Saturday, March 31, 2007

How might punishment work in a free society?
The idea of primacy for restitution to the victim has great precedent in law; indeed, it is an ancient principle of law which has been allowed to wither away as the State has aggrandized and monopolized the institutions of justice. In medieval Ireland, for example, a king was not the head of State but rather a crime-insurer; if someone committed a crime, the first thing that happened was that the king paid the "insurance" benefit to the victim, and then proceeded to force the criminal to pay the king in turn (restitution to the victim's insurance company being completely derived from the idea of restitution to the victim).

In many parts of colonial America, which were too poor to afford the dubious luxury of prisons, the thief was indentured out by the courts to his victim, there to be forced to work for his victim until his "debt" was paid. This does not necessarily mean that prisons would disappear in the libertarian society, but they would undoubtedly change drastically, since their major goal would be to force the criminals to provide restitution to their victims.

In fact, in the Middle Ages generally, restitution to the victim was the dominant concept of punishment; only as the State grew more powerful did the governmental authorities encroach ever more into the repayment process...
From LRC.

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