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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Anarchy at the Washington Times

Ed Stringham, editor of the excellent anthology Anarchy and the Law, has a great op-ed in today's Washington Times about the miscarriage of justice in the Duke lacrosse case. Some excerpts:
[W]hy is law enforcement so political and has it always been this way? No.

Several hundred years ago, English law enforcement was a private system that included dispute resolution and closely resembled modern arbitration and mediation. The system was very different from today's adversarial system of criminal prosecution. When an injustice occurred, people would bring their dispute to private informal courts where the victim was compensated by the perpetrator.

Private law enforcement worked quite well until the Normans invaded England and the government decided to use the system to collect revenue, passing laws prohibiting private restitution and requiring all compensation be made to the king.

Eventually, when parties could no longer resolve disputes on their own, the system of private law enforcement disappeared. Only later did theorists develop arguments justifying why a government monopoly over law enforcement is allegedly necessary....

Government monopolies are not responsive to consumer needs in other areas, so we should not expect them to be responsive in the area of police and courts.

Luckily nongovernment alternatives do exist. The more we move away from a government monopoly, the less we are likely to see repeat tragedies such as the wrongful prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players.
The full article is here.

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