Perhaps the most powerful indictment of punishment is how it exploits people’s impulse to control others and turns ordinary people to a career entirely devoted to that control, with all the immoralities, abuses and corruption of the mind that ensues. Its logical result is to create an environment of extreme hierarchical control, both in the courtroom and in the prison. It turns everyone (everyone who is not the ruling class, anyway) into victims: the actual victims of the crime, the criminal, the jailers, and society at large. It must be rejected wholesale, and its apparatus and institutions must be entirely rejected from any sane society.
To this, the statist may reply: “so you want to just let criminals go free?” If by “go free,” he means that we do not wish to exert total control and put into bondage people who disagree with our values, then the answer is yes, yes, yes! In the name of all that is good, yes!
To the statist faggot, talk of freedom for all and not wanting to control others is juvenile drivel. He wants to see action. He wants to pound some heads or see some heads being pounded. He wants a fight. Well, by all means they should all go live on an island somewhere where they can pound on each other’s heads all day for more and more crimes, with the same glee as the Sharia-worshipping Islamist chops people’s heads, until they are all dead and buried. This would be a wonderful object-lesson of the logical consequence of the punishment drive taken to its extreme.
What sort of ethics should an Anarchist society consider adopting as regards to crimes, real crimes? First, it should permit self-defense and self-protection, to the fullest extent. Second, it should permit individuals to associate to defend and protect themselves, to the fullest extent. Note that I say “defend” as well as “protect”: the police does not defend anyone and has never defended anyone. They do arrest “criminals” after the fact so they do protect society at large in that sense, but they do not defend anyone from any “criminal” action. The individual in our current society is made defenseless by law, and therefore is utterly dependent on the police, by design.
As for the issue of judgment and consequences, there are many different approaches we can examine from the literature as well as history. Individualist Anarchist Lysander Spooner proposes a detailed one in his book Trial By Jury, which advocates a return to the Magna Carta system, of which our justice system today is a major degeneration, and bases his conception of justice on our innate morality. As for what consequences should be attributed to crimes, he remains mostly silent, but the alternatives are many: arbitrated restitution, restitutive fixed fines, social sanctions, and for the grave cases, ostracism and exile. In the most grave cases, where there is a fundamental disagreement between two parties, there must be dissociation. This is, in my opinion, a basic principle of Anarchist structuring.
The Anarchist, in order to eradicate crime, must look at the conditions that give rise to crime. An Anarchist society would not only eliminate all public crime (as well as so-called “non-violent crimes” and the crimes created by legislation, such as mafia and gang violence), but also mitigate the conditions that give rise to actual private crime: poverty, unemployment, inequality, bad child-raising, overexposure to criminal ideologies (religion, television shows, tradition, etc), the unavailability of self-defense, and the statist justice system that trashes people’s lives and pushes them to perpetuate criminal intents.
Obviously, we cannot expect all crime, properly defined, to be eliminated by a society moved by Anarchist principles. Criminal ideologies will continue to exist for a long time after their supports have been destroyed. Child-raising will continue to be mind-warping and authoritarian until a mutualist solution gains wide-spread support. So people will still be killing and defrauding each other, albeit at a much lower rate. Even right now there are populated statist areas with extremely low crime rates (compare for instance Hong Kong at 0.63 homicides per 100,000 or Austria at 0.81 versus the United States at 5.6, or the 1.8%/yr robbery rate in Poland versus 0.1%/yr in Japan and Northern Ireland). I am not claiming that the causes of these real-life rates will be duplicated in an Anarchist society, but they do at least give us an idea of what is possible.
There are also undesirable actions that are not crimes, such as breaking the rules of a specific organization or society. Those actions must also be dealt with by that organization or society as a whole. If I have to pay a certain amount to participate in an organization because its goals require resources, then being a freeloader and getting its benefits without paying is undesirable to that organization. In saying this, I am putting aside the issues of money, land monopolies, and so on, which are legitimate Anarchist concerns, but rather talking about legitimate organizations within Anarchist society. Even if an organization can occupy land without paying rent or taxes, resources are still needed to keep everything going. People will also desire to live their lives in accordance with this or that model, and implement rules aiming to concretize those models. We should not shun this tendency, but rather welcome it as true pluralism.
The core issue is that people believe they can judge other people’s values in the same way as they would their own. But this is a misguided principle, in that it assumes that everyone’s context of knowledge is the same, an assumption which is always unwarranted. The Anarchist must necessarily accept moral pluralism, while at the same time maintaining his right to live the way he wants to, as well as everyone else’s right to do the same, regardless of opposition. In this view, the treatment of crime is not the treatment of deviancy, but rather the treatment of a basic disagreement in values.