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Polycentric and Decentralized Law Studies and Development

"To make legal systems better, we must make them compete against each other.

Do you like having options when you look for a new bank, dry cleaner, or veterinarian? Of course you do. You want to find the service that will best satisfy your particular demands, after all, and you know that when banks, cleaners, and vets have to compete they have a powerful incentive to make you happy. A monopoly, in contrast, can take its customers for granted.

Polycentric law simply extends that observation from commercial services to government ones. Just as competition makes life better for those who seek banking, cleaning, and pet care services, it can benefit those seeking fair and efficient legal systems. Competition helps consumers and citizens alike.

Polycentric law regards the legal services that governments provide—defining rules, policing their application, and settling disputes—as a ripe field for competition. When a government claims a monopoly in the law, it tends to neglect its subjects' needs.

In a polycentric system, however, providers of legal services care more about what consumers want. They have to, if they don't want to go out of business..." - Tom W. Bell

David D. Friedman: Police, Courts, and Laws---On the Market

Rothbard quote on the Private Law Society

A concise summation of the COLA concept, how it works, and why it will put an end to the kind of crony corruption we suffer under today

How do Communities of Legal Agreement (COLA) work?

What happens when you are born into a COLA?

How do COLAs differ from the society we have now?

'Is the major difference between what happens in a COLA and a currently existing state is the assumption of consent vs explicitly required consent?'

The Use of Contractual Trigger Provisions To Apply Social Pressure / A Replacement for Regulation of Things We Don't Like

The Osmotic Strategy for Mass Change

Further resources:

Order Without the State: Theory, Evidence, and the Possible Future Of - David D. Friedman

The End of Politics—Part One

The 4 Rules that will create Eternal Peace - HHHoppe

Once David Friedman did an AMA, and I asked him the question I'd been waiting to ask him: why not take law all the way down to complete decentralization, put it in the hands of individuals?

Here is his response, and my own thoughts on it, and here is a 3rd party who wrote his own thoughts on both of ours.

Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life by Edward Peter Stringham

The Jurisprudence Of Polycentric Law by Tom W. Bell

Market Chosen Law by Ed Stringham

Inside the mind of Nick Szabo on P2P-Law

"It turns out there’s only one thing that guarantees production of good laws. The people bound by the laws have to agree to be bound by them."

Video explanations of a polycentric legal system:

Rothbard on the legal theory of Concurrence and its implications for new legal systems.

Anarchy and the Law - Tom Woods & Gary Chartier

"The Jurisprudence of Polycentric Law" by Tom W. Bell

"Chaos Theory" by Robert Murphy, ideas of how a free society could be structured

Read the Voluntarism FAQ

Tom W. Bell's open source law resources page: ULEX

Hoppe on Covenant Communities and Advocates of Alternative Lifestyles

Forget Politicians: How To Crowdsource Better Laws (Tom W. Bell)

The Four Pillars of a Decentralized Society | Johann Gevers | TEDxZug - [16:13]

HHHoppe: "The Future of Liberalism - A Plea For A New Radicalism" --- A classic short-piece on what went wrong with the Liberalism of the past and how we fix it: "Liberalism will have to be transformed into private property anarchism (or a private law society)..." (PDF)

**Transcending Government — A Future of Competitive Governance Driven by “Governance Entrepreneurs”**

Tiebout Model: a non-political solution to the free rider problem in local governance. Specifically, competition across local jurisdictions places competitive pressures on the provision of local public goods such that these local governments are able to provide the optimal level of public goods.

Juarez vs El Paso: What a difference the law makes

Meet Me in St. Louis an article music about how much wealth people would have if the State weren't in the picture.


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There are only three possible political systems: autocracy, democracy, and unacracy.

14:14 UTC


Customary law (and Kanun)

Hi, I am searching texts and books about customary laws and oral transmission. I am interested in customary laws and their modifications during time, with a specific focus on the customary law of Kanun. Can you suggest me something? Thanks

1 Comment
14:31 UTC


A discussion I'm having about polycentric law.

1 Comment
01:30 UTC


What attempts have been made to encode and/or formalize polycentric social systems?

Hoping for an informatics approach. Usually that means computer code, but an ontology, set of diagrams, network model, or draft spec or RFC would count.

22:04 UTC


A fascinating post. I haven't seen many folks using the Pashtuns as an example of polycentric law before.

10:43 UTC


[AskLibertarians] u/ScarletEgret provided links to some academic papers on polycentric law

1 Comment
03:46 UTC


Living Toward a Decentralist Future, with Max Borders | Libertarian Christian Institute

20:44 UTC


Do you think law can exist without government? - Ask a Liberal thread

17:28 UTC


Can a Society Exist Without Government? | Guest David Friedman

00:37 UTC


Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Nations, States, and Scale

1 Comment
00:10 UTC


Rothbard on Competitive Protection

21:17 UTC


Building a Polycentric Legal System

I've been thinking about how to go about building/transitioning to a polycentric legal framework, in particular what is the best "first step" enterprise. In a sense, we already have some elements present today, such as binding arbitration and merchant disputes in amazon/other retailers. However, none of those appear to be interested in expanding their business into other areas. It could just be a failure of imagination on their part, but I suspect it's more to do with the how minor their concerns are.

An argument over the delivery of an instant pot is a far cry from even something so common as an employment dispute.

So, that said, what is the easiest business to introduce a more substantial kind of Polycentric framework? In my opinion, it's real estate. Particularly leases and rentals. It covers a domain with enough value that, once someone has gotten used to it, it wouldn't be much of an ask to suggest using the system in other domains.

