Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Does Anarchy Deal with Heinous Crimes?

Personally, I think you are too lenient on child molesters - I would put them to death! I do not believe you can have reasonable [conversation] (if such a thing is even warranted) with the parent of a child who was molested.

My skeptical friend takes exception to my statement that under an anarchic system we would expect people accused of heinous crimes to be treated according to the Golden Rule wherever possible and that the primary concern of any system dealing with crime would be looking after the welfare of the victim and the welfare of likely future victims, rather than inflicting suffering on the perpetrator.

My first task in dealing with his desire to see child molesters executed is to define the terms. What is a child? What is molestation?

As I mentioned last time, If his definition of molestation includes the unwelcome touching of the genitals of a prepubescent, we have exactly that taking place in our airports—not by anarchists, but by agents of the state, which grants them impunity. (If there's a good contrast between anarchy, the lack of a class of people with special privileges, and chaos, the absence of moral order, this is it.)

Who is a child? Is a fifteen-year-old who pays her own rent and buys her own food and clothes a child? Is a twenty-two-year-old with Down's syndrome an adult?

These are questions any faceless ("justice" is blind, remember) government justice system needs to answer if it is to carry out its duties consistently. And, as with everything else government does, the actual standards will be those determined to be expedient by the politically powerful; any resemblance to biblical justice will be coincidental. And I see nothing in the Bible that legitimates statutory rape laws: forcible rape, definitely, but statutory rape, no. My guess is that God figures that parents who don't teach their daughters chastity deserve what they get if their daughters allow themselves to be seduced.

Related to this is the question of equality under the law for perpetrators. Before the Industrial Revolution, sixteen-year-old females were commonly married, not infrequently to much older men.* And if such couples married, one can assume that extramarital affairs were not unheard of and were dealt with as was any other sexual misconduct.

My point is not to legitimate extramarital sex, only to point out that if a sixteen-year-old female has consensual extramarital sex with a nineteen-year-old male, while that is a tragedy, it is not considered a crime; the male is not even arraigned in juvenile court. Yet a twenty-two-year-old male would be sent to jail on child molestation charges for doing exactly the same thing to exactly the same person. (Maybe my friend would solve this problem by working to see the younger male arraigned.) This is morally no different from meting out differing punishments to people of different races or economic levels, or whose surnames come at different places in the alphabet.

All this changes under an anarchic system. The primary concern of the victim's dispute resolution organization (DRO, to use Stefan Molyneux's term) would be the victim, not the perpetrator. No matter what else happened, the DRO (depending on what kind of account the victim's family had) would likely provide counseling, therapy, and whatever else was needed to restore the victim to physical and emotional health. (Try getting that from any state system!)

If the abuse came from a customer of the same DRO, but one outside the immediate family, the DRO would likely greatly modify or terminate the terms under which it would protect the perpetrator. If the DRO terminated his protection and no other DRO would take him on, the family of the victim could then do as they pleased (subject, of course, to their contract with the DRO) with him with no fear of reprisal. It would thus behoove the perpetrator to mollify the family if possible, but if the only way the family could get closure was to kill the perpetrator, then, if no DRO were willing to shield the perpetrator, it would be him (and whatever other outlaws he could get on his side) against them.

This has several advantages over the present system. Most important is the concern for the victim. Under our present system, as Charles Colson has pointed out, the state considers itself the primary victim of any misconduct, and any concern shown for the victim is coincidental. That is why rape victims especially are known to feel as though they have to relive the horror under interrogation by state agents both before and during trial. Also, whether the suspect is convicted or not, it is the victim who pays for medical and psychological treatment, as well as any work missed due to trauma. And finally, all government officials involved have the incentive to grandstand, or to please voters or lobbyists, rather than to administer justice.

Under an anarchic system, the interpersonal relationships of all concerned enable people to talk about issues freely and force them to take responsibility for the final result: it's one thing to have your granddaughter's molester killed by a faceless bureaucracy; it's another thing entirely when you're the one who does the job yourself.

Other questions to consider:

Does the victim always want to kill the perpetrator? More importantly, is it alway (or ever) to the victim's advantage to have someone whose paycheck is the same no matter what he decides deciding the matter?

Most abused children still love their parents; they only want the abuse to stop. How are such children better off if a "hanging judge" makes them orphans?

Still, I hear my friend complain that such a system would be too lenient and a state system is needed. I would like to point out that never in the history of "the greatest nation on God's green earth" has child molestation been a capital crime. For that matter, I can't think of any state anywhere where molestation is a capital crime. So if he is going to get what he wants from a state, it will have to be a state unlike any that has ever existed.

If you really think God wants child molesters dead, anarchy is the way to bring it about: start small and work up. Find or start a DRO that demands death for child molesters—define the terms any way you like—and there you are. Of course, you'll have to deal with a larger system that might get in your way, but at least it will be in everyone's best interests to listen to each other, unlike our political system that only listens to money and power. Maybe your way will prevail. Or maybe not. But it hasn't prevailed under any state system anywhere in the world at any time. One would think it reasonable to try something other than what has failed every time so far.

*One reason commonly given for the disappearance of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, from the gospel narratives after Jesus was twelve years old is that he was much older than Mary and died before Jesus began his ministry. Be that as it may, such musings show that the idea of Joseph as a considerably older man is not completely despicable to those who propose it.

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