"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

List Of Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Legal Systems Very Different From Ours

[See previous post here; read book online here.]

Question I’d never thought to ask before: are we sure it’s a good idea to let people know what the laws are?

The Chinese legal system originated somewhat over 2000 years ago in the conflict between two views of law, legalist and Confucianist. The legalists, who believed in using the rational self-interest of those subject to law to make them behave in the way desired by those making the law, advocated harsh penalties to drive the equilibrium crime rate to near zero. They supported the ideas of a strong central government, equal treatment under law, and written law available to all. Confucianists saw the issues in terms of morality rather than law and the objective not to modify by behavior by punishing and rewarding but by teaching virtue. They feared that a written law code generally available would lead to rules lawyering and supported unequal treatment based on the unequal status of those to whom the law applied…Some early writers argued against making the law code publicly available.

Not that knowing what the laws were in ancient China would necessarily help:

Where the offense did not seem to fit any category in the code, the court felt free to find the defendant guilty of doing what ought not to be done or of violating an Imperial decree — not an actual decree, but one that the Emperor would have made had the matter been brought to his attention.

Actually, the ancient Chinese legal system just sucked in general – but suckiness might have been the active ingredient:

Another way of dealing with the disproportion between the [vast] population to be controlled by the legal system and the [few] resources commanded by that system was to discourage resort to law. One way in which this was done was to make the private practice of law, in effect, a criminal offense; individuals who wanted help with their legal problems were expected to get it from the district magistrate and his staff. Another was by making involvement with the legal system potentially unpleasant for all concerned. There was no equivalent of our tort law by which an injured party could use the legal system to compel restitution—all law was, in our terms, criminal, and all prosecution public. It was legal to torture witnesses in the process of extracting information from them. Participants in the legal process were expected to act as humble petitioners, recognizing the vastly superior status of the officials they were interacting with.

Making it costly to interact with the legal system was one way of reducing the amount of work required of the bureaucracy but risked providing an individual with the opportunity to injure an enemy by accusing him of an offense. It was a risky tactic, since both accuser and accused would be imprisoned, and if the accusation was found to be false the accuser was subject to the penalty that would have been imposed on the accused if found guilty. The obvious solution was to make the accusation anonymous. That problem was dealt with in a straightforward fashion by Ch’ing law; for an official to read an anonymous accusation was a criminal offense.

Continuing on the theme of “ancient Chinese law sucking”:

There remained a fourth category, convicts “deserving of capital punishment.” Their names were written on a sheet on which the Emperor drew a circle, separating those who would be executed from those to be held over for another year; it is unclear whether being inside or outside the circle implied execution. A defendant guilty of family offenses who survived this process twice had his sentence commuted to deferred execution; for other offenses it took ten times.

More variations on the same theme:

There are multiple cases where someone commits an offense on orders from a superior member of his extended family; the attitude of the court seems to be that although he must obey the order he is still criminally liable for the act; there appears to be no assumption in the legal system that an individual always has the option of acting in a way that does not violate one rule or another. That again might be interpreted as a policy driven by religion, the fear that if cosmic balance was not maintained by punishing someone for a violation of the cosmic rules, the result might be an increased risk of natural catastrophes.

On Jewish courts:

Until the reestablishment of the State of Israel in the 20th century, the Jewish population consisted of dispersed communities living under the authority of non-Jewish rulers. Such communities were subject from time to time to persecution or even expulsion. But for the most part, they enjoyed judicial autonomy. Gentile rulers, Christian and Muslim, found it convenient to subcontract the job of ruling and taxing their Jewish subjects to the local Jewish authorities. The ruler set the total tax burden to be imposed on the community, the local authorities were responsible for allocating it among the residents and settling disputes among the community’s members. Thus Jews in the diaspora lived largely under Jewish law. In some cases, the delegation of authority seems to have been carried to extraordinary lengths. Under Jewish law, “informing,” giving gentile authorities information about a fellow Jew injurious to him, was a crime. At some times and places, informing three times was a capital offense. Someone convicted of a capital crime was executed by the (gentile) mundane authorities. It follows, if Elon’s account of the situation in Spain is correct, that under some circumstances the gentile authorities were willing to execute a Jew for the crime of betraying information about other Jews. Betraying it, presumably, to the gentile authorities.

In Jewish law, someone with a terminal disease can theoretically murder (or commit any other crime) with impunity:

One of my favorite bits of legal logic concerns someone dying of a fatal organic disease. Maimonides starts by saying that the killer of such a person is legally exempt—although, of course, one must be very sure that the disease is incurable and fatal. He goes on to add that if someone suffering from such a disease kills he is to be put to death, provided he is so considerate as to do the killing in the presence of a court.

