A murder in anarchy?

Posted on July 10, 2011


The following is a question and my response from Tumblr that I found worthy of publish here.

nevertakethelifeofarealg asked: In an anarchist society, what would happen in this situation: One man kills another man. Is the killer killed? Jailed?

Let me begin by saying that is an impossible question to answer. The world is not anarchist. People do not think the way that they would need to think in order to form a free and voluntary society. Therefore to answer such a specific answer about a system that does not exist would be an impossibility. So, I will answer what I believe personally.

It will entirely depend on the situation. Let me show you the logic behind murder. I personally believe that the “eye for an eye” mentality is logical and rational. HOWEVER, I would never act in such a way because I am a naturally compassionate person and I have the ability to forgive and talk things out. Anyway, the “eye for an eye” logic only works on an individual basis. For instance, If you steal something from me, I have the right to take it back, or, if that is not possible, to take something of equal value from you.

Now, that is an extremely specific notion. Let me show you how it applies to murder. I kill you. Then, per the “eye for an eye” mentality, YOU are the only person who can morally return the death to me. It is illogical and immoral for someone to commit that act for you (since you are dead).

People think that if I kill you, I deserve to die and on that they are correct. However, YOU are the only person who can do that in a logically moral sense. That is because of how personal murder is.

Now, similarly, I murder your daughter, you do not have the right to come murder mine. The logic here is that your daughter is not your property, my daughter is not mine.

So that leaves some kind of punishment because clearly we cant just let murderers go free simply because the person they killed is the only person with the moral allowance to return the favor.

If you are familiar with how an anarchist society must operate, you will be familiar with two things: 1. An anarchist society is 100% reliant upon complete voluntary participation. and 2. One goal of anarchism is to eliminate the motivation for such crimes as murder.

With these fundamental bits of information we can infer that a person who commits such a crime as murder is going against both of these things. By killing, they are showing power over others and removing themselves from the voluntary and equal system. And, they are showing that they either have a motivation (meaning society is flawed and must be altered) or that they have created their own motivation (meaning they are either mentally unstable/handicapped or they have chosen to remove themselves from the voluntary system by choice).

So, in an anarchist system, murder would be very unlikely because its only reason for happening would be one of the two latter options. If they are mentally unstable, they must be treated. If they are removing themselves from a voluntary system, so be it; let them go.

The point would be that since we cannot logically “punish” them for what they have done, we can do one of two things: treat them, or ban them. By ban them I mean that the people would see them as a murderer (or really, whatever other kind of criminal) and not want to continue to support them (since an anarchist system is built on a network of voluntary support).

Again, this is my personal opinion. This method could easily vary from community to community. It could easily be totally different. But, from my knowledge of anarchist logic, this seems most apt and sound.