Justice in a stateless society, peaceful parenting and the morality of coercive imprisonment for punishment: a short essay. (Dispute resolution, restitution and peaceful parenting)

in philosophy •  9 months ago

Hello folks,
I was listening to a podcast on the up coming Irish referendum to decide if the right to life for an unborn baby will be constitutionally protected, the conversation got to discussing whether abortion breaks the NAP and whether they would support imprisoning people for aborting their child and my first thought was, who says imprisonment for punishment is moral and what else could we do in a free society instead?

'Is it just or moral to imprison someone without their prior contractual agreement as a punishment for breaking the non aggression principle? If not what alternatives could be sought in a free society?'

Defining terms:

the involuntary infliction or imposition of a penalty (with the intention of making the person suffer) as retribution for breaking the non aggression principle

free society:
a stateless society in accordance with voluntarist principles of the non aggression principal, self ownership and non coercive voluntary interaction.

the non aggression principle:
the idea that the initiation of force (violence) against a person or their property is universally immoral.

My thoughts on whether it is moral to imprison for the purposes of punishment would be no, i think this would be beyond the minimum force needed to defend oneself and when you cross that line you are no longer acting in moral defensive force and whoever is doing the punishing would themselves be initiating force just by doing this.

I think using some kind of imprisonment if this is the minimum defensive force needed until the person is not a threat to you or someone else could be justified, i think this would have to be in defense of specific individuals though and not abstract ideas like society to be in keeping with the non aggression principle.

Another logical exception could exist if a contract is voluntarily entered in to whereby to live in a specific community one has to agree that 'X actions will result in Y punishment', being a contract this would then be voluntary and as long as the punishment is what was agreed upon i don't think anyone would have the right to stop two consenting adults from entering in to such a contract.

Having said that if a community is basing it's actions and contracts on reason and evidence and has market forces coming to bare on it then i think such communities would quickly become a minority as the other alternative solutions prove punishment to be inferior.

In this article though I am just referring to coerced imprisonment for the purposes of punishing the prisoner as opposed to some kind of voluntary restitution or dispute resolution, i can't see arguments for this or any type of punishment being moral.

It's important to note that we have prisons in the system we are forced to have right now because there are no market incentives to have anything better, it doesn't appear to me that state prisons actually provide any healing for the perpetrator or restitution for the victim or that they could do anything other than further traumatise damaged people and from what i know of psychology when a patient is coerced in to any kind of therapy it is never effective so i would question the effectiveness of psychotherapies undertaken in prisons.

So, if punishment isn't moral or practical, what alternatives do we have?

My first impulse here would be to say that it's none of my darn business what people would do in a stateless society and that the market will figure out what the best solution is, however for the sake of having a readable article i think i can at least offer some possible solutions.


the simple backbone of all voluntary interactions, if we have a right to associate with who we wish then we have the right to refuse to associate.

Following the logic of this it could play out as follows; someone commits a murder and this is caught on video and witnessed, the video goes viral on the internet and is deemed genuine by a dispute resolution organisation, at this point with most people being opposed to murder they would likely refuse to rent to them, banking services would refuse to hold their account, food vendors would not serve them and they could lose electricity to any properties they own.

I wouldn't define the above as punishment as nothing is being forced on the person who broke the NAP and this is simply a result of individuals exercising their preferences and is thus not coercive.

Voluntary restitution centers:

this is an idea i got from Stefan Molyneux's show when he was still an anarchist, the idea is that the basis of a good apology (from my own past experience) is usually all of these:

  1. A sincere apology

  2. An offer to make restitution so the other party can be 'made whole' again from the damage done by the offending party's actions, not so that it's good that it happened but, it's 'OK', whatever the individual conditions for that are.

This could include paying for therapy, fixing broken property, replacing broken property, a sum of money, an amount of labor or, whatever is acceptable and voluntarily negotiated by both parties.

If the person who harmed the victim wished to associate with them if it were me in this scenario i know i personally would require:

3 ) For the other person to show they have pursued self knowledge enough whereby they understand why it happened, how it made me feel, what steps they will take to make sure it won't happen again and demonstrating that they are putting this in to practice.