What if he doesn’t? Convicting him then depends on witnesses. Witnesses can only be trusted in a capital case if they themselves are at risk of punishment if their testimony is false. In this case, conspiring to use false testimony to convict someone who is innocent would result in no legal penalty, since the victim would be someone dying of a fatal organic disease and there is no penalty for killing such a person. Since the witnesses are at no risk of being put to death if their testimony is false their testimony cannot be trusted. Since their testimony cannot be trusted, there is no way of convicting the murderer. So someone dying of a fatal organic disease can commit murder with impunity, providing he takes care not to do it in the middle of the courtroom.

Jewish law says that community authorities have control over worldly but not religious law. But marriage is considered a matter of religious law, and community authorities have a strong interest in regulating marriage and divorce. How do they do it?

One ingenious solution hit upon by the communal authorities was to argue that while the marriage was [religious], the wedding ring, being a piece of property, was [worldly]. If a marriage was celebrated without satisfying their requirements, the communal authorities held that the ring was forfeit to them. Since the groom did not own the ring, the requirements of biblical marriage had not been satisfied, hence the bride was not married and was free to marry someone else.

Some religious law, like Jewish Torah law or Islamic Sharia, prescribes draconian or otherwise ill-advised punishments. Believers have long wanted to “correct” these errors, but hesitate at openly contradicting the word of God. There are multiple traditional means for solving the problem, like saying they will only implement the religious punishment if the prosecution meets an impossibly high standard of evidence, or if the offense satisfies an unsatisfiably high number of requirements. Eg:

Consider the case of the disobedient son. The Torah prescribes death by stoning for a child who defies his parents. Some legal authorities chose to read into the wording of the biblical verse requirements that could not in practice be satisfied―for instance, that the mother and father bringing the accusation must have identical voices and be identical in appearance. Maimonides argued that a boy below the age of thirteen could not be held responsible, that a boy of thirteen might impregnate a woman, a fact that would be known in another three months or so, at which point he would be a father not a son, hence that the prescription could only apply to a boy aged more than thirteen and less than thirteen and a quarter. In his view, the combined effect of the restrictions that could be read into the biblical passage was that the stated rule never had been and never would be applied.

Islamic sharia law famously demands that thieves’ hands be cut off, but this seems to be the same sort of more-honored-in-the-breach-than-observance kind of affair:

The hadd offense of sariqa is defined as theft, but theft that meets a variety of requirements. The thief must be a competent adult; the theft must be intentional, accomplished by stealth, of an item of more than a specified minimum value. The item must be one protected by its owner, so stealing an animal grazing at a distance from its barn does not qualify, nor does stealing from a house where you are an invited guest. Stealing perishable food does not count, because it is presumed that the theft is out of hunger and so permitted. The victim of the theft must attend both trial and execution.8 Arguably the list of requirements is so extensive because legal scholars, like many non-Muslim commentators, regarded the punishment―amputation of the right hand―as excessive. Since the punishment was Koranic it could not be changed, but it could be hedged around with enough qualifications so that it was unlikely to be applied―the same approach that Jewish legal scholars applied to the rule about stoning a disobedient son. A theft that did not meet the requirements for the hadd offense could still be prosecuted and punished under ta’zir [law less directly based on the Koran].

More on sharia:

An important feature [of this system] was the separation of law and state. Law, at least in theory, was not made by the ruler but deduced by legal scholars. In the view of at least some modern scholars, that was largely true in practice as well. After the first few centuries, rulers in the Middle East were frequently foreigners to the populations they ruled, often Turkish princes who had made the transition from mercenaries in service to Arab dynasties into de facto rulers. What they wanted from the legal scholars was support for their legitimacy; while they might occasionally meddle in some legal question of immediate relevance to themselves, they were willing for the most part to leave the legal system itself in the hands of the scholars. They were even willing to subsidize the scholars by endowing mosques and madrissahs, colleges, which provided employment for legal scholars. Think of the system as what Anglo-American common law would be if law professors ran the world, defined not by the precedents set by judges but by the medieval equivalent of law review articles.

The four schools of law are all Sunni; the Shia have their own legal rules, in most respects similar. A medieval Muslim city would have had separate courts for the four Sunni schools, the Shia, and the other tolerated religions. It was a polylegal system; disputes within each community would go to that community’s courts.

