This article was published in the Autumn 1998 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
Libertarian Legal Code
a letter from John Ewbank

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The Summer, 1998 issue of Formulations, includes a three-page "Bill of Law" authored by lawyer Michael van Notten, of Somalia. Millions will disagree about whether "natural rights" exist. However, his formulation of them is unfortunately somewhat gender-biased. The family rights paragraph (5) might well be revised to indicate that a human should have a right to seek to be a member of a voluntary family, which family should be permitted to raise one or more children and to educate them to cherish the culture of their parents.

If the Bill of Law is intended to apply only in areas in which all residents have chosen to assume the responsibilities inherent in being libertarian, then I have no criticism of it. However, I would not choose to live in such an area under modern technology, modern overpopulation, and modern cheap global transportation. For 46 years I have lived in an intentional community which has managed to maintain a 74-household privatized municipality with almost idealistic anarchism and with zero threat of coercion for rule enforcement. Such anarchism has been successful only because applicants learn what their responsibilities are prior to joining the community, and there is no hereditary membership.

The intellectual world desperately needs a legal code deemed to be universally applicable everywhere for everybody, including the psychotic sociopaths, retarded, alcoholics, irresponsible gamblers, etc. The Libertarian Code of Law should be the basic law for the Milky Way Galaxy and the universal default law everywhere. Hence libertarians should not try to impose upon non-libertarians any concepts which would not be manageable among non-libertarians. The Libertarian Legal Code should be deemed to be the "default" law applicable to the extent that coercive government is not effectively administering some other legal code. Almost everything in van Notten's Code fulfills such desiderata, except as noted hereinafter.

The principal criticism of van Notten's code concerns item 3, the right of immigration. Just as a homeowner is entitled to restrict who should be invited into a home, so should the real estate owners of an area be entitled to restrict who is entitled to travel through or live in such area. At a time when world population was a few million, the concept of free immigration might have been appropriate, partly because there were large unclaimed acres. The transportation cost for most of the Europeans coming to the USA corresponded to a laborer's earning for one or several years. Today, such transportation costs correspond to what a laborer might earn in a week. Hence, transoceanic migration is a relatively trivial financial burden. Legal codes must be existential, coping with the complexities currently existing. To the extent that an area chooses to impose immigration barriers, they should be entitled to do so. A free nation may choose to cope with free immigration. Other areas should have the privilege of imposing immigration restrictions.

A free nation might choose to define adulthood strictly on the basis of the maturity of the behavior of a human. Obtaining the evidence to establish adult behavior could easily cost more than $1,000 per dispute. Hence, many areas are likely to prefer to establish some arbitrary standard for adulthood instead of applying the pragmatic test of mature behavior. Most adolescents go through stages in which at certain moments they behave as children and at other moments behave as adults. Society benefits by setting arbitrary standards for qualifying for the phenomenal privileges of adulthood. What those arbitrary standards are is far less important than recognizing the necessity for purely arbitrary standards that are sure to be unfair under particular circumstances. Some societies have used age 14 or 18 or 21 or 25 as the arbitrary standard, any of which is suitable. Greater hellishness is attributable to propensities of politicians to alter the standards than from persistent adherence to any particular standard. D


John Ewbank can be reached at 1150 Woods Rd, Southampton, PA 18966 Voice 215-357-3977 FAX 215-322-2673.


John and Marjorie Ewbank are decentralist-federalists at ages 81 and 83 educating globally for subsidiary and sustainable justice.

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