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Third question: Who guards the guardians?

Even as the armed individual remains the key to self and community defense, sophisticated societies inevitably develop specialization. It seems likely that even Libertopia would end up with a professional class of protectors, bounty hunters, or armed “insurance agents” (ala L. Neil Smith’s North American Confederacy).

Which brings us to the ancient dilemma, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

Third question: In this or any other society, is it possible to ensure that armed, organized enforcers respect the rights of individuals and hold themselves to the fundamental rules of civil society? If so, what would put such a check on their behavior and prevent them from becoming tyrannical brutes serving powerful special interests?


  1. Kevin3%
    Kevin3% March 6, 2013 3:48 am

    If we accept the premise (and I am not completely sure about that, but I will play along), then full personal accountability would be required.

    Starting with;
    A) There would be no such thing as police unions.
    B) No such thing as “qualified immunity”.
    C) Police would be held individually/personally liable for any wrongful action. ex: if a cop shoots someone and it is determined by a court of law, not a police review board and not an internal investigation, said cop pays the damages. This would include reparations, jail time, or even death penalty, loss of pension, removal from the position of guardian, etc.

    That is just a start. I am sure that there are others who are better able to articulate a detailed plan.

    Somewhat related is this piece today at Sipsey Street:

    I think Socrates was on to something when he said:
    Only when philosophers are kings and kings are philosophers, shall we have the ideal state.

  2. Pre-press veteran
    Pre-press veteran March 6, 2013 4:35 am

    Since all institutions and members thereof, can become corrupt, it falls of necessity to the people to “guard the guardians” – as a last resort. When the courts are no longer impartial guardians of law and justice, and unwilling to guard the boundaries of power, they have abdicated their duty and then it is the people’s turn.

    I believe Chief Justice Roberts even said that, in reference to accepting the “constitutionality” of Obamacare, despite how tortured the logic was.

    Your thoughts are totally free; no one can see them or tell you what to think.

  3. water lily
    water lily March 6, 2013 5:15 am

    I think that if you keep all things as local as possible, with the guardians living among you and answerable to the same justice system as you, it would be much easier to keep them accountable.

  4. Karen
    Karen March 6, 2013 6:48 am

    I think the internet is starting to provide a significant watcher function but it has 2 drawbacks so far.
    1. It could be taken down at any time by those not wanting to be watched.
    2. It’s like an old dog with arthritis and no teeth who might still be able to bark and growl but isn’t able to get up and get teeth into anyone.

  5. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 6, 2013 6:56 am

    The trick is in the word “ensure.” There is only one way to ensure human action (by others, I mean)—physically overpower it. Otherwise, every drop of it is left to the willful decisions of the actor. EVERY DROP. The only exceptions are sleep-walking and convulsions (or seizures).

    That’s the FACT of the matter, so obviously the rational thing to do is live among people who choose not to be tyrants or brutes. Sorry, but there’s no other way.

    Thanks for the memories, though. Before the Internet, I used to use the handle “Sedquis” in deference to precisely this quote, often introduced with “Sed” for “But.”

  6. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 6, 2013 7:24 am

    ” it falls of necessity to the people to “guard the guardians” – as a last resort. ”

    By then it is too late. The accountability has to be up front, personal and constant. Once the “courts” fall to corruption, it is nearly impossible to turn it around.

    Each individual must own themselves, remain responsible for themselves, and take care of their own safety and security. If they choose to hire others to actually man the ramparts and doorways, the employers must remain responsible for what their employees do in their name and on their clock – and those employees must have no powers or “rights” beyond those of anyone else.

    When some people are given power over other people without their consent, tyranny is the inevitable result.

  7. Mic
    Mic March 6, 2013 7:36 am

    I primarily agree with MamaLiberty, we need to take this responsibility upon ourselves and stop farming it out to government thugs. However if I “play along” as Kevin suggested I like his suggestions and would add one more…

    All Federal Jackbooted thugs are subject to all local and state laws! None of this crap where they get to claim immunity from local communities they are invading, ala Ruby Ridge.