In Hallaq’s view it was the breakdown of this system in the 19th and 20th century due to the rise of the nation state, itself a result of western influence, that effectively destroyed the traditional system. In Islamic territories under colonial rule, such as India, Indonesia, and Algeria, the colonial rulers replaced the traditional system of decentralized law independent of the state with a system of statutory law incorporating elements of traditional law, in some cases elements interpreted in ways favorable to the ruling power. After the end of the colonial period, the newly independent states followed the same path. Thus, in his view, modern “islamists” who view themselves as wishing to reinstitute Shari’a are in fact proposing something quite different and less desirable, a centralized system of state made law with rules to some degree modeled on traditional fiqh.

Another perspective on polylegal systems I hadn’t considered before:

The same issue exists in current U.S. law, which is in its own way polylegal. Each U.S. state has its own system of legal rules. Most disputes have an unambiguous location in a particular state, but not all; consider the case of a customer in California who purchases a product produced in Massachusetts from a seller in Texas. What court gets to decide the resulting product liability dispute? U.S. legal theory includes an elaborate set of rules for solving such “conflict of law” cases. One of those rules is diversity jurisdiction. A civil case that would normally be under state law can be heard by a federal court instead if the plaintiff and defendant are from different states, under different state laws. Think of it as a modern version of the rule that sends cross cases to the ruler’s court.

On medieval Icelandic government:

Laws were made by a “parliament,” seats in which were a marketable commodity [called a godord]…the godord itself was in effect two different things. It was a group of men – the particular men who had agreed to follow that godi, to be members of that godord. Any man could be challenged to name his godord and was required to do so, but he was free to choose any godi within his quarter and to change to a different godord at will. It was also a bundle of rights–the right to sit in the lögrétta, appoint judges for certain courts, etc. The godord in this second sense was marketable property. It could be given away, sold, held by a partnership, inherited, or whatever. Thus seats in the law- making body were quite literally for sale.

Some interesting principles of Somali law:

The Somali system is ultimately a feud system, one in which law is enforced by the private application of force or the threat of force, but a feud system with institutions for avoiding violence via widely respected mechanisms to arbitrate disputes. Part of what makes it successful, according to Van Notten, is that families are obligated to help defend their kin but not to help attack their opponents, with the result that armed conflicts are likely to lead to stalemate, and from there to arbitration.

And:

One such oath consists of the oath-giver swearing by his marriage; if it later turns out that his oath was false, the marriage is dissolved.

And:

If the convicted defendant refuses to pay within the specified time, he is subject to penalties ranging from a fine in honey to having one of his animals slaughtered, cooked, and eaten by the villagers each day.

And:

For intentional murder, the penalty is a life for a life; if the murderer succeeds in fleeing abroad, a member of his family of equal status may be put to death in his stead, a rule that gives his family a strong incentive not to help him escape. In most cases the victim’s family can choose to accept blood-money instead, at a rate of 100 camels for a man and 50 for a woman, although if the murder was sufficiently outrageous the court may insist on execution of the murderer.

On the English pardon system, which usually involved the offender’s relatives pleading to a noble or other high official to plead for mercy, and the judge granting it if and only if a sufficiently impressive noble made the plea:

Pardons procured in this way substitute an efficient punishment-a fine-for a less efficient punishment-execution. In doing so, they provide resources to the state and those who control it. Officials who give out pardons are selling them for non-pecuniary payments. Thus the legal system, in addition to providing a mechanism to reduce crime, also increases the ability of the state to maintain its authority. Considered from the standpoint of public relations, it is an elegant way of doing so. Nobody is threatened save the guilty convict. The squire is not oppressing his tenants but doing them a favor, at their request. The knowledge that such favors may occasionally be needed gives everyone in the village an incentive to be polite to the squire.

On clergyable offenses in early modern England, definition creep, and how juries interpret dumb laws as damage and route around them:

Offenses fell into three categories according to their possible punishments: minor offenses, clergyable felonies, and non-clergyable felonies. Minor offenses such as petty larceny-theft of goods worth less than a shilling-were typically punished with punishments designed largely to shame the offender, such as public whipping or exposure in the stocks.

The distinction between the second and third categories was whether or not offenders could claim benefit of clergy. Benefit of clergy originated as a legal rule permitting clerics charged with capital offenses to have their cases transferred to a church court, which did not impose capital punishment. By the 18th century, the application of the rule had changed in two important ways: The definition of clergy had been broadened to include anyone who could read (and, after 1706, any defendant whether or not he could read), and the church courts had lost their role in dealing with serious crimes. The result in many cases was that a defendant convicted of a capital felony could plead his clergy, be branded on the thumb, and be sent home.

