Lab e3: Contracts, courts and conflict resolution

Contracts, Courts and Conflict Resolution

On OboxPlanet, there are no state courts and legislated laws. Like on earth in the past, people make contracts voluntarily and when they have conflicts, whether over a contract or otherwise, they consult a mediator.

On earth, this used to be a trustworthy person in the family or in the community. As time went by, there developed a custom of how to handle particular cases and conflicts and arbiters started applying these codes of law, like the Justinian law code in roman times, common law in the Anglo-Saxon tradition and the code Napoleon on the European continent. This made it easier for contracting parties and arbiters, and that’s how things still work on OboxPlanet.

Everything else is but the application of this simple principle. Conflicts are ultimately disputes about property, including people’s bodies and the questions on who rightfully owns the disputed property and whether there was a unjustified violation of this property. The basics are simple, the details a matter of experience and legal scholarship.

We encourage you to visit the Exploration Space below. It may be one of the most exciting fields of legal research and scholarship available today.

Interview set on Earth. Marco is an Experienced OboxPlanet Explorer

This is the same interview as on page “Ethis and Property” for two reasons: firstly, the topics overlap. Secondly it is one of the most important and challenging topics.

Get ready for a unique discovery trip which will likely change the way you look at the world. 

Part 1: The Neutral Judge

Interviewer: Ethics and property are related to politics, legislation, jurisdiction, and even war. How long will it take to cover this topic?

Marco: (laughs) Not as long as you think. Politics, legislation, and wars require a state, which we don’t have on the OboxPlanet. So, we’re left with jurisdiction. However, jurisdiction itself is a big topic.

Interviewer: Okay, let’s get straight to the point. We refer to the stateless society on the OboxPlanet as anarcho-capitalism. That sounds like anarchy, chaos, and the law of the jungle.

Marco: No. It simply means “no rulers” and “free market.” People on the OboxPlanet have the same need for law and security as people on Earth.

Interviewer: But without a state, who determines what is lawful?

Marco: A look at our history on Earth helps. How were disputes resolved way back and in smaller communities? Simplified, disputing parties would go to the village elder or another respected person for a ruling. These rulings became guidelines for future judgments, and the totality of these judgments formed the basis of a legal tradition. This is pretty much how it still works on the OboxPlanet.

Interviewer: And what is the difference from Earth?

Marco: The biggest difference from Earth is the neutral judge. In other words, the conflict resolver must never be a party in the conflict. Put more simply, the judge must never simultaneously be the plaintiff or defendant.

Interviewer: But that’s common sense! Who would want a biased judge?

Marco: That’s what I thought, and then I had a realization that still troubles me today. A lawyer on the OboxPlanet, Hans, once asked me what the idea of the state was. I told him it’s a group of people who make regulations that everyone must follow. Upon which the lawyer asked me: what if somebody does not agree, who decides who is right? And I answered: the courts, the state courts. Hans then looked at me incredulously and asked: Are you serious? So, if you sue the state and say it doesn’t keep its promises, state judges decide who is right?

Interviewer: I’ve never seen it that way. I think I need to digest this first. Let’s take a short break and let this sink in.

Part 2: Further Details

Interviewer: Okay, I’m ready for the next challenge. What was that about the neutral judge?

Marco: The neutral judge is the core idea of the legal system on the OboxPlanet. Hans Hermann Hoppe, who scientifically elaborated this principle, likes to illustrate the topic with the following story: “Imagine a group of small children playing and often having disputes. Then Julius, one of the children, says: ‘I have an idea on how we can solve all disputes. I, Julius, will always say who is right. This also applies when I’m involved in the dispute.’ Even small children will sense that this is a strange rule. Yet, the state is essentially nothing more than Julius, the ultimate conflict resolver in all disputes, including those in which the state itself is involved.”

Interviewer: Let’s return to OboxPlanet. How does it work concretely? Where do people find neutral judges?

Marco: Take two neighbors. They have a dispute and can’t agree. One makes noise and smoke, and the other feels disturbed in his right to peace and relaxation. They can’t agree and want to resolve it legally.