  8. Bear
    Bear March 6, 2013 7:36 am

    First assumption, that a “libertopia” is achieved. Second assumption: “libertopia” includes complete RKBA.

    Yes, it would be possible, given some limitations.

    Security agencies cannot have a monopoly of force; they don’t have weaponry forbidden to individuals (in Bargaining Position, the Hunters were actually more heavily armed than the corporate “security” team, and nearly as well as the ASA security cruiser); people hire security for convenience.

    Security agencies would have no privilege of force beyond what anyone can use on their own individual behalf (“Bounty Hunter” could only track down and reveal the guy who skipped out on a wrongful death judgement, not take him into custody or execute him), and cannot cry “sovereign immunity” when caught doing something wrong. Of course, in my version of libertopia there’s no sovereign to be immune.

    Security agencies, without government support via subsidies, licensing, and other barriers to competition, have competition. This relates somewhat to the monopoly of force, but also means that there are so many little security agencies that one is unlikely to grow big enough to resemble a government police force. Say what you will about Micro$oft, but it’s unlikely to take over the world by force.

    Competing oversight organizations (LNS, The Nagasaki Vector: “sort of an ACLU with guns”) to review uses of force. At gunpoint if necessary.

    Independent adjudication: None of this police, prosecutor, judge, appellate judge, police review board all working for and being paid by the same entity.

    Holding individuals responsible for their actions; no hiding behind a corporate shield (“Point of Honor”).

    Of course, there’s another option, which I see as unlikely for now. A strong cultural aversion to anything looking like a government, or government thugs, that allows a… “consensus judgement” that an organization has gone way over the line and is subject to free-fire open season (“IRS Memorial Crater” in BP). This would have been a plot element in follow-on stories in my NA universe involving the Cassid: One reason that they seem to be such a reasonable bunch is that in their history government did try damn near every horrible thing people warn about, up to and including nuking citizens. In their world, companies that piss off too many people don’t just get boycotted. They get nuked, assassinated, razed, salt sown, etc.

  9. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal March 6, 2013 7:41 am

    No double standards. If it is wrong for me to do, right now, in this circumstance, it is wrong for anyone else to do- no matter what their “job” might be. Any defensive actions that would reasonably be taken against me would also be taken against anyone else for doing the same thing. And the benefit of the doubt should always go to the person who is where they had a right to be and is claiming “defense”.

  10. just waiting
    just waiting March 6, 2013 8:20 am

    Don’t we need to define what Claire called a “sophisticated society” first? And having learned the lessons of our current societal experiment, would armed enforcer really be a part of the next society?

  11. Bonnie
    Bonnie March 6, 2013 8:46 am

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

    Whenever I see this I remember “The Guardian,” an ’84 made-for-tv movie starring Martin Sheen & Lou Gosset. When we end up being as afraid of the “guardians” as we are of the criminals, something is terribly wrong.

    This situation is easier to prevent than cure, & I’m afraid it’s too late to prevent.

  12. Jim B.
    Jim B. March 6, 2013 8:57 am

    Who watches the Watchers? As someone else have mentioned before, the key thing will be to have no monopolies on arms or force. I wouldn’t trust any organizations with these kind of forces. Primarily because they can “network” with each other and have a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours kind of relationship. The only thing to do will be to have an anarchist society, with very public trials, if needed. Otherwise a person’s reputation and treatment thereof will be enough to make him behave, for the most part.

    It has always been the people who watches the Watchers. Those who purport to “self regulate” have a very inherent conflict of interest.

  13. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 6, 2013 9:05 am

    To the first question, jw, no. One builds rational definitions, not merely define one’s way in the matter. To the second, who knows? I was gonna ask Bear what a “security agency” is. Is that a guard company? A million soldiers? What, exactly? I think it looks a lot like a person defending their life, and if it takes ten thousand to defend ten thousand of ’em, or a million, then so be it. Just another fact. Where I’m gonna live, it won’t take any to defend against my neighbors. And even if it does, so what? That’s hardly anyone else’s problem, I’d say.

    I love the idea of “independent adjudication,” but I wonder if Bear and I mean the same thing by it. Seems to me that’s all there is, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so.