It's also an arrangement that is, at heart, very straightforward: You get to live here. You give me money. You don't break my stuff (or you pay for damages if you do). There are even some polycentric elements (if you think about it) already present in the form of a security deposit.

Given that, do people here think it would be viable to implement a parallel law-like institution by (essentially) expanding the deposit to cover the whole contact/lease?

01:35 UTC


Michael Malice on Polycentric Law

16:06 UTC


"If you're planning on visiting San Francisco... your car windows will get smashed and you'll lose it." - Inability to exile petty criminals means cars have become eternal targets

14:48 UTC


Could we be witnessing the beginnings of open source defense, with all of these international serving military going AWOL to fight Putin?

1 Comment
20:53 UTC


Changing the power of governance.

I recently thought of a state-like system that is very compatible with the idea of polycentric law, and in fact was partially inspired by it. I suspect people here will be interested in it, so I thought I'd share.

In short, it takes the model of the modern state and exchanges violent power with associative power, creating a kind of firm I call a Private Social Association. Of particular relevance to this forum, there is no limit to the number of PSAs that can be formed, and it is easy for people from different PSAs to share the same geographic area.

Anyway, here is a short booklet I wrote describing how it would work: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zm63e19ulnu53el/BFABooklet.pdf?dl=0

I have a repo with the individual documents here: https://github.com/LiteraryWho/BlueprintForAssociation

I also wrote a short novel that introduces the concept and contrasts it with the state, which you can get here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7rxs3or5bh4n9sm/TheClassB.epub?dl=0 or here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/y7tiscndw195xsr/TheClassB.pdf?dl=0

I hope you find this of use :D

1 Comment
23:18 UTC


Unacracy Defined: Consensus voting vs Unanimity, and how decentralized law would structure a city

Consensus voting is not the same as unanimity.

If it required unanimity they would say unanimity. Consensus still allows you to crush a few dissenters because it's not unanimity. Thus, consensus is still a form of tyranny.

Consensus voting says it at least wants to involve so-called 'stakeholders'. This is code for 'important / politically-connected people' and to cut out of the consensus process the unimportant people.

If all you want is to involve stakeholders, then you're fine with crushing those not considered non-stakeholders. This idea of who and who isn't defined as a stakeholder can be easily abused. Who do you think gets to be defined as a stakeholder, those with the power.

Therefore we have the necessity of unanimity.

Unanimity is the ethical gold standard of decision-making. Normally criticism of unanimity will complain that unanimity essentially gives a veto to any single person in the group and can result in decisions taking interminable amounts of time while the entire group is tried to be convinced and all viewpoints aired. It is considered impractical, so people end up justifying using systems that do not require unanimity. However, that veto concept I consider a virtue, it is what gives protection to every single individual and ensures that groups cannot crush individuals. That veto is WHY unanimity is considered the ethical gold-standard. The individual veto must not be denigrated nor routed around, it must be embraced as the heart of the system, because it constitutes the guarantee of individual rights and individual choice!

We ancaps have discovered how to build an actual political system based on unanimity, we know how to make it practical. That is revolutionary!

This is the theory on how: any group vote can be made unanimous in decision by first polling them into camps, such as yes/no on X question, then splitting the group along decision-lines, thus creating two unanimous but now separate groups from one, which remain separate from then on. Repeat the process until questions are settled. You will end up with a number of groups, all in unanimous agreement.

This has the further benefit of instituting ever-increasing decentralization as a desirable process outcome in this political system, which is the very opposite of the centralizing tendencies of the modern nation State.

We are driving towards building political systems based on these ideas in places where no state exists currently, such as seasteading, with the desire to build societies that are truly stateless, yet still produce law and order. The ocean is a great place for this because by international treaty no new state can be formed on nor own the oceans. Perfect, we have no intention of doing so, people from any nationality will be welcome, the first truly global city.

Implementation is slightly different from the theory I gave above. We do not need to take votes with groups at all because unanimity is synonymous with individual choice--ie: each person has a veto, but only over their own life is the ideal, not over the entire group because of group splitting, so you can achieve the same outcome by simply letting each individual choose directly, whenever they want, no need for a coordinated vote.

We can achieve this by letting people simply choose from an infinite variety of legal systems. So we propose that cities be composed of hundreds or thousands of neighborhoods (as they already are) that each have custom law, created by their own occupants. The city can have a few basic rules for city-level law, and the neighborhoods go from there. Each a gated community that only allows in people who agree to live by the rules.

Custom law for living together. Something no one has anywhere in the world.

Then cities too can be subject to the same process, figure a county full of dozens or hundreds of cities, each able to be started by their occupants just as neighborhoods are. Couple neighborhoods don't like the city law they're in? They exit the city and start their own city and invite other neighborhoods to join under the new rules.

A new person moving to say, the seasteading equivalent of los angeles, would be able to find any combination of law they prefer, and if they truly did not find one they like, this system allows them to start their own legal system as long as they can find other people to live with them on this basis. The rules you choose obtain only on your own property, or in the contiguous community if there is a collection of properties all choosing the same rules.

And all of this is purely the consequence of being able to make the rules for your own property. You can choose X rules for yourself and those who visit. Therefore if you grouped together with a few hundred or thousand people who did the same thing, then X rules would be the rules for that entire region of housing and living.

Law without the state, easily achieved. Law via decentralized individual choice. Creating cities of unanimity.

It is something extremely different from what we have now, yet solves so many of the problems that are unsolvable currently.

This is the future of politics. I call this: unacracy, for its emphasis on unanimity as its central feature, and its focus on protecting the individual, the "U / You".

20:39 UTC


Anyone wanna start a Stateless Society on the last 620,000 square miles of unclaimed territory on Earth?

07:36 UTC

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