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One of the questions facing proponents of anarchism is how to deal with criminals when there is no law and no State. The role of the latter can rather easily be fulfilled by arguing for a system of private entrepreneurs or corporations taking on criminals for a fee. But it does not, in the world of the statist, prove the enforcement of the rule of law. Besides, exactly what law are we talking about here?
Anarchists usually solve these problems through presenting a sophisticated blueprint for an anarchic system. Perhaps we can show that property rights are likely to emerge in the marketplace, and that people, being rather rational beings acting in their own interest, will strive to enforce those rights. If so, it is reasonable to conclude that some people will, due to their moral authority or such, act as arbiters and perhaps start businesses in the protection and arbitration industry.
If we are lucky, the statist will listen until we finish. But it is not likely; this argument, no matter how sophisticated and well-thought out, is not complete. There are way too many uncertainties and guesses to provide a sound alternative to the statist society of coercively enforced order. Freedom is a great thing, but not many are willing to do away with their orderly life of today if an attempt for freedom might bring chaos. You know what you have, but not what you might get.
Also, whoever came up with the idea of presenting a blueprint for anarchy? The very idea of a free society is that there can be no blueprint! That is what free means; you cannot make society into something of your preference. A free society is voluntary, spontaneous and will be whatever it will be depending on the billions of choices made by individuals acting to the best of their knowledge and in their interest. There is no way to predict in detail what a free society would be like at a certain point in time. It will be dynamic and ever-changing; it is never the same.
What we know about the free society is, there are no guarantees'the exact opposite of what statists demand of us!
So what about fighting crime committed in a society under anarchy? Well, we cannot say we know there will be big, friendly protection companies selling their services cheaply to everyone and that criminals will be tried in one of millions of private and neutral courts of 'law.' There might be some people not wanting to be part of whatever systems of justice arise. Still others might not be welcome in the existing communities and have to live on their own, in their own ways.
What we do know is that people have a sense of right and wrong, and that they tend to accept wrongs only up to a certain point. If nothing is done to stop a criminal from stealing from and assaulting the people I know, I will eventually be prepared to do something about it myself. It is in my interest to stop the criminal before he does more damage and before it is my turn to be victimized. Lynch mobs are a natural reaction to offensive criminality; people eventually get together to 'fix the problem' before it gets too far.
This is perhaps the strongest argument for anarchy: if things are not taken care of spontaneously and voluntarily in the marketplace, people will protect themselves, their property, and their loved ones with whatever means available. It is perhaps uncivilized, but effective. Lynch mobs can re-establish the balance and will increase the cost for (and therefore stifle) crime in that area. It is like the kids in kindergarten getting together to get even with the guy bullying them. Is that so wrong?
'Yes,' the statist would say. 'What about legal security; what about the rule of law?'
What he fails to see is that lynch mobs are a last resort in a free society, when all other means to bring justice have failed. There is no reason for me to drop what I'm doing to join a bunch of hooligans with baseball bats calling for revenge unless there is no other way. If I can pay someone to do it instead, I would. I would rather hire a mercenary than do the beating myself. But if it was possible, I would rather pay less for insurance or a guard protecting me and my loved ones. If more people think like me, there will be a market for such services.
Violence in a free society is first and foremost a strategy of defense, a means of protection against aggressors. In the statist's precious society, it is the other way around: the lynch mob is the very institution of 'justice,' a monopolized source of force. In this 'civilized' system, violence in the offense is the only way.