@simonr916 raised some questions about how could the law, police, courts, etc function in a libertarian society. I dealt with the issue of civil law in my previous post and now move on to criminal law.
Before tackling possible mechanisms of implementing a libertarian criminal justice system (Which I will do on the next post) I need to clarify how libertarians define crime and criminal justice.
What is a crime?
The only things that are considered crimes in a libertarian society are violations of the Non Aggression Principle. The invasion of private property (including the person) using force or the threat of force.
So, crimes include, murder, assault, rape, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, fraud, etc.
Many things that are considered crimes in the statist world are not criminal to the libertarian.
“Victimless Crimes” are not considered crimes in a libertarian society, so taking recreational drugs, driving without a seat belt, smoking in a business establishment if the owner gives permission, unforced prostitution, consumption of pornography, polygamy, etc are not crimes.
Exercising legitimate property rights is not a crime, so refusing to allow people onto your property, even if based on racism, sexism, homophobia or a hatred of people in blue boots, is not a crime. Owning an assault rifle is not a crime, growing drugs is not a crime. Exercising free speech that others find offensive is not a crime.
What is Criminal Justice
In the statist world the criminal commits crimes against the state. He is tried by the state, pays fines to the state and is, in some cases, imprisoned by the state. The principles guiding the state are punishment for the offence, deterrence of other offenders and rehabilitation of the offender back into society.
Libertarian justice in contrast is guided by the principle of restitution. The criminal has wronged the victims and has to make good that wrong, not to “society” but directly to the victim(s). The costs of administering justice, and creating deterrence are also borne by the criminal.
The difference is best explained with an example.
An man robs a pensioner of her life savings of £25,000.
In the statist system he is sentenced to 4 years in prison. After 2 years in prison, if he behaves, his “debt to society” has been discharged and he is free to go. If he has been successful at hiding his loot, he can enjoy his ill gotten gains. The pensioner has still lost her life savings and innocent members of society have had to pay to catch, prosecute and incarcerate him.
In the libertarian system he is “sentenced” to repay the victim the £25,000 plus compensation for her distress, the costs of catching and trying him and an amount to deter other criminals. The criminals assets are sold off and he is detained and put to work until the victim is restored and compensated and all the costs of the crime are paid for. The victim is fully compensated, no innocent members of society are forced to pay anything and all the costs of the crime are suffered by the criminal.
Now we are clear on what libertarians mean by a crime and criminal justice, we can move on to look at how a private system of criminal law enforcement would operate.