that purpose. We have for instance:
- laws against free movement of people seen as a threat to the nation state (or to the federal state) on the basis that foreigners are more difficult to homogenise and integrate under the dominant ideology;
- laws against religious practices or political activism wherever religion or politics is seen as a menace to the stability of the state and to the diffusion of its own brand of religion or political ideology, i.e. fascism, communism, laicism, Catholicism, Islamism, etc.;
- laws against dissidents (groups, individuals), now easily qualified under the very convenient and all-embracing label of terrorists;
- laws against those who refuse to take part in state-organized violence (pacifist conscientious objectors), considered as traitors to the fatherland;
- laws against the free flow of ideas, in order to censor those newspapers, books, web sites, radio stations that are against the current state power or express opinions not totally aligned to the state propaganda;
- laws against any free activity not licensed and regulated by the state and from which the state extorts its heavy toll in the form of tax revenues.
The list is so long, and still lengthening, that it led to the common saying: "Many are the laws producing criminals!"
The above short catalogue of state interventions by way of laws should have made it quite clear, by now, that the prevention of offences and the redressing of wrongs are not high on the agenda of state policing.
In reality that agenda is dominated by interests that have very little to do with the protection of individuals and communities and a lot to do with the manipulation and control of everybody in the interest of the state elite and its cronies (bureaucrats, professionals in the state social services, protected businessmen, other assisted categories, etc.).
This agenda is based on three main aspects (laws, crimes, prisons) that need to be critically examined if we want to have a clear view of the absurd reality of state policing.
The absurd reality of state policing (^)
Since the intervenion of the territorial nation state in the field of policing, the issues involved and the instruments employed have been the same, namely:
- the promulgation of laws
- the prosecution of crimes
- the detention in prisons
It is necessary, then, to focus on the reality of these issues and instruments.
Under state policing, positive laws, that means laws promulgated by the state, are deemed to be the universal fixing tool whenever a social problem arises.
Like the magic words pronounced by a sorcerer to cast away a bad spell, the laws promulgated by appointed wizards assembled in a special room are taken to be the magic formulas that will deal prodigiously with every evil. This primitive thinking is still, unfortunately, the cultural foundation of every state.
However, justice existed before positive laws.
Montesquieu makes it very clear right at the start of his Esprit des Lois: "Avant qu'il y eût des lois faites, il y avait des rapports de justice possibles. Dire qu'il n'y a rien de juste ni d'injuste que ce qu'ordonnent ou défendent les lois positives, c'est dire qu'avant qu'on eût tracé de cercle, tous les rayons n'étaient pas égaux." ["Before laws were made, relations of justice were possible. To say that there is nothing just or unjust but what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that before the tracing of a circle all the radii were not equal."] (1758, Esprit des Lois, Book I).
Moreover, as pointed out by Eugen Ehrlich long ago: "In our time, as well as in any other past time, the centre of gravity for the development of right lies neither in the process of law making nor in the juridical sciences, nor in the law studies, but in society itself." (Eugen Ehrlich, Fundamental Principles of the Sociology of Law, 1913 German Edition).
Another scholar, in more recent times, added that: "Many conform to the law without being guided by it. They conform because they have other reasons for doing what the law requires, reasons which have nothing to do with the fact that these actions are required by law." (Joseph Raz, Practical Reason and Norms, 1975).
In other words, some laws, at best,
only slightly anticipate and promote what is becoming acceptable
behaviour; or, more often, they register what is already generally practiced
Apart from that, most laws are exclusively the result of the will to coerce of the territorial state rather than of natural social dynamics. They are not suitable levers for addressing and controlling those dynamics. Otherwise, it would follow that the more severe and exhaustive the laws, the lower the rate of crimes committed. Only if this were true could we start to take the supposedly magic power of law-making seriously.
In reality, it seems exactly the opposite takes place: the more laws, the more crimes; and this is quite understandable if we focus on the second aspect of state policing: crimes.
The multiplication of laws, regulating and sanctioning every aspect of social life leads, inevitably, to the multiplication of crimes, that is of behaviours that come under the prohibitions and penalties of the law.
The plain English definition is “Crime: an act which is against the law.” (Longman Lexicon of Contemporary English, 1981).
Considering that nowadays law is a state-made and state-administered affair, it follows that it is up to the state to decide what is and what is not crime. State-promoted ethnic cleansing could then be taken as a perfectly legal (i.e. non criminal) scheme of action, while crossing a river without a state permit could be registered as a criminal act (border trespassing).
By the way, all this is perfectly in line with the etymological root of the term “crime”, which is: to scream, to cry out. Presently those who own/control the means of communication and the apparatus of education are those who can shout loudest and, by doing so, can play the role of accusers. In fact, the first meaning of the word 'crime' is: recrimination, accusation. That is why in Latin the term criminator (the one who advances a recrimination or accusation) has a double meaning, of accuser or slanderer (calumniator).
No wonder some individuals that have been kept in jail or executed
according to state law as convicted criminals, have later on,
with a different government and in a different political climate,
been rehabilitated and extolled as heroes or even martyrs.
That is why criminal charges by the state, even when confirmed through a trial, should always be viewed with a lot of caution, and should be totally dismissed in at least two cases:
- victimless crimes. These are acts from which no one suffers any harm (like smoking marijuana or gambling or hiring unregistered workers) but which, nevertheless, are considered crimes by the state for reasons that have nothing to do with rights and justice. The absurd fact is that smoking licensed drugs (tobacco), courting chance (playing the lotto) or hiring workers is all very well as long as it is done under state control. (For a detailed treatment of victimless or consensual crimes see Peter McWilliams, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, at http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/toc.htm)
- crimes of lese-majesty. These are acts against the current power (like printing and circulating forbidden literature such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm under Eastern European state communism, or promoting demonstrations to overturn the government). Clearly, in the eyes of the power they are terrible actions to be condemned and repressed with the utmost vigour, but in fact there is nothing unjust and unworthy in them. On the contrary, they are signs of a healthy independent human personality.
For the convicted 'criminal' the consequences of committing a crime are, in many cases, detention in a prison. And here we come to the third aspect that characterizes the absurd reality of state policing.
Under state policing, prisons have become the main instrument for dealing with people who have committed actions condemned by the law.
Prisons are reputed to be the best means of:
- punishing the perpetrator of a crime
- warning other people about the consequences of committing a crime
- protecting the people at large from those who have committed crimes, by excluding the perpetrators from society.
However, prisons fail on all these counts because
- detention at the expense of the taxpayers (including those who have suffered the offences) is a dumb way of punishing people. For the chronic petty delinquent a period in jail is like a time of rest before resuming his normal activities. In the U.K. quite recent official figures (2003) show that 61 per cent of offenders were reconvicted within two years, with the re-offending rate for male adolescents (aged 15-18) at 82 per cent (see: http://www.reform.co.uk/website/crime/factfile.aspx). Cases have even been recorded where people have committed further offences in order to get back into the secure, all-expenses-paid environment of a prison.
- prisons as warning is an idea that totally lacks empirical foundation. It is reported in history books that burglars and pickpockets were operative in towns when people congregated to watch the hanging of a thief. So, on the whole, it is fair to say that those who want to commit offences are not deterred by the penalty of detention or by even harsher punishments. With reference to this diabolic double act of offences and retributions, Cicero wrote in De Re Publica: "nothing is more wretched than to struggle incessantly between the wrong we inflict and that we receive." [“miserrimum digladiari semper tum faciendis tum accipiendis iniuriis] (Book III, 13).
- prisons as protection of the people is a total con. They are, at most, a temporary protection only from the offences that some people might commit. In fact every day there are other people who get out of jail and, in many cases, are ready to start from where they left off or, more likely, eager to embark on committing bolder offences after having absorbed in prison the relevant expertise in higher delinquency.
In this respect, countless pages and poignant words have been written denouncing “the prisons as the nurseries for the most revolting categories of breaches of moral law.” (Piotr Kropotkin, In Russian and French Prisons, 1887)
This condemnation of prisons as schools for offenders has even prompted a U.K. Home Secretary (Douglas Hurd) to write in a government paper that "prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse”; and another Home Secretary (David Blunkett) stated in 2001 that "undoubtedly people learn more about crime in prison than they will learn anywhere else in their lives."
Nevertheless, in all these years when the central state has been in charge, no different way has been seriously sought, tested or implemented for dealing with offenders. On the contrary, the prisons are more crowded than ever (in the U.K. the number of inmates went up from 44,500 in 1993 to around 80,000 in 2007, a rise of almost 80%) and new prisons have been built and more would be built if it were not for the usual financial problems.
In the presence of this, it is perhaps time to realize that state policing is a highly expensive and nefarious way of making bad situations even worse. However, what is bad for honest individuals and peaceful communities is not at all bad for the state which, through the prisons as schools for crime, can count on a steady number of trained offenders that justify its existence as the essential monopolistic provider of security.
That is why prisons are still and will remain the principal instrument
of repressive state policing, at least as long as the state keeps
its territorial monopoly on law and order.
Laws, crimes and prisons as the three pillars of state policing have produced appalling and perverse results that will now be briefly exposed.
The perverse results of state policing (^)
In the last two hundred years, scientific and technological progress has given a tremendous boost to the standard of living of many people in many regions of the world.
Nevertheless, the standard of civility and of social organization not only has not advanced in equal measure but, in some cases and for some periods, has regressed abysmally.