Interviewer: What if one party doesn’t want a peaceful solution?

Marco: Those who use violence are treated as criminals, just like on Earth. We will talk about this in an interview on safety and security.

Interviewer: But Jurisdiction and security issues are closely related, right?

Marco: Of course, but there is a conceptual difference. Jurisdiction is about what is right and security is how to enforce these laws. In the security chapter, you’ll see why almost everyone on the OboxPlanet has insurance to protect themselves and their property. Or better: securance contracts, as they call them there, because it does not only cover the damages, like our securance companies, but also damage prevention and sanction, e.g. security. And here’s the connection to jurisdiction. All these securance contracts have a clause requiring insured individuals to resolve conflicts peacefully; otherwise, they would be criminals, and you can’t insure criminals.

Interviewer: How would the dispute between the neighbors be resolved?

Marco: Securance contracts contain procedures for conflict resolution, which we also have on Earth. The securance of both neighbors would discuss the case and propose a solution. If this is acceptable, the case is settled. If one party disagrees, the disputants must find a mutually acceptable, neutral judge. This judge would make a ruling, and that’s final. There are also appeal procedures and other interesting legal details, but that’s beyond the scope of an interview. I encourage you to consult the extensive literature on conflict resolution in a private law society. As I like to say: I envy all who have this exciting discovery journey still ahead. 

Interviewer: Which judges are successful on the OboxPlanet?

Marco: The most successful judges are those who have made the best judgments in the past, meaning judgments that are understandable and maximally acceptable for both parties.

Interviewer: For both parties to accept, they must have the same idea of right and fair. What if one of the disputants believes in Islamic Sharia and the other is a strict Catholic?

Marco: Bingo, with this question, we arrive at a second legal principle: non-violence. (The Non-Aggression-Principle NAP or Zero-Aggression-Principle ZAP, as it is called on the OboxPlanet). A law professor explained it to me this way: If both parties have the same values, if they belong to the same religion, so to speak, the conditions for an amicable settlement are optimal. If not, some common ground must be found. It must be something both can agree on. And there is one rule that applies to all people, everywhere and at all times: non-violence. In other words, if I say: You shall not commit violence against your neighbor, all people can follow this rule. If I say: I may commit violence against you and you may not commit violence against me, then we have different rules, and that is usually unacceptable.

Interviewer: Ok, I understand. Non-violence is the lowest common denominator in interpersonal value issues. What about property?

Marco: Conflicts are exclusively about scarce goods and the question of who can do what with them. Example: I want this banana, and you want it too. Or I want to stand in this place, and you also want to stand there at the same time.

Interviewer: And how is that resolved?

Marco: Quite simply, it’s the same principle we teach our children when we say: Whoever had the toy first gets to play with it first. Applied to the adult world, it means: If someone finds something that didn’t belong to anyone before, they can keep it. After all, there can be no conflict at that moment. And thereafter, no one may take it away by force. For example: I discover a new island or use land that no one has claimed before. Or I gather berries or hunt rabbits in no man’s land.

Interviewer: These examples sounds quite outdated. Much land is already taken, and people in cities buy rabbits frozen to eat or at the pet store as pets.

Marco: Sure, but the principle also applies everywhere we trade property or services. It applies when we shop, work for money, or give gifts. Everything is allowed as long as there is no violence involved. And very importantly, the principle also governs our interactions with other people. Every person is always the first owner of their own body and thus has the right to physical integrity. That’s why forced labor, slavery, or abuse are unacceptable, and that applies to children as well.

Interviewer: That makes sense, but the devil is in the details. For example: If someone discovers a new island, how much land can they keep, and what must they do for it to belong to them? Or: Can I do whatever I want on my land, like make noise at midnight?

Marco: On OboxPlanet, the first question is always: Who owns the property? Who discovered it, who is the “original appropriator” or who has lawfully acquired it from the “original appropriator”? Then comes the question of what one can do with their property, which must be decided by neutral judges, as we saw with the conflict of the two neighbors above.

Interviewer: That sounds complicated. Do I need to go to a judge every time to know if I can make a fire in my garden?