So with that in mind a voluntary restitution centre could be an option offered as s service paid for by the victim's insurance or dispute resolution organisation to make initial contact with the perpetrator whereby the already ostracised person (or to be ostracised in the future should they choose not to comply)could be offered a place in a facility to work (if they don't have the money) to make restitution to their victim and also to pay for the center's services, the motive for the perpetrator here being that they are no longer ostracised.

The services offered could include: voluntary therapy to resolve whatever traumas are in the person's past that led them to harm others, empathetic staff with an ethos of cultivating virtues by displaying them, ayahuasca therapies, meditation, safe areas to meet with the victim and talk to help build empathy on the perpetrator's part and restitution on the victim's part, education, housing and medicine.

I think this model could be successful as it provides the victim with psychological closure and genuine restitution while showing the perpetrator empathy and providing them with the company of virtuous people with whom to resonate so as to give them the best opportunity to recover from the traumatised state that led to this situation.

Voluntary contracts for punishments:

i covered this above, i don't see any moral NAP compliant way to stop this happening, however i would hope reason, evidence and empathy based thinking would make these obsolete or a small minority of the available solutions.

Dispute resolution organisations:

this is an idea put forward by multiple Lew Rockwell employed authors (lewrockwell.com) whereby through a voluntary insurance or small subscription fee individuals could pay for private security, detective work, arbitration courts and the like, i think the edge this would have over the current statist system is that because these services would be competing in a completely free market the economic incentives will be there to have the best detective work, the most accountability, the most satisfied customers and the lowest crime rates etc

The economic incentives would naturally structure an insurance based organisation to take the most steps possible to prevent crime rather than just to solve crimes.

Private defense or self defense:

this bullet point seems self evident to me but a saying I have heard in the past is 'in an armed society everyone becomes a lot more polite', this provides a clear deterrent to breaking the NAP as any initiation of force on persons or property could result in the defensive use of firearms or other self defense tools.

Last but not least (and probably the most important on this list), prevention is better than cure: peaceful parenting:

like many voluntarists i don't see a stateless society coming about through a violent revolution or a sudden destruction of the state (i hope neither of these happen), i think as people are right now there would be many who have not learned to manage themselves/be their own rulers and so may still rely on the state to do this for them in the arenas of: welfare, policing, deterrents and dispute resolution, i think the sudden disappearance of said state would be akin to a mass drug withdrawal.

Like any other addictive drug i think a slow gradual tapering off combined with self knowledge, emotional healing and meaningful connection with others is the best way to heal this illness.

From reading books such as 'The Drama Of Being A Child' by Alice Miller and 'The Origins of War in Child Abuse' by Lloyd deMause i would hypothesise that much of the war and violence in our world often stems from people as children being neglected, abandoned and abused psychologically, spiritually, sexually and verbally.

I think an argument could be made that a large part of the state is people en masse acting out the unresolved trauma of their childhood with the state as almighty parent, beatings being replaced with jails and the authoritarianism of their parents being replaced with the tyranny of the state.

As the old saying goes 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure', meaning that choosing preventative measures will be superior to trying to cure a problem after it has occurred, i think this is the case with what some in the voluntarist community call 'peaceful parenting' which can include: resolving disputes through discussion, never coercing children in to what you think is best, non violent communication (Marshal B Rosenberg's book is good for this as are the videos of Roslyn Ross on YouTube and other mediums), honest communication and voluntary interactions as much as possible both ways.

I think and hope that a world consisting of multiple generations of peacefully parented humans would not only be stateless but far more empathetic and peaceful than what we have now, this has an added bonus in that it is something we can all start doing and promoting in our lives right now.

Alternative voluntary methods of education can also fall under remit of peaceful parenting including; unschooling, private schooling, home schooling and whatever else a free market were to find to be effective or preferable.

I would hope that multiple generations of children bought up in a situation where they haven't learned and don't speak the language of violence. coercion, oppression, slavery and aggression won't themselves bring about a society where these things are prevalent and i think this too would ensure that if punishment based 'justice' is voluntarily employed it would be very rare.

If you've grown up with good communication, empathy and voluntary interaction as the norm, why would you wish to enact anything else in your adult life?

I believe in a voluntary society, not only do i believe it is the only ethical way for beautiful inherently free human beings to live...i also believe it is possible and starting to happen right now.