Considering that the state has been,
at least since the French Revolution and, especially, during
the XX century, the main social actor and the one responsible for an orderly
development of social relations, it is fair to say that the results have
not lived up to promises or expectations.
The fact is that state policing, far from contributing to solving problems of social life, has exacerbated them and made them a congenital part of (almost) everybody’s life. These problems will stay with us as long as we remain trapped in the state paradigm of state laws and state "order."
The main perverse results of state policing are the following:
- Institutionalizing criminal organizations through law-making.
Laws forbidding the consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs or the movement of people, have given rise to the formation of organizations that satisfy the demand for those things. These organizations then start using violent means against competitors or against opponents in order to expand their gains. So, organized crime, in certain areas, is the direct result of some legal regulation. The law that prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the USA (1920-1933) was a godsend to certain groups, who quickly got involved in those high-risk but also highly profitable activities, leaving behind a trail of violence and corruption while attempting to consolidate their very lucrative monopolistic position. The same is presently true in the field of drugs, with a considerable number of individuals ready to commit offences in order to procure the money to pay the artificially high price of the outlawed stuff. In summary, the professed best intentions generate the worst possible results.
Presently, the attempt to control migration through law and police enforcement has brought into existence organizations that smuggle people into a country, subjecting them to horrendous and sometimes fatal journeys for which they are charged an extortionate price. All this is made possible thanks to the laws of various states.
So it is correct to say that the state creates crimes and criminals, and those crimes and criminals, in their turn, justify the existence of the state (police, judiciary, bureaucracy). It is an alliance made in hell.
- Producing 'criminals' that become real offenders.
The growing morass of statutes and regulations results in an increasing number of people being in breach of some state law. This is especially true of many 'foreigners' who are pushed into the precarious situation of being considered illegal immigrants (a qualification invented by the state and that certainly did not exist when the white man was roaming all over the earth) or illegal workers (as if carrying out an activity that satisfies a felt need could ever be considered something illegal). If certain rational ways of behaving are obstructed, many might be motivated to explore and exploit other avenues. In that case, from criminals according to the state they might become real offenders against other individuals. After all, in the present reality this is not an irrational choice, considering that many offenders are never caught or, if caught, are, in many cases, treated quite ineffectively by the system of state policing.
- Dealing ineffectively with offenders.
It is a fact that those directly responsible for law and order (the police, the judiciary) often conduct themselves in an appallingly incompetent manner.
First of all, the lack of trust in the performance of the police is so widespread that offences such as stealing and house breaking are not reported by the victim in some cases; and when they are reported, it is most likely that they are not properly investigated given the fact that the police content themselves with writing and filing reports of the incident rather than actually conducting investigations; and even if the offence is seriously investigated, the likelihood of apprehending the culprit is very slim indeed (less than 15% of recorded domestic burglaries were detected in 1999-2000 in the U.K.) unless the person is already well known by the police for a series of similar misdemeanours; and in the rare cases where the culprit is apprehended, the likelihood that he will continue his delinquent activity is very high because the state system is not intended to deal in a reparative way towards the person offended against or in a truly reformative way with the offender. In fact, the wrongdoer either finds a soft judge who dismisses the case or gives him a very light sentence, or a harsh one who sends him to prison. In the first case he receives a signal that he can carry on committing offences without much of a problem; in the second case he is given the opportunity to go to the school of crime (prison) where he can hope to acquire the expertise to commit even bolder and more vicious offences in the future without getting caught. So, the same unsatisfactory outcomes are likely in every case, as long as the current state system is in place.
- Weakening the self-protective impulse of individuals and communities.
Another strong signal given by the state power to the citizens is to be totally weak and passive when on the receiving end of some offence or violent action, or when witnessing them. The much celebrated sentence: “Don’t take the law into your own hands” is an immoral hymn to apathy that should make any decent person shiver with disgust. And those who do not want to feel disgusted with themselves and decide to take self-protective action, after having experienced the futility and inanity of the more conventional ways of dealing with an offender, then fall prey to idiotic state laws that treat them as criminals. To offer just one example of life under state policing, in the United Kingdom people who have simply stopped children intent on a rampage have been arrested on a charge of kidnapping.
In short, the state rulers want the individual to be completely defenceless against any violence or offence, entrusting to themselves or to bodies licensed by them the task of dealing with offenders. And this is where they have added insult to injury.
- Imposing a double burden on individuals for security provision.
Given the appalling result of state policing, with 80% of offences being undetected in Italy (2003) or, to quote another figure, with 92 % of burglaries in London in recent years being committed with impunity, it is no wonder that people are investing more and more money in security locks, house alarms, video surveillance and so on. Besides that, the number of so-called private policemen (that is guards hired directly by citizens and firms) has grown to such a point that now, in the USA, they exceed the number of state policemen paid through taxation.
This, apart from destroying the pernicious myth of security provision as the proper role of the state and only of the state, shows also that we are charged with a double burden in matters of security, whether we realize that or not.
In fact, through compulsory taxation we are forced to pay the state for the illusion of being protected; and then we pay again, in the price of goods and services, for the cost of "private" guards in and around supermarkets, banks and other businesses.
On the whole, this situation is not new. Already in 1791 Wilhelm von Humboldt remarked that: "If it were possible to make an accurate calculation of the evils which police regulations occasion, and of those which they prevent, the number of the former would, in all cases, exceed that of the latter." (Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, 1791).
So, the fact that state
regulation and state police have brought misery to too many existences
and made a mess of an otherwise pretty orderly social life is something
that should be well understood by now. However, a situation is not changed
simply when many individuals realize that it is not conducive to any good
but when they also know how to transform it by implementing an alternative
system that promises to be a better (fairer, more effective) one.
That is why it is necessary now to start sketching the lines of possible alternatives to the current system of state policing.
A different conception (^)
In order to start envisaging a new conception of a smooth and satisfactory development of social life, we need to abandon the conventional notions on which state policing is based and introduce radically different ones that have been sidelined with the advent of the centralized nation state.
The term norm comes from the Latin norma, designating the carpenter’s square, and so indicating an authoritative rule or standard. In other words, a norm points to what is acceptable according to a rule having the quality of a standard.
This is in sharp contrast with the concept of state law or positive law where what is important is not the authoritative content but its formalistic origin, i.e. the fact of coming from a state body according to a certain ritual. For this reaon ius (law) has become synonymous with iussum (commanded) and not with iustum (right).
In reality the law, being aimed at imposing a certain conduct, is supported by a set of interest groups, and the more powerful the group, the more successful it can be in promoting and enacting laws. So that, in the end, "law is right" only in so far as, under territorial statism, right is equivalent to might. In other words, law as right is simply what the most powerful groups within a society want as general rules. We are here clearly concerned with a game in which strength is rewarded and is equated to and defined as "right".
A law is then merely what the current power holder, be it an autocratic ruler or a democratic government, prescribes and imposes on everybody by way of legislation. The differences between these two cases, which appear so antithetic, are, in reality, negligible in so far as both are based on commands by a super-ordained entity (the state) superimposed on society (human relations).
In contrast, a norm, be it a principle, a standard or a functional rule, is not something that can be invented and modified through a session of Parliament, but is a reality that grows, sometimes over a very long period, and comes into being only by way of wide acceptance, having demonstrated its usefulness and effectiveness.
The most nefarious effect of state law-making is the blocking of this process of social and personal norm-finding and the stifling of the feed-back mechanism that plays a fundamental role in free social intercourse and is capable of self-generating norms in view of producing order. Alternative approaches, institutions and methods for solving problems are either prohibited to groups of volunteers or made dependent upon state licensing or permits involving regulations that make them largely ineffective as free experiments.
Moreover, the production of innumerable laws results in the criminalization of large parts of society. That is why, besides moving from laws to norms, we have to abandon the concept of legally-defined crime in favour of a more substantial notion.
As a compulsory rule is whatever the state has decided it to be by law, so wrongdoing is whatever the state has qualified as such by law and called crime.
In most western societies now, when considering the merit of an action, people are more accustomed, as a result of state education, to ascertain whether it is legal, rather than to evaluate if it is moral. The displacement of morality by legality is probably the most revealing sign of the rottenness introduced by the system of state policing because it highlights the loss, by too many individuals, of an inner moral sense.
Recovering a moral sense means not leaving to the state rulers the task of deciding what is right or wrong according to their whims and interests. Instead, we have to discriminate between right and wrong according to principles that refer essentially to the free will of the individual and by ascertaining if this free will has been unjustly coerced and offended.
This is why the widespread existence, under state laws, of victimless 'crimes' is an absurdity. If no one has been offended (i.e. forcefully or deceitfully wronged) by somebody committing a certain action, the intromission of the law is equivalent to an act of violence committed by the state rulers or by some individuals in the name of the state. Nevertheless, a large percentage of state prison inmates all over the world are there for having committed victimless crimes (use of drugs, prostitution, being non registered migrants, etc.) [See, for instance, Prisons in the USA at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisons_in_the_United_States]
If we are against the use of force other than in self-defence, we should certainly not condone it when committed by state officials in the name of combating state defined wrongdoing. As a matter of fact, state defined wrongdoing can very well be community experienced well-being, as in the case of a nurse looking after an elderly person being expelled from the country because she is without the official papers required by the state. The absurdity of these legal regulations is most clear when the "criminal" worker becomes, from one day to the next, a "legal" worker just because new state rules are introduced.
All these are more than sufficient reasons for the abandonment of the concept of crimes in favour of the more substantial and pertinent concept of offences.