Marco: No, quite the opposite. Good judges make rulings that are considered maximally fair and understandable. They must fit into the culture, traditions, and times. Thus, the legal system on the OboxPlanet is as close as possible to what is considered “common sense” in a society. The legal system is also more stable than on Earth because there are no politicians and bureaucrats who can legislate and make rules at will and at any time.  

Interviewer: But isn’t that more tedious and time-consuming for individuals compared to Earth, where the legal system is simply as it is?

Marco: Again, on the OboxPlanet, common sense suffices for almost everything. That’s a far cry from arbitrary and sometimes even conflicting  laws and bureaucratic regulations on Earth.

Interviewer: In summary, how would you describe the main differences from Earth?

Marco: Surprisingly large areas and industries on Earth function by the same rules as on the OboxPlanet, according to private law principles. For example, international trade law has its own rules, private arbitration, and no state sanctions. Credit card companies also manage without state fines. Civil law was originally a civilian matter before politicians, bureaucrats, and state judges increasingly interfered, for example, in divorces or inheritances.

Public law, on the other hands, works completely differently. The state makes regulations on how to interact with the state and the state is simultaneously the ultimate judge in all disputes. I do not need to point out the  dangers of this logic, keyword Covid. We should also be aware that the practice of “legislation” by “lawmakers” is a relatively new development on Earth and only gained acceptance with the worldwide spread of democracy and the myth that “we govern ourselves”.

Interviewer: Yes, but without a state, who takes care of the poor, who builds roads and ensures security?

Marco: (laughs) Welcome to the other chapters on this website and enjoy your journey of discovery

What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?

Once again, a look at how things were developing in the American “Wild West”, without a state law structure, can give us real experiences from history. Settlers would form temporary “constitutions” while they were travelling for months together. Quoting from “The Not So Wild Wild West”: 

“The rules of a travelling company organised at Kanesville, Iowa, provided that “Resolved, that in case of any dispute arising between any members of the Company, they shall be referred to three arbiters, one chosen by each party, and one by the two chosen, whose decision shall be final”. The methods of settling disputes varied among the companies, but in nearly all cases, some means of arbitration were specified to insure “that the rights of each emigrant are protected and enforced”.

Here are some examples of the use of private conflict resolution systems as alternatives to traditional legal processes:

1.Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services: Utilized in business, construction, employment, and healthcare, ADR methods like mediation, arbitration, and negotiation facilitate structured processes to reach solutions outside of court.

2.Financial Services: The financial industry employs private conflict resolution systems, such as arbitration, to settle disputes between institutions, investors, and clients in areas like securities, banking, insurance, and investments.

3.Online Dispute Resolution (ODR): With e-commerce’s growth, online platforms integrate private ODR systems to address buyer-seller disputes concerning transactions, product quality, and service delivery.

4.Construction and Real Estate: Private conflict resolution mechanisms like arbitration settle disputes arising from construction contracts, property transactions, and disagreements between contractors, developers, and clients.

5.Sports: Sports organisations use private dispute resolution systems, such as arbitration and mediation, to handle conflicts among athletes, clubs, and stakeholders, including contract disputes, disciplinary actions, and doping allegations.

Hans Herman Hoppe illustrates this with another example:

“Private conflict resolution is already common practice in international,  anarchic, business transactions.

Just look at how cross-border disputes are settled today.  Internationally, there is a kind of anarchy in law, because there is no world state that regulates everything.

What do the citizens in the border triangle of Basel, i.e. Germans, French and Swiss, do when conflicts arise between them?  They will first of all turn to their own jurisdiction.  If there is no agreement, independent mediators are called in to decide the case.  Anyone who does not comply with their judgements is not only in breach of contract, he becomes a leper in the business world with whom nobody wants to do business.

Are there more disputes between the citizens of this region than between the citizens of Cologne and Düsseldorf?  I have never heard anything to that effect.  Surely this shows that interpersonal disputes can be settled peacefully without a state as a legal monopolist. “


Now it’s your turn:

Have you had experiences with state courts and what do you think private arbitrage would have done differently?

Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet: