February 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm #89
I’ve been trying to think more about practical ideas for activists to try.
In thinking about how a society would work with a polycentric dispute resolution system, and how different groups would need to coordinate to resolve disputes between their members, it occurred to me that organizations like the ACLU and the Institute for Justice already, in a sense, bargain with the present major coercive institution, (the government, at various levels,) in an attempt to support and defend their own clients and the ideals they hold regarding what counts as “justice”, “freedom”, and so forth.
Thus, I’d like to submit an idea for discussion. We could create an organization combining the services of the ACLU and Institute for Justice with the sorts of services provided by different arbitration/mediation agencies, like those discussed by Robert Ellickson in his book Order Without Law, (which I confess I have not yet read cover to cover, I’m going off of reviews of and references to his book,) or like the Praise Houses that existed in the Gullah Geechee culture for a time, which they used to resolve many disputes outside of the official U.S. Court system. (Patricia Guthrie discusses the Gullah Geechee system in her book Catching Sense, which I have actually read all the way through.)
I’m also drawing on the history of mutual aid societies for inspiration, (for which one can read David Beito’s From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.) So, think of an organization structured like so:
Each member pays a subscription fee into a treasury. When disputes between members come up, they rely on an arbitration/mediation service provided by the organization and paid for out of the treasury. When a member has a dispute with a nonmember, or when they are harassed by a governing body, the group helps pay for their legal aid, hiring a law firm to support them or doing whatever needs to be done to try to keep them out of prison and limit the damage done to them.
Provision of these services could be conditioned on the member being able to make a minimal case for their own innocence as judged by the standards of the club, (not the laws of the government attacking them.) So, in other words, if a club member is obviously guilty of murder, the other club members could decide to withhold legal and financial aid. The process for making such decisions could be documented in the contract one signs when joining the club, so members understand what they’re getting into.
Non-members of the club could request aid at a fixed price well above the price paid for by club-members through their subscription payments, or they could submit a request for charitable aid from the group. Club members could decide collectively if and when to help non-members, so they could sometimes engage in charity for causes they felt sympathetic to. (E.g. they could help victims of drug prohibition, criminalization of homelessness, police brutality, etc., if they so desired.)
The arbitration service dealing with intraclub disputes could be based on the systems mentioned above, used by the Gullah Geechee, the ranchers in Shasta County California Ellickson discusses, and others. Funding could be handled like insurance, the way mutual aid societies used to work. The club could gain additional funding through crowdfunding campaigns for specific projects or for selling a periodical of some sort that gave subscribers information regarding the current legal climate, (such as how often people sent to prison for violent crime had actually been engaging in self-defense or defense of their loved ones.) Interaction with the present government could be handled in a similar way to how the ACLU and Institute for Justice handle cases.
The organization wouldn’t have to engage in vigilante justice or provide policing services, they, (we), could limit the services to legal aid. Since organizations like the ACLU and Institute for Justice already exist, it seems like it should be possible to create an institution like the one described. It seems like these sorts of institutions could, plausibly, transition to providing more services as they were able, until a plethora of such groups existed and society transformed into a de facto polycentric one.
This isn’t something we could create today, we don’t have enough people or funding. But it seems like an idea we could pursue and develop.
February 11, 2017 at 2:58 pm #90
I need to cogitate on it, but here are some interesting links.
February 21, 2017 at 7:10 pm #129
Mutual bust insurance is what it sounds like. Would such a group e.g. charge pot-smokers more, since they are more likely to get busted? Protesters? Tax resisters?
February 22, 2017 at 3:36 am #133
Possibly. Especially at the beginning, when the group was still trying to become effective at litigation and defending members against the U.S. government in court or otherwise, charging those more likely to get busted could make some sense.
On the other hand, we would make clear to members that the group will almost assuredly have to pay out some money. A large part of the point would be to raise funds to effectively litigate on behalf of our members, and our group could be proactive as well as reactive, suing the government on a member’s behalf. Part of the group’s function would be to engage in activism similar to the Institute for Justice and ACLU, and if I understand these groups correctly they are proactive in this way.
So, a form of “bust insurance” would be part of the incentive to join, but members would also be paying to help support litigation that, by helping others, would also help them.
Here’s a case from the Institute for Justice regarding Taxi services in Little Rock. They sued the government for enforcing monopoly privileges, and as far as I can tell they were successful, people can now compete in providing this service in Little Rock.
Here’s another case regarding hair-braiding licensing laws. Again, they were successful:
Before the judge could even hear the case, Arkansas came to its senses. Representative Bob Ballinger and 14 co-sponsors introduced the “Natural Hair Braiding Protection Act” to free Arkansas braiders. The Act, which was based on IJ model legislation, exempts hair braiders from having to obtain a cosmetology license and instead creates an optional certification. IJ also helped braiders in Arkansas—which is known as the “Natural State”—organize themselves into the “Natural State Braiders Association” to support the legislation.
That people are able to make a living braiding hair or running taxi services benefits me. Even without ever entering those industries as a provider myself, more competition may mean lower prices or better service, and, more importantly, it’s now easier for people to make a living. More people can more easily start their own businesses and hire others. They can benefit themselves and better their own lives, making them more of a potential trading partner for me, and lowering the risk that they will become impoverished and need charity to survive, (which in turn helps ensure that the charity that exists will go far enough to help people who need it, since fewer will need it.) It also means just slightly fewer people looking for jobs, (since they already have jobs, being able to work for themselves or work for the new businesses that can now survive.) Lower supply of labor means higher price of labor; the ability of others to successfully find good work and make a living can thus lead, indirectly, to higher wages and work benefits for people in general, people like myself.
My point here is that I think people who understood all of this would be potentially willing to pay, not just for “bust insurance”, but for legal aid for others who needed it to be able to live and thrive. I’d be willing to pay for it, not least because it would improve my own standard of living. What about people imprisoned for defending themselves or their family members against assault, (quite possibly no small number of people, if Victoria Law is right)? If people pay for legal aid for others in these situations, they can help ensure that people will be able to engage in self-defense without going to prison, which could encourage people to actually defend themselves, and discourage abusers and attackers, benefiting those at the start of the chain who are paying for the legal aid.
Also, I’m imagining the group asking members for much more than money. For example:
1) The group, (let’s call it a “club”,) could teach members about jury nullification. In joining the group, members could agree to help nullify certain laws. If a member finds themselves on a jury in a U.S. court, if the defendant is on trial for drug possession, and if the defendant has not engaged in any sort of aggression, the club member serving on the jury could vote “Not Guilty”. Voting “Not Guilty”, in such circumstances, engaging in jury nullification, could be something asked or required of all club members. So club members would not simply “pay” the club in money, part of what they give the club would be aid towards each other, (and, potentially, non-members,) in court.
2) Similarly, the club could engage in cop-watching. If someone is pulled over, they could send out a text to the other club members, (a simple app could be written to make this quick and easy,) and any other club members close enough could drive to their location, park close by, and film the cops during the stop. If the cops asked what the people arriving were doing, they could explain that they were peacefully documenting the event from a safe distance, without interfering with the cops, all the usual things cop-watchers say under those circumstances. If the cops arrest them all, what would the charges be? My understanding is that judges have so far said people can cop-watch under specific circumstances. The club could probably successfully defend members taken to court for cop-watching.
3) If members have an issue for which they might otherwise call the police, they could call each other instead. For example, just yesterday at work a stray dog turned up, and when my manager called the sheriff and then animal control, they told her, (over the phone,) that we would have to wait until tomorrow morning for someone to come get the dog, unless it was some sort of emergency, (such as the dog having bit someone, or been run over.) This left us with the alternative of either tying the dog up outside the store for the night or finding someone willing to keep the dog until morning when animal services could pick it up. Eventually, one of our customers was kind enough to take the dog home for the night. (Infinite thanks to them, though I doubt they will ever read this!) In situations like that, or more serious cases where someone is afraid their house has been broken into or similar, we could engage in mutual aid and do what we could to solve the problem. This could enable us to boycott the police, to a degree, something that we otherwise might not always be able to do.
4) The club could allow people who didn’t have the money to subscribe, (potentially a large number,) to engage in some sort of community service instead, as an alternative to paying a subscription fee. The club could do this to different degrees, as well, requiring a combination of community service and/or money.
5) The club members could get together and find ways to protest or engage in direct action while minimizing the risk of arrest. Organized events could be more effective and less risky, compared to members protesting more ad hoc. If we end up with members who are part of the “testosterone brigade”, to borrow a term from the critical mass bicyclist movement, we could find ways to encourage them to direct their energy where it would be most effective.
6) If we were able to build up our membership base well enough, then we could eventually start engaging, collectively, in tax resistance. If we had a hundred thousand people on our side, all participating, we could actually make a difference, whereas a few people here and there would have much less of an effect. This would be endgame activism, in my mind, one of the final actions taken in transitioning to a polycentric society. If we did it now, it would be too dangerous and ineffective.
But once we reached that point, where we had the ability to resist supporting the official U.S. government successfully, and safely, and where we had the alternative institutions in place to arbitrate disputes among ourselves while boycotting U.S. courts and police, the government would become just another group people could choose to be part of or not. We could achieve a de facto transition to consensual institutions. The revolution would be afoot. And it would be, I would greatly hope, a peaceful revolution. There’s a lot between us and this step.
I expect we can come up with other ideas, as well. I definitely want us to organize, though. I feel like we very much need to do something. If all we ever do is meet up and discuss economics, that’s pretty awesome and worthwhile, but I do still want to have some sort of collective, and effective, activism.
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