Thank you for reading, If you like this article please resteem, upvote and donate to help spread the message of voluntarism!


Bibliography, resources and links:

The origins of war in child Abuse by Lloyd deMause:

Roslyn Ross on objectivist parenting:

Daniel Mackler's Youtube page:

Practical anarchy, full book by Stefan Molyneux:

These cages are only for beasts by Stefan Molyneux:

Caging the Devils: The Stateless Society and Violent Crime by Stefan Molyneux

An Introduction to Peaceful Parenting :)

Peaceful parenting philosophy:

Peaceful Parenting Series: Raising Children Without Aggression
Stefan Molyneux

The emotional life of nations:

The truth about spanking:

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Thanks for letting me know, i have joined!

Hey loved your blog, I think you'd be a great fit for our Libertarian upvote club on Facebook if you'd be interested in working with a community to expand and invest your content in https://www.facebook.com/groups/382038108977071/

We all generally agree that self-defense (particularly amidst an armed society) is the best hedge against immoral action; but what to do when defense fails is a very difficult problem.

First I’d like to acknowledge the fact that moral law - like physical law - is discovered by man, not devised. As such, our understanding in this area evolves with the species. I believe the problem of punishment subsequent to unsuccessful defense is on the leading edge of our understanding at this time (as is the aforementioned issue of abortion), and possibly just a bit out-of-reach.

Ostracization seems prudent and rational, but in practical terms, it will increase feelings of desperation within an already-unscrupulous and troubled individual. Most likely this will lead to another opportunity for defense against the actions of the offender, which is certainly less than optimal.

An understanding of (and commitment to) true moral principles answers for nearly all human sufferings; but as you’ve noted, this requires the earnest participation of the individual. The psychopath, for example, is all but utterly hopeless in this regard, and yet must be dealt with somehow.

If justifiable force could be employed during the offense, is it no longer justified immediately subsequent to the act? And if justified immediately after, why not long after? We can see how a return to the gallows could be deemed appropriate. So punishment becomes a very tricky business indeed.

I do not feel equipped to answer this questiion definitively, as my foundational understanding of morality seems insufficient to provide a responsible course of action in such cases. It may just be that I am not personally up to the task, or it may be that humanity on the whole has yet to evolve to the level of consciousness where the answer resides.

In any case, the conversation must continue until the logic is clear, and you have certainly done your part in encouraging this impotant work to continue. Much obliged, and keep up your resolve. You are an invaluable forerunner to the next stage of humanity’s social evolution.


Thank you for your comment and support.

'The psychopath, for example, is all but utterly hopeless in this regard, and yet must be dealt with somehow.'

My thought on this would be that psychopaths are still rational actors, as in, their ends may be unhealthy but the means they use to reach those ends are rational 'i am being ostracised, i can't get any food or shelter, it is rational for my self interest to make restitution so i can buy food and shelter'

So even the psychopath when they find that no one will rent to them, they can't buy food, clothing or fuel would likely conclude that it's in their interest to go to a voluntary restitution centre, they may not care at all about who they've harmed but as long as they do what is required for the victim to be ok with what happened then the outcome is the same.

'If justifiable force could be employed during the offense, is it no longer justified immediately subsequent to the act? And if justified immediately after, why not long after?'

If a person is no longer doing things that immediately threatening you or you have a defensive advantage and they are not armed then hanging them when they are subdued would be initiating force thus breaking the NAP, however i did say this:

'I think using some kind of imprisonment if this is the minimum defensive force needed until the person is not a threat to you or someone else could be justified, i think this would have to be in defense of specific individuals though and not abstract ideas like society to be in keeping with the non aggression principle.'

Meaning, if you have someone who has a known pattern of pretending to not be a threat so they can then kill people and say you have them locked in a room or cell the DRO owns because it was the only way you could defend yourself at the time then maybe detaining them long enough that you and your dispute resolution agency (psychologists, criminologists) are convinced that they won't immediately try to kill you is justified (i think even this may not be right and is negated by the following two paragraphs.)

Having said that once you have someone disarmed and you and your DRO buddies are heavily armed then again they are no longer a threat even if they want to kill you they wouldn't be able to and it would be in thier rational self interest not to try at this point and you could just eject them from your property and put up a good fence.