It is also the way to free people from despotic controls and interference by the state into their lives and activities, leading, in many cases, to absurd detention or expulsion.
And this takes us to another notion that needs total revision, that of punishment by way of detention.
As already pointed out, prisons are nowadays the main way of punishing those who, according to state criteria, have committed illegal actions. A period in prison is deemed to be an appropriate means for punishing people and protecting the public. No wonder that the prison population has reached record levels both in the USA (over 2 million in 2007) and in the UK (around 80,000 in 2007).
However, the reality is that this type of punishment does not work in the sense of deterring the detainee from committing other similar actions in the future, and this for reasons that are intrinsic to the prison as an institution and to the attitudes that are likely to be developed in that institution.
It would be like expecting a full recovery by a patient sent to mingle with highly infective carriers of all sorts of viruses. The likelihood that the person will catch one of those viruses would be very high.
Moreover, the fact that the person is detained for a certain period of time and then released after the sentence has expired (and rightly so) creates only the illusion of protecting the public. If the person who has committed real offences has not matured and improved his character (which is highly unlikely in an environment like a prison) he will simply go on to commit more daring offences with which he has become acquainted while in state custody.
What is then required is a totally different approach that replaces the passivity and inanity of prisons with the responsibility of performing actions that will make amends for the original offence. Only where this fails for reasons of physical or mental incapacity, will the offender be taken into custody and treated by the community (through specific bodies) with the care required by a sick person.
Let us then sketch briefly what could be the aspects of a different practice in dealing with real offenders, that is people who have done real wrongs, and who need to be helped to re-orient or re-build their life.
A different practice (^)
The analysis so far conducted has shown that state policing deals with the complexity of social life and individual personalities with the primitive method of detention in a prison, with the result of worsening, in most cases, the delinquent inclinations of a person.
This is why we need a totally different practice, variously articulated so as to give appropriate answers to different problems that might arise in the life of communities and individuals.
Here we refer to three major areas of problems.
The first condition for a peaceful development of social intercourse is to have available for use different instruments for the resolution of the conflicts that might emerge out of billions of human interactions.
To this end the following measures seem to be pertinent to the task:
The best way to understand a situation is to rely on the best data, in this case on the most accurate evidence about the conflict situation, in order to be clear about:
1. where the supposed rights and wrongs reside according to universal principles or group values,
2. the position of each party with reference to rights and wrongs, and
3. the possibility of moving towards a satisfactory solution, e.g. by reaching a compromise between the different positions (considering that quite often no one is totally in the right or totally in the wrong).
If the availability of clear information is not sufficient to lead to a direct resolution of the conflict between the parties, then it is appropriate to move to a different level and to a different instrument.
Mediation is performed by the intervention of a person who is formally or informally entrusted by the parties to assess the situation from an external point of view and devise a way out that might be satisfactory/acceptable to both parties.
In this case, information of a more sophisticated nature (e.g. data about similar previous cases) is relevant to achieving a resolution of the conflict. However, if this channel also fails, a further instrument can be employed.
Arbitration means having a person or persons voluntarily chosen by the parties (usually before engaging in an interaction like a commercial transaction), carefully studying the case and coming to a solution which the parties declare themselves beforehand to be willing to accept, and are bound to accept if they want to keep a reputation as honest dealers.
This is the way chosen by many large firms for overcoming business conflicts, where expertise and promptness in solving the case are required. In fact, conflict resolution is more effectively achieved by relying on arbitrators expert in the specific matter rather than on state judges more knowledgeable about legal casuistry.
The best way to deal with offences is, clearly, to prevent their happening, as far as possible.
Contrary to what many people assume, repressive societies with bureaucratically controlled relationships are more likely to generate a climate where offences are committed than communities where individuals enjoy the widest range of freedoms. In particular, for the prevention of offences, these three types of freedom seem quite likely to bring security and order in social relations:
- Freedom of circulation
By freedom of circulation is meant the full array of physical, social and economic movements of individuals, between regions of the world (no exclusions, no borders stoppages), between social groups (no discrimination, no segregation), between activities (no licences, no work permits).
The freedom to improve one's life through personal efforts, without senseless obstructions and restrictions, is the best way to direct one's personal energies towards meaningful purposes instead of being pushed towards vicious practices. However, if offences are nevertheless committed for reasons that have more to do with some moral sickness of the individual (e.g. inclination to sexual violence) rather than with the deficiencies of the social environment, then other preventive measures can be activated, first of all that of documentation.
- Freedom of documentation
Freedom of documentation is the possibility of getting all the relevant information about offenders in order to put in place all the precautionary measures that are felt necessary.
This means that there are no secret data known only to the police, because this is how the police and the offenders get the upper hand over the community, bringing about a situation of chronic insecurity and anxiety.