Under a Tudor statute, a defendant who pled his clergy could be imprisoned for up to a year. But that appears to have been done only rarely.[10] Defendants who were not actually clergymen were supposed to be allowed to plead clergy only once; branding on the thumb may have originated as a device to identify those who had pled clergy once and so could not do so again. But this restriction does not seem to have been enforced very often. Presumably the brand had some stigmatizing effect. That, plus the costs born by the defendant prior to his conviction, seem to have been at some periods the only penalty actually imposed on someone convicted of a clergyable offense.

[…]

While hanging was, during much of the century, the only punishment that a judge could impose for serious non-clergyable felonies, that did not mean that everyone charged with such a felony, or even everyone charged and guilty, was actually hanged. A substantial fraction of defendants were acquitted. Of those convicted, many were convicted of a lesser offense. A jury might find a defendant guilty of an offense that was punishable by whipping or the pillory either in order to keep the offender from pleading his clergy and being released or to prevent him from being convicted of a capital offense and hanged. After 1717, they might find him guilty of a clergyable rather than a non-clergyable felony in order to convert the punishment from hanging to transportation.

In some cases the verdict was clearly an act of “pious perjury” by the jury. The fiction was clear when a jury found a defendant guilty of stealing from a house goods of value 39 shillings, although the goods were obviously worth much more than that; 40 shillings was the value that would make the theft non-clergyable. In other cases, the jury failed to include in its verdict features of the crime, such as the fact that the theft was from a house at night or involved breaking and entering, that would have made it non-clergyable. The combined effect of acquittals and convictions for a lesser (non-capital) offense was that, in the sample examined by Beattie, fewer than 40% of those charged with capital property felonies and fewer than 25% of those charged with murder were actually convicted of those offenses.

On the ancient Icelandic solution to class-action lawsuits:

Transferable tort claims could solve another problem in our system as well. Consider a tort that does a small amount of damage to each of a large number of victims, small enough so that no individual victim or small group will find it worth the trouble of suing. The current solution is a class action; an enterprising lawyer gets himself named as attorney for the class of all victims, sues on their behalf, and collects damages or accepts an out of court settlement. One problem with that solution is that there is nothing much to keep the attorney from acting in his own interest instead of that of his imaginary clients, settling on terms that give him a substantial sum in real cash and them compensation in the form of discounts on their hypothetical future dealings with the defendant. Transferable claims make possible a better solution. The lawyer purchases a large number of small claims, perhaps with the assistance of middlemen, then sues on his own behalf as their owner.15 In this respect, at least, our legal system is a mere eleven hundred years behind the cutting edge of legal technology.

Some gypsy customs:

The Kaale, the Finnish gypsies, a small population isolated for centuries, carry this attitude even further, refusing to openly admit the facts of human reproduction.3 They have no institution of marriage; couples that wish to reproduce are expected to first leave their family households, flee a substantial distance away—far enough so that their kin cannot find them and retrieve the woman—and return only when the child is weaned and so no longer requires a visible association with its mother. On returning, the father is expected to show the humility appropriate to one who has violated the norms of his society while the women of the mother’s generation smuggle mother and child back into the household, where the child will be expected to treat all the women of his mother’s generation as equally mothers.

One result of the Kaale rejection of sexuality is to eliminate many of the taboos associated with it among other Gypsy groups. There can be no restrictions associated with menstruation since enforcing them would require recognition of the fact of menstruation, and similarly with pregnancy. A Kaale woman living in the household of her (or her partner’s) kin conceals the fact of pregnancy until shortly before delivery, and arranges for it to happen somewhere outside of the household—in modern times in a maternity hospital.

More on Gypsies, paging James C Scott:

A third approach to enforcing an embedded legal system, also employed by gypsy communities, is to use control over information to substitute for control over physical force. I started this chapter by reporting a range of estimates for the world population of gypsies. That the estimates range over almost an order of magnitude is not an accident. Gypsies do not wish to be controlled by gaije. It is hard to control people if you cannot count them, and it is hard to count people when there is no one to one correspondence between person and name—Gypsies treat a name, more generally an identity, as fungible, property belonging to the extended family to be used by any member who finds it useful. By this tactic and others, modern gypsies make it difficult for the states that claim authority over them to monitor and control them, and so increase the range of alternatives available to gypsies and gypsy law.

One of my all-time favorite Friedman passages, this time on the Amish:

In an earlier chapter, I suggested that in North America toleration might eventually destroy the status of gypsies as self-governing communities by making it too easy for unhappy or ostracized members to defect. Along similar lines, it is arguable that the emancipation of European Jews, starting in the late 18th century, was responsible for the decline of the Jewish communities as distinct and effectively self-ruling polities. Yet the Amish have maintained their identity, culture, and ordnung, enforcing the latter by the threat of ostracism, despite the lack of any clear barrier to prevent unhappy or excommunicated members from deserting. Such desertion is made easier, in the Amish case, by the existence of Mennonite communities, similar to the Amish but less strict, which Amish defectors can and sometimes do join.

