For the past couple of years I’ve been exploring a decentralized, experimental system of law and blogging about it over at www.vlda.org.  It was only about 18 months before that that I was first exposed to the thinking of the modern so-called “left anarchists” such as have a group here at liberty.me and blog over at c4SS, for example.  Although many of the ideas I encountered were very well developed and compelling, I was surprised to find that despite much condemnation of the state as a way of organizing society, there was no commonly accepted alternative body of law available for use, instead of state laws.  It seemed unclear why this was so, and I began to ponder whether or not it might be possible to develop stateless laws that could be of use today, without waiting for some substantial dissolution of existing state systems to occur.

This line of thinking led me to the idea of “open source” or “voluntary” law, which after some thought began to crystallize as a system of dispute resolution based on a few simple principles and lacking any centralized law making power.  Simply put, every person in this system has the power and responsibility of declaring the law that they will follow, for themselves only.  The law is redefined.  No longer is law imposed by some higher power, special authority, or social elite.  Instead law becomes, in essence, the personal promise and revelation of morality that each person makes to their community, and on which they stake their reputations.  Voluntary law is both customizable to the finest level of granularity that society affords – the individual – while being scalable to communities of arbitrarily large size.

Despite my enthusiasm for the possibilities of voluntary law, I found few or none who had any deep interest in it, and none who desired to spend time developing or promoting it.  Perhaps such people exist, but I have not found them.  In the voluntaryist and libertarian circles where I first prospected for such people, reactions ranged from polite interest to disinterest to skepticism to rejection.  Nonetheless, the concept only grew in my mind and became more compelling, like some kind of rare intellectual disease.  To be fair, several people have given me encouragement and helpful suggestions.    Rather unexpectedly, when I discuss the concept with “ordinary” people who are not vested in any particular political philosophy, there is often more interest and acceptance.  Some people want to know where they can sign up.

Perhaps my thoughts of voluntary law are only a rare affliction.  If so, I can live with that.  People have suffered far worse and more bizarre obsessions, and this is one cross that can be easily carried.  In fact, too much attention to the idea too early will not serve any useful purpose.  Whether it ever proves useful or not, voluntary law will not be of much interest to the broader public until some significant group of pioneers are using it.  That’s just the nature of the pickle I have bitten into.

As one obsessed, I have dedicated what time I can spare from dragging my other baggage around for the remainder of my life to making it possible for people to start using voluntary law in a practical way.  The first order of business is digging a sturdy and sufficiently deep intellectual foundation.  There are issues to be worked out, which I am doing through the process of writing a book that proposes a consistent framework for building a voluntary law system.  Besides helping me to work through issues, the book will provide an introduction to the issues for those interested.  Voluntary law is new, and the details of operation are not intuitively obvious.  Without robust foundations, cognitive dissonance drowns out the new ideas before even a small group of pioneers can experiment with them.  Early drafts of chapters of this book are being published over at www.vlda.org.  Once the book is finished, I will turn to developing an open, online community in which voluntary law can be incubated and developed as a practical tool for dispute resolution and the building of stateless communities, and then to promoting that community.

I will not duplicate vlda.org here.  Instead, I will comment on progress, elaborate on concepts that will be omitted from the book, and check in with significant developments from time to time.  Your comments and suggestions are most welcome here or there, and thanks for your interest!  Look me up if you are in Los Angeles, and consider inviting me to speak at your next gathering, if the topic is of interest to your group.