The offender has the right to be forgiven and his offence forgotten if he has not committed any wrongdoing for a certain period of time, or if he has provided compensation for those he previously committed. In such cases a record about his offences will not be held any longer. At the same time, the individuals in a community must be in a position to check if serious offenders live amongst them, and which type of offences they have committed, how recently and how often, in order to be on the alert.
Publicity or openness of this kind does not mean the right to interfere in any way with the life of a person who has committed wrongs or to invent an easy scapegoat for any offence or accident that happens in a community. What is here envisaged is a process of learning how to deal with a recent offender without becoming either nasty tormentors or defenceless prey.
Certainly no one in his right mind will delve into the databases in search of offenders, eager to become the executioner within the community in which he lives. This scenario is only good for Hollywood films and in the wake of the insecurity generated by state policing. The person living in a post-statism age will, for his peace of mind, assign the task of security maintenance to a protective agency, just as he/she selects an insurance company to indemnify him against possible damage to his possessions (home, car, etc.). For this to work effectively we need freedom of selection.
- Freedom of selection
Freedom of selection means the lack of a monopolistic entity like the territorial state to which any problem of security and justice must be referred. Instead, we may have a variety of agencies, some of them set up, manned and run by the users, which offer their services, at different prices, for different types of security provision and justice administration, according to the requirements and demands of different individuals.
It is very naïve to expect security to be granted by a strong monopolistic power. Experience shows that monopoly breeds inefficiency and arrogance. Inefficiency means lack of protection from offenders, while arrogance leads to being maltreated and crushed by the very monopolistic power that is supposed to protect us.
That is why freedom of selection is so important for the prevention of offences. In fact, through freedom of selection, the most inefficient protective agencies (like the state) will, in due course, go out of business, and no one will be in a position to monopolize the scene, forcing their repressive practices and uneconomical tariffs on everybody.
Once an offence is nevertheless committed and a security/protective agency has found the person responsible for it on the basis of solid evidence, the current practice is for the state to treat the case as if the offence has been committed against the society as a whole, represented by the state itself.
In other words, a game starts between the state prosecutor on one side and the offender plus his defence lawyer on the other. The person capable of the best tricks in terms of presenting the evidence, dissimulating the truth, fabricating a plausible alibi or framing the defendant, wins the game. This is the way the current adversarial juridical process works.
The person offended is totally out of the picture and is lucky if he/she can, for instance, recover some of the stolen goods or receive compensation for the wrongdoing suffered (unless it is a tabloid case where the publicity generates absurd levels of compensation for the victim).
This kind of proceeding is a nonsense, useful only for increasing the power of the state, the irresponsibility of the offender, and the insignificance of the person offended against.
Some social researchers (Gresham Sykes and David Matza, Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency, 1957) have found that that denial of the injury caused and denial of the victim are two of the most potent factors which cause the offender to carry on offending.
More recent research has shown that being obliged to confront the victim is a very effective step for shaming the offender and starting a process of re-assumption of responsibility for the actions committed.
However, this is not enough. If the course of action is to be successful, it has to be carried a bit further, and the best way (for the offender and the victim) to do this is to reach an agreement whereby some action is undertaken by the offender in order to redress, as far as possible, the wrong done. This could take the form of:
Restitution i.e. return of what has been stolen, be it cash or goods, by way, for instance, of regular payments.
Reparation i.e. redress of the damage caused, by restoring something to its original condition or paying compensation (fixed by an arbitrator).
Remission i.e. forgiveness granted to the offender whenever this seems appropriate to the victim (e.g. minor nature of the offence, unintentional offence, apologies presented to the victim, sincere contrition manifested by the offender, etc.).
In this way we go beyond the current practices of retribution/repression that provide no positive results for the offenders and no practical satisfaction to the victim. In fact, if the offender is convicted and sent to jail, the victim pays, as a taxpayer, for his maintenance in prison, so adding further insult to the original injury.
Clearly, we are always referring here to offenders as human beings endowed with at least a modicum of rationality. As remarked by Kant: “There is no one, not even the most consummate villain, provided only that he is otherwise accustomed to the use of reason, who, when we set before him examples of honesty of purpose, of steadfastness in following good maxims, of sympathy and general benevolence, does not wish that he might also possess these qualities.” (Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, 1785).
As for individuals with personality disorders or with pathologies that impel them to commit certain actions (kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, etc.), they should be taken care of in communities composed of sensible/sensitive individuals through appropriate therapeutic means, which are certainly not reclusion in a prison or in a mental asylum.
It has already been pointed out that: "Studies of prisons and asylums indicate how overwhelmingly such institutions produce the very behaviour they are designed to correct. In one experiment, almost all the members of a group of persons diagnosed as hopelessly insane, asylum inmates for over twenty years, were discharged as cured within a few months of being placed in a ‘normal’ environment. In another experiment, a group of persons diagnosed as dangerously insane were allowed to institute self-government among themselves and managed without incident." (in, Everett Reimer, School is Dead, 1971).