    Hey ML, in “Each individual must own themselves,” change “must” to “does” and I’m with you all the way. I know that’s not news; you invented the saying after all!

    The “must” is what a rational person should do because of the fact.

    Identification, judgment, decision and action. I may not know how wireless works, but I know damn well how a human does!

  14. Matt, another
    Matt, another March 6, 2013 9:12 am

    I do not accept the premise that a society needs a formal structure of guardians, whether a standing army or law enforcement function. It we have reached some level of utopia or social nirvana then guardians should not be required.

    I think we can find examples in the historical record that show it is possible for a society to function without a rigid structure of guardians. Those societies will be tribal in nature, but it is possible. The old militia structure in pre-revolution America is an example of having a defense mechanism that while not always dynamic was very much based on the community and defended the community instead of imposing their will upon the community.

  15. Tahn
    Tahn March 6, 2013 9:22 am

    Peace, Love and Brotherhood, through equal firepower.

  16. Bear
    Bear March 6, 2013 11:00 am

    Jim Klein Says: “I was gonna ask Bear what a “security agency” is. Is that a guard company? A million soldiers? What, exactly?”

    Any organization that provides protective services to individuals or groups on a voluntary contractual basis. Note that this specifically excludes government police forces and armies. It does not exclude private security companies or militias.

    “I love the idea of “independent adjudication,” but I wonder if Bear and I mean the same thing by it.”

    Arbitration by a judge who is not aligned with any party in the dispute, working voluntarily or paid equally by all involved parties seeking a dispute resolution. What’s your defintion?

    You’ll find more detailed descriptions in the fiction works referenced. Mine can be downloaded free of charge (tips accepted) at . For arbitration/adjudication, see Point of Honor, Remittance Man, Bounty Hunter, and Copyright. Bounty Hunter also covers dealing with a parties who reneges on an agreed-to arbitration decision. Security companies (and private security) figure prominently in many of my stories. Rent-A-Cop and Bargaining Position are the most specific. Net Assets has elements dealing with treading the line between private security and State police. Simulator also deals with that, in greater detail. As mentioned, Bargaining Position addresses dealing with abusive “security” forces, both private and State, and introduces the Cassid who are… rabidly anarchocapitalistic. Caveat Emptor (never released) goes into that in detail. An unpublished story of the Cassid “civil war” was intended to explain their position, and why that forced the Cassid StarFinders company to abandon antimatter starships.*

    * You get a hint of what happens when a Cassid company gets too big and wreaks havoc in Bargaining Position. The StarFinders company shut down their entire antimatter starship program because of the adverse economic impact on their planet. They virtually bankrupted the planet trying to produce enough antimatter to power a starship fleet. People objected to that. StarFinders backed down before it was too late. It was that, or die (someone tell Congress!).

  17. Bear
    Bear March 6, 2013 11:07 am

    Added: Lest you get the idea that all my stories are libertopia sweetness and light, see “Snipe Hunt” for what happens when a (human) corporation gets too big for its britches. One side is a government, one is a corporation. Guess which is which.

  18. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 6, 2013 11:21 am

    Do download Carl’s books. 🙂 Lots and lots of good food for thought… and a lot of laughs as well. Wonderful characters. 🙂

  19. Woody
    Woody March 6, 2013 12:50 pm

    Bear, I find your books difficult to read because of the 2 pages per sheet format you use. Is there an alternative? I have tried converting them via Calibre in to other formats so I can read them on my Kindle, but without success.

  20. A.G.
    A.G. March 6, 2013 12:52 pm

    The only practical solution that I am aware of is from the Eastern Playbook (The Art Of War). Educated, freedom minded men must join and embed themselves in the combat arms of the military and all LE agencies. Then they need to advance up the ladder and promote those of like minds. This technique has been done all over asia. No this is not for sissies. Yes there will be casualties of various types. We are in a cultural war.
    Where was it that Mao said power flows from?

  21. Bear
    Bear March 6, 2013 2:10 pm

    Woody, try now. Should also convert in Calibre correctly now.