However cunning and psychopathic this person is there's not much they can do when they have gattling guns pointed at them, your face detection cameras would alert you when they're anywhere near your property and all weapons dealers have been alerted that they broke the NAP and so no one will sell to them.

I think this^ solution is morally and practically superior to detaining the perpetrator any longer than it takes to disarm them and be guaranteed of your and other's safety .

I may make this in to a new post as it's an important issue.


You raise a good point - even if the psychopath can’t truly be rehabilitated, if he can be encouraged to “act as if” that’s a serviceable solution. I understand many such people do just that, as they find it more advantageous. Hey, not everyone can make it to high seats of power and afford themselves the luxury of living above the usual risks associated with being a scoundrel.


This was something i got from Ludwig Von Mises in 'Human action' (science of human action/micro economics) where he points out that people can have ends that make no sense to other people but their actions to get there can be completely rational.

So, they're acting rationally to get what they want even if what they want is not healthy or moral eg ' i want power (ends) so i will lie, cheat and steal (means)', if they were unable to be a 'rational actor' they would have to be categorised as a deterministic object, so if they can act rationally for the ends of say power they have shown themselves to have a capacity to act rationally for the benefits of not being ostracised.

As long as you're a rational actor in the above sense (you can make rational choices to achieve an end) then i think ostracism, self defence, voluntary restitution and the other ideas would still work.

Maybe they wouldn't be able to give sincere apologies and such but, restitution needs to be something that is negotiated and if they can be shown to be a psychopath then the two parties could take this in to account when negotiating, even if not a psychopath restitution is always whatever both parties agree on.


The key issues with psychopathy being lack of empathy and utter selfishness, I suppose there's no reason why these people can't be made to understand why it's in their best interest to play nice. After all, many of them do now.

The bigger question for me is the matter of defensive force. If I catch a murderer in action, but by the time I pull out my gun, the deed is done, am I obliged by morality to refrain from killing him? The defensive opportunity being lost, am I now in a new category of moral obligation?

I can see how it is so, since rehabilitation is possible. What we're saying here is that there is no just punishment; there is only restitution. I can't find any ground to debate this point, given my current moral understanding, so I suppose I'm bound by it...

It's a bit of a tough pill to swallow when considering this scenario of a mere instant between justifiable homicide and murder. Then again, whether a minute or a year, revenge is not defense. So there we have it, I suppose.

Thank-you! This is the last step from libertarian to anarchist that I've been contemplating for months and yours is the first article I've found on the topic.


I'm very glad to hear that it was of benefit to you.

Actions have consequences but I don't see any sort of "punishment" as being sensible in my community. Prisons are an economic liability so why would anyone prefer to house prisoners over just ejecting them from the community? When someone's bad behavior has resulted in their credit score being hammered to oblivion, they won't be permitted onto most people's property anyway because of the hazard they pose. It's a sort of exile from respectable society that can be earned back as long as restitution is made and their credit rating is restored accordingly.

Excellent way of thinking. Thanks for being here.


Thank you for your support

This doesn't give us any practical steps we can take right now, but I love hows this is handled in "The Culture" in the sci fi books by Iain Banks.

Within "The Culture" (an intergalactic society), there are almost no rules, other than the NAP. If you violate the nap, you're not punished. Instead, you're followed around by an intelligent drone for the rest of your life. The drone doesn't interfere in your life in any manner, other than to stop you from hurting others (which it does by restraining you, not harming you).

Reputation is also very important in the Culture books, and of course breaking the nap hurts your reputation notably.

They are great books. If you've not read them, I recommend you start here and see if you like it:

I'm also excited to hear that they're turning the books into a tv series. Hopefully it will be good:


Thank you for the comment and link i will check them out, i would say that my final bullet point and links/book recommendations on peaceful parenting are what we can affect right now, many of us are parents or know parents and i think one of the root causes of statism (which is literally just the idea in some peoples heads that violence can be justified) is parenting children in a non peaceful manner.

I think that things like personal development, looking at how we treat each other, undertaking agorism, effectively communicating the ideas of voluntarism and modeling the benefits of a voluntarist lifestyle are things that we can affect right now in our lives too, i may write an article on this at some time.

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