Justice in a Ordered Society


In anarchic societies, the cause of justice becomes, by definition, the job of the private citizen. That is to say, the individual himself is ultimately responsible for the safety and security of his property and his life and personal liberty.

This is not something unusual for an anarchic society. For in such setups, almost everything works the same way.

The case of money

In anarchic societies, trade operates on the principle of barter, that is the direct exchange commodities, from one to another. There is no money, as such. Instead, each person provides his own form of money, in the form of goods, that they then exchange on a mutually agreed rate of exchange.

It is fair to ask – why do we no longer barter goods among ourselves anymore? Why do we use something called a currency – paper notes, mostly, to conduct trade?

A principal advantage to the use of money is that it provides a universal medium.

To see how, suppose that I have 5 lbs of chicken, and I wish to get rid of it, and have bread instead. Under a system of barter, I might have to first exchange that chicken for say 30 lbs of chips. and then find another person to sell my chips to, to obtain bread. The process requires three transactions, a lot of time, and tremendous amount of effort.

But with a currency, I could sell my chicken for say, $10 and then freely use those $10 to obtain any combination of of chips, chicken, bread, or any other combination of goods or services.

Here, the currency, (the dollar) provides a universal unit, against which the worth of any good or service can be measured, and into which any good or service can be translated.

Thus the use of currency saves us time and energy.

By freeing up these things, it allows me spend more time to perfect my skills, so that I can improve upon them. Ultimately, that will allow me to be more productive. This is called specialization.

Thus we see two advantages of money – universality of exchange, and specialization of the individual.

These advantages are so valuable that all governments since time immemorial have sought to provide a currency system within their borders.

A Justice System

The case of a justice system is exactly analogous.

Instead of having to chase down every predator, intruder or hooligan that tries to attack me, the State does that for me. The State guarantees my liberty, the safety and security of my person, and of my property.

This saves me the time and the effort from a lot of chasing and punishing. As before, I use this time and effort in improving my skills, leading to more specialization.

Plus, since it is the State who does all the catching and punishing, it also ensures universality – that is to say a common code that lays down penalties for all crimes, regardless of who was injured. We tend to call this “fairness” or “impartiality”, but it is really the same as universality of money – it provides a fixed “rate of exchange” for each offense committed.


There is a third component here, that we seem to be missing, which is secrecy. It is not immediately apparent, but it is of the greatest importance.

Suppose I pay $10 for a bag of rice. Once I pay you the $10, I lose all rights over that money. I no longer have the right to ask you what you did with my $10 bill.

Did you burn it, did you spend it, did you save it – none of this is my concern. I cannot come the next day to your house demanding to see my $10 bill, because I miss it. No – that is not allowed.

In other words, the transaction, once completed is final, and the $10 bill is yours, however you choose to make use of it.


Why should the case of the justice system be any different?

If a criminal offense has taken place against me, then one way to go is retribution, or revenge. I chase you down and try to inflict as much pain on you, as you did on me. But that wastes my time and effort. As we saw, the State does that for me under a justice system.

But what it also provides is a modicum of secrecy. For once it arrests someone, or sentences someone, I can no longer peek into their lives to see their suffering, compare it with my own, and so forth. All I need to know is that the arrest or the sentencing was carried out.

The details of the deed are best left out. For it disturbs my peace to hear the screams, and I shall have none of it. I trust the authority of the State, and wish only to be left in peace. This is also what makes me civilized, as against someone who practices revenge.

So please, do not tell me your prison stories!

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