By putting Offenders and Victims at the centre of the effort to reach a solution, we activate a fertile process of social involvement and social learning that will reflect positively on the previous two points examined, that is conflict resolution and offence prevention.
Clearly, these practices represent a complete overturning of
state policing and would undermine the state in its pretence
of being the only one capable of providing security and order.
That is why none of them is likely to be implemented while the monopolistic territorial state is still with us, and that is why we will witness more law-making, more crime-prosecuting, more prison-building. And this will happen up to the moment when the sheer inanity and idiocy of all of this will be clear to an overwhelming number of people.
At that point, we will be ready to see the need for a different scenario that will represent the theoretical framework for the practices here highlighted.
A different scenario (^)
The present reality is based on state policing at a national level with some sprinkling of international intervention, especially in the field of human rights.
This is not at all adequate for the dynamics of globalism and localism that characterize the beginning of the XXI century. What is needed is a more articulated system, founded on a central core of stable universal principles and on a series of voluntaristic personal norms capable of being re-adjusted and adapted to changing situations.
The framework here envisioned is one in which:
1. everybody agrees on a common standard of behaviour within the world wide relational sphere
2. each individual is left undisturbed to behave as he/she wishes within his/her specific personal sphere
3. some practices (such as those previously highlighted) are put in place for dealing with those that do not observe points 1 and 2.
The resulting scenario is a pluralistic system of behavioural patterns and signposts that is valid irrespective of supposed state nationalities or state territorial claims over legal matters. Within this scenario we have the following realities:
- World Cosmopolis (universal principles)
The world cosmopolis is composed of all the inhabitants of planet earth who regulate their relationships through universal principles that have always existed, even when they were kept in the background.
Cicero (I century B.C.) in De Re Publica wrote on this subject: "There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs neither expositor not interpreter. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing to-day and another to-morrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the human nature itself." [“est quidem vera lex recta ratio, naturae congruens, diffusa in omnis, constans, sempiterna, quae vocet ad officium iubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat ... huic legi nec obrogari fas est, neque derogari aliquid ex hac licet, neque tota abrogari potest, nec vero aut per senatum aut per populum solvi hac lege possumus, neque est quarendus explanator aut interpres ... nec erit alia lex Romae, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac, sed et omnes gentes et omni tempore una lex et sempiterna et immutabilis continebit ... cui qui non parebit, ipse se fugiet, ac naturam hominis.” (Cicero, De Re Publica, III, 22)
In the past, universal principles where qualified as Ius Gentium (Right of the People). The Roman jurist Gaius (II century) wrote: “Ius gentium is quod naturalis ratio inter omnes homines constituit.” (Gaius, I 9 D, de just.1, 1.) [“The right of the people is what natural reason prescribes amongst all human beings].
Universal principles emerged through observation of common values and practices and through rational reflection on human nature and the requirements for the preservation of life on earth.
A characterization of universal principles is the Kantian imperative: “Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." (Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785)
Universal principles are to be necessarily followed when a person relates to mankind at large, that is to individuals in other communities and to those outside his close circle. They are always observed if a person is keen to live and act in a cosmopolitan way.
- Voluntary Communities (group mores)
Voluntary communities (also called intentional or elective communities) are the only ones that deserve to be called communities. The qualification voluntary stresses what should be an essential characteristic of all societies, that is the fact that people have freely associated and are willing to respect and to help refine the norms (mores) of the community of which they have decided to become members. Group norms are then a free and personal choice.
Some group mores could be in contrast with universal principles, indicating, in some cases, a certain backwardness or roughness of a specific community, but this should not be a problem as long as those mores and the behaviour attached to them are practiced voluntarily only within the members of that community.
If a person no longer shares the mores of a community of which is a member, he/she should be free to secede and join another community or live a separate life with a minimum of social relations. In this case, whenever coming into contact with other people he/she will follow whatever is appropriate, i.e. either universal principles or specific group mores.
- Human Beings (personal rules)
In daily life there are a series of situations where the individual can very well follow personal rules without this disturbing or offending anyone.
This sphere of personal rules should grow as we put more value on individual responsibility, individual entrepreneurship, individual agency.
Personal rules are not only those directly produced and accepted by a single individual, but also those that emerge and are agreed between two persons. The persons affected by the rules which do not involve external groups of people are the most appropriate judges about what they want or do not want, about what is or is not in their interest, and thus about all the personal rules that will guide their conduct.
If they are wrong, they will pay the consequences, and this is called learning by direct experience - if they succeed in modifying their behaviour as a result of it. However, in most cases people will copy successful personal rules or adopt group rules of thriving communities, and this is called learning by imitation.