  22. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 6, 2013 2:13 pm

    Okay, I get it. “Independent adjudication” means “by a disinterested party.” Unless I’m mistaken, that’s how our current system was set up; didn’t quite work out that way though.

    I take it to mean, “by an individual.” But then, I’m obsessed with the facts.

    On the other stuff, is that A-C? I never bought into that (IMO) craziness, even when defended by as intelligent a guy as David Friedman.

    I suppose I agree that it would provide whatever it provides more efficiently than Govco (what wouldn’t?), but I’m not at all sure that I want it provided. While I’m big on defense, I don’t quite get the point of “forceful dispute resolution”…sounds oxymoronic to me, at least for rational people.

    Basically I remain thoroughly unconvinced that the purchase of immoral behavior would be any better than the vote for it. But I’m not much of a Pragmatist anyway, and maybe you’re talking about something else altogether.

  23. Woody
    Woody March 6, 2013 2:42 pm

    Thanks for the reformating Bear.

  24. Bear
    Bear March 6, 2013 2:59 pm

    Jim Klein Says: “Okay, I get it. “Independent adjudication” means “by a disinterested party.” Unless I’m mistaken, that’s how our current system was set up”

    You’re mistaken, unless you’re referring strictly to civil disputes in which the government is not a party.

    “On the other stuff, is that A-C? I never bought into that (IMO) craziness, even when defended by as intelligent a guy as David Friedman.”

    Which other stuff, specifically? It’s going to be difficult explaining the positions if you start by dismissing a supposed premise as “craziness” without specification or justification.

    Some of my stories are anarchocapitalist, some aren’t. Why not just read some and make up your mind. Otherwise, I’m wasting Claire’s (BHM’s) bandwidth just repeating decades worth of existing writing. I think the webmaster will excrete a fired ceramic construction module if I start posting the full text of 3-4 books in the comments (but I might finally learn if there’s a character limit).

  25. neal
    neal March 6, 2013 4:16 pm

    You know, dog soldiers were balanced out by those who watched with the power to remind the rest that even the young ones, with toy weapons, can do a lot of damage, if required. That is not words, just the way things used to work, before all the talk.

  26. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 6, 2013 5:50 pm

    [disinterested party…] “You’re mistaken, unless you’re referring strictly to civil disputes in which the government is not a party.”

    Ha. Even under the assumption I fantasized a Rule of Law, I’d only recognize such disinterest in criminal cases as well, any silliness about “The People Against” notwithstanding. Without an individual harmed, there can be no crime.

    I’m pretty sure that’s the problem—EVERYONE commits a crime against society, if only by taking a breath of air.

  27. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 6, 2013 6:00 pm

    “It’s going to be difficult explaining the positions if you start by dismissing a supposed premise as ‘craziness’ without specification or justification.”

    I wasn’t dismissing any premise; I’m confident most A-Cers start with true premises. I was dismissing A-C itself, as I understand it, obviously with what I believe to be justification, and that I covered with as much specificity as I thought worthy in a comment.

    I guess you could say that means I’m dismissing some of the conclusions of A-Cers! OTOH I suppose there are as many varied conclusions as there are A-Cers. So I’ll stick with “some.”

  28. cctyker
    cctyker March 6, 2013 7:59 pm

    In an anarchy of freedom wouldn’t we all pick and pay for who would defend us? There could be a great number of law enforcement agencies and judicial systems all across the country. Like now in a minor way each state has different laws and procedures and enforcement systems for the same basic crimes. Think of that concept operating within counties or cities.

    We all have basic agreement on what constitutes a crime. We disagree on the particulars.

    Thus I see no threat that some people will organize as a gang and take over our social order.

  29. cctyker
    cctyker March 6, 2013 8:02 pm

    Sorry about the double entry. I made a spelling error change and got two editions. How does one correct errors, anyway? Ya, I know, don’t make them.

  30. Claire
    Claire March 7, 2013 4:43 am

    cctyker — LOL on “don’t make ’em.” I swear, if I didn’t possess an edit button for my comments, I wouldn’t post at all, I’m so prone to embarrassing goofs. I often wish all commentors had the ability to edit their own posts. But nope. Anyhow, I deleted your duplicate with the one itty-bitty typo in it.

