Kerry K. Kuehn

Whiskey Rebellion: Benson's "Justice without the State"

In addition to the payment of dues, most organizations maintain a code of ethics to which members must adhere. For example, the American Physical Society, of which I am a member, enforces certain professional standards. If a member falsifies scientific data, he or she would likely be ejected from the group. This means that he or she would be barred from attending conferences and publishing manuscripts in the distinguished journals of the Society. Moreover, the Society would likely alert other scientific organizations of the untrustworthiness of such an "outlaw". Sports clubs, fine arts societies, and private insurance firms operate on very much the same principle: benefits are conferred upon members in exchange for voluntary payment of dues and adherence to a code of ethics. "Outlaws" are shunned and denied protection by the group.

How is a modern social democracy, such as the United States, different from a voluntary organization such as the Wisconsin Athletic Club or the American Physical Society? After all, unlike membership in private clubs, membership in most democracies is
not voluntary—at least not in the same sense. This is evident from the long history of violent suppression (or the threat of violent suppression) of groups who have attempted to secede from such democracies.

This month at Whiskey Club (still looking for a better name&hellipWinking we will be looking at the
first two chapters of Benson's 1990 publication The Enterprise of Law: Justice without the State. I thought that this would be a nice follow up to the theme we were developing at our last meeting while looking at Gustave de Molinari's 1849 tract on the Production of Security. Benson explores the development of law apart from any state oversight or sponsorship. He focuses on primitive tribal law and Merchant Law. The latter emerged spontaneously as a voluntary legal system designed to facilitate and organize trading and business throughout (and beyond) Europe during the late middle ages.