From whatever standpoint we see it, the existence of personal rules, i.e. rules not imposed by any external power, is the best guarantee for the development of healthy human beings.
What has been said so far needs only to be completed by some considerations on community righting that attempt to clarify a bit better the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the entire proposal.
Towards community righting (^)
The practices envisaged in this alternative model, are here defined as community righting.
This expression is intended to suggest that to put things right is a task that requires a cooperative effort of individuals in a community, and that no one should be left unaided to sort out problems caused by the offensive behaviour of other people, unless the matter can be easily dealt with by the two parties. The individuals can also hire protective agencies and these agencies are then, in a way, community agents directly at the service of an individual but, indirectly, of assistance to the entire community.
More specifically, "righting" means that the aim is not retribution as in state policing, but the redressing of wrongs, the repairing of damage, the restoration, as far as possible, of the situation prior to the perpetration of the offence.
This righting process has therapeutic effects on the offender,
who is faced with the wrong done and is given a chance to rehabilitate
himself and become a worthy human being again. It also has a beneficial
effect on the victim in so far as it reduces his rage about what has happened
to him and obviates the distress caused by the impersonal and unsatisfactory
way things are handled under state policing.
Clearly, community righting is incompatible with a monopolistic territorial state and with national laws imposed through a state police force and a state judiciary on everybody living in that territory.
Those state laws are introduced, modified and applied in order to maintain the reasons of power (ratione imperii) and not to assert the power of reason (imperio rationis).
Any careful observer of social life would soon realize that individuals
do not need the enactment of detailed rules of conduct in the
form of laws imposed on everybody, but the knowledge of standards
of behaviour that are then very likely to be observed by those willing to
take part in social intercourse.
The principle that should inform these standards of behaviour is voluntary reciprocity.
If we take logic as the art and science of reasoning and civics as the art and science of social relationships, then we could say that what consistency is to logic, so voluntary reciprocity is to civics.
Without consistency there is no proper (i.e. rational) arguing. Without reciprocity there is no proper (i.e. rational) behaving and interacting. The only proviso for reciprocity is that all the acts of behaviour (the original one and the one that follows as reciprocation) be voluntarily accepted and not compulsorily imposed.
With respect to reciprocity, it is fair to say that if a system
of rules decrees the superiority of those who administer the
system (e.g. allowing them to commit violence in the name of
the king or the country) and does not bind them to the same rules
imposed on everybody else, that system is fundamentally unjust and rotten.
And this is exactly the basis of statism and the way state rulers behave,
by assigning to the state (i.e. to themselves) the monopoly of violence.
This is what Freud had to say in 1915 at the start of the First World War: "The individual citizen can with horror convince himself in this war of what would occasionally cross his mind in peace-time - that the state has forbidden to the individual the practice of wrong-doing, not because it desires to abolish it, but because it wants to monopolize it, like salt and tobacco." (Sigmund Freud, Thoughts for the Times on War and Death, 1915)
Nowadays there is no
Church and no religion (which are, by the way, realities based
on voluntary adherence) that demands such a unilateral kind of obedience
and is based on such inconsistent tenets as the state, with its dogmatic
The lack of reciprocity that exists in the relationships between the common person and the state rulers is the pinnacle of irrationality and immorality. The state rulers do not feel themselves bound by the same moral code (don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, etc.) that binds the rest of us. The so-called "reason of state" or "national interest" justify all misdeeds, however appalling.
There is a strong moral thread that links
rationality with reciprocity which is totally absent in state
laws and state behaviour (i.e. in rulers' laws and rulers' behaviour). This
connection is expressed through sayings like “Do ut des” [I give and I expect you to give] or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Any norm, to be rationally accepted, needs to be based on voluntary reciprocity, which, in its turn, results from the inner persuasion of what is right and proper, matched by outer behaviour consistent with those convictions.
The sources of order are then reciprocity and voluntariness:
- reciprocity as the expression of fairness (equity)
- voluntariness as the form of freedom (autonomy).
In the past Proudhon equated anarchy with freedom and declared that: "Anarchy is the mother, not the daughter, of order." In other words, Freedom is the mother of Order and the highest social excellence is to be found in the generation of order out of freedom.
There must be a good deal of truth in this view considering that, whenever people are free to attend to their activities and to profess their convictions, security and harmony tend to prevail.
By contrast, the more laws and regulations there are restricting the free flow of activities and movements, the more frictions and injustices, i.e. disorder and insecurity, exist.
Statism is a crime-generating and crime-based
system because of the simple fact that crime gives to state apparatuses
(police, judiciary) and state-related corporations (lawyers, solicitors,
accountants) the perfect reason to exist, prosper and extend their existence
Once we have realized this we are already on the way to personal autonomy, responsibility and care, that is towards community righting.