  31. gooch
    gooch March 7, 2013 7:12 am

    Short answers No and Don’t think it can be done.

    But in an effort to be helpful and add ideas to the mix….
    I think that the only option left is to have hired searchers with absolutely no extra powers or privileges other than the inherent right to self governance, etc.
    They would be hired to “chase down” the “suspected culprit” and notify the Victim [or victims heirs and assigns] of the location of said miscreant.
    Justice would then devolve back to the Victim.
    No powers of arrest, no immunity from the ZAP, et cetera.

  32. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein March 7, 2013 7:19 am

    “We all have basic agreement on what constitutes a crime.”

    Mostly that’s right, especially here, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that the vast majority of people, even freedomistas, come up with the wrong response to it. Having been taught other-driven morality for thousands of years now, the inevitable response is, “Commit a likewise crime against them.” Eye for an eye and all that, and dress it up by calling it “justice.”

    Simply put, this is the Fallacy of Tu Quoque, “You did it.” In the classic words of Greg Swann, “You cannot rid the world of cannibals by eating them.”

  33. Jim B.
    Jim B. March 7, 2013 8:47 am

    I was watching that new show on, I think, the History Channel, Vikings. There’s was one scene in which a man was tried for murder. The main character mentioned his suspicion that the Viking King wanted the guy’s farmland. When the “criminal” was beheaded, the Viking King cursed his soul to never enter Vahalla or to eat at its table. The main character turned to his son and said “This is how things are”.

    Here we are hundreds or almost thousands of years later, nothing regarding the ‘government’s’ treatment of the people have really changed.

  34. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau March 7, 2013 12:41 pm

    “In this or any other society, is it possible to ensure that armed, organized enforcers respect the rights of individuals…?”

    Given that there will inevitably be at least some specialization, the answer is “No, not completely” – but certainly a lot more than presently. Anyway just look at Wyoming. Yes there are cops in Wyoming, and yes they respect others pretty well and even wave at them as they drive by. It’s amazing the pressures that small town life and everybody being armed can put on an enforcer – even on one “more equal than the rest of us”, which probably won’t be near as true in a free society.

    So I’m not so worried about “who watches the watchers”.

  35. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit
    The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit March 7, 2013 1:28 pm

    Power corrupts. It also tends, when unchecked, to concentrate. The closest you can come to what you want is to ensure that the enforcers are as similar to the enforcees as possible, and to make sure that enforcers who abuse their power are slammed mercilessly.

    But given that enforcers are no longer all about being peace officers and just keeping the peace, but rather about enforcing laws as decided from above, the answer, mostly, is “no.”

  36. puptent
    puptent March 9, 2013 10:20 am

    I’ve lost count, I’m sure someone out there is keeping score, but there are over 100 Gov’t. Agencies empowered to carry firearms (from the Dept. of Agriculture to the FBI…) An equal, or greater number of agencies have power of arrest and detention? Something like 800,00 Fed Regs and NO ONE can say how many have criminal penalties? I happened to hear a national “conservative” radio host argue for drone strikes on US soil when conditions warrant (WTF? Summary Execution?) on his show the day of Rand’s Filibuster. Another thing he said is that “…we have given police the power to use deadly force…” (How many “conservatives” bow to the power of the state?) We did no such thing!!! The State has TAKEN the power. Put your finger on the part of the Constitution that empowers armed policing. An “Assault Weapons” ban serves only ONE PURPOSE and that is to keep the unwashed masses from possessing anything close to equal force. The Militia that the Second Amendment refers to is the individual states keeping the right to defend THEMSELVES from a strong Federal Government. Heaven help us…

  37. DJ Lawman
    DJ Lawman March 9, 2013 5:24 pm

    The following link is to a article in fox news. It is what makes many of you as well as me angry to the core. I do not condone this officers actions and without question think that he needs to be fired on the spot for this.

    There is never a justifiable situation for this… Whith this said and relating to the article “Who guards the Guardian” it would seem that not only does his department condone this, but also a jury of his peers…

    I don’t know why people would exonerate a public servant who could possibly do this to them

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