A critic of the Amish might argue that their upbringing, with schooling ending at eighth grade, leaves potential defectors unqualified for life in the modern world; the obvious response is that there are a lot of jobs in the modern world for which the willingness to work and the training produced by an apprenticeship starting at age fourteen are better qualifications than a high school diploma. As some evidence of the adequacy of Amish education, Amish seem to do quite well at starting and running their own small scale businesses.

One might more plausibly suggest that a social system in which courting your future mate may start as early as fourteen leaves many young people locked into a future marriage well before the point at which they have to decide whether or not to accept the Ordnung and commit themselves to the Amish lifestyle—and it is a future marriage with a spouse raised Amish. It would be interesting to know whether, when Amish do choose to leave prior to baptism, they usually do it one by one or in couples.

One could also argue that the close bonds of Amish families create a form of lock-in. Social interaction between committed Amish and relatives who have chosen not to commit is not forbidden—shunning applies only to those who have sworn to obey the Ordnung and been baptised, but then fail to live up to their commitment—but given how much of the pattern of living of the Amish is determined by their religion and culture, refusing to commit must create a substantial barrier. The barrier is higher still for those who have been baptized, and so would face shunning if they left the church.

Finally, one might interpret the low defection rate as evidence of successful indoctrination, not only into the principles of Amish life but into the negative view held by the Amish of the lives lived by non-Amish. Reading books on the Amish, all positive, all written by sympathizers,34 one is struck by how dark their picture of the outside world is. It is a world where people spend most of their efforts in competitive endeavor and display, in keeping up with the Joneses, where lives are divided among the almost wholly separate circles of work, family, and church, where little meaningful happens or can happen, a world of boredom and alienation.

There is, of course, one other possibility. Perhaps the Amish are correct in believing that they have a superior life-style, as judged by most of those who have lived it and observed the alternative—albeit a life style superior only for those who have had the good fortune to be brought up in it.

Plains Indian wife stealing:

Wife stealing was illegal and done openly, so guilt was not an issue. Compensation was. The husband was expected to confront the wife stealer and demand generous compensation, with the amount an increasing function of the wealth of the stealer and the prowess of the husband, a decreasing function of the prowess of the stealer. There being no government to enforce the law, the threat that backed the demand was the private use of force. Pay or I’ll kill you.

Carrying out that threat was neither desired nor likely, since if the husband killed the stealer (or vice versa) the victim’s kin would take revenge by killing the killer. The intended result of the threat was to set off the game that economists call “bilateral monopoly,” a bargaining game in which the parties have a common interest in a peaceful resolution of their dispute but a conflict over the terms, in this case over how much will be given in compensation to the wronged husband.

What if the stealer was clearly the more dangerous man of the two—not unlikely, since a prudent man in search of status would prefer not to steal from too able a husband? The husband had the option of calling in his brothers or other kin to support his threats. The stealer, having set off the conflict in order to prove his status, had no such option—asking for help would be to admit that he had bitten off more than he could chew, and besides, he was on what everyone saw as the wrong side of the (unwritten) law. So at that point the stealer backs down and agrees to pay substantial damages, which damages are collected not by the husband but by his helpers.

Suppose the husband had no brothers? His option then was to find a champion, a brave, generous, well thought of warrior willing to take over the case and face down the stealer. This time the damage payment went to the husband. The champion’s payment was the status gained by his willingness to risk himself in defense of the right and his success in forcing another warrior to back down. Much the same pattern appears in some of the Icelandic sagas, where a bully who relies too heavily on his and his friends’ strength to let him violate the rights of weaker men is brought down by someone still more formidable out to establish his own status.

On Athenian juries:

Each year, 6000 jurors were selected by lot from those who volunteered; the only qualification was being a male citizen and at least 30 years old. The size of the jury for a case varied over time and according to the nature of the case, but seems usually to have been about 500. Jurors were paid 1/2 drachma for each day they served, about half the wage of a rower, so jury service provided a sort of low end welfare.

More on Athens:

The ordinary procedure was for the case to be privately prosecuted by any male citizen who chose to do so. If prosecution was successful and led to to the defendant paying a fine, the prosecutor would, for many but not all sorts of cases, receive a substantial fraction of the fine, sometimes as much as half, as his reward. Similarly, if the case was based on the claim that the defendant was holding property that properly belonged to the state, a successful prosecution would result in half of the property forfeiting to the state, half to the prosecutor. Such a system raises the risk of suits against defendants believed to be rich, unpopular, or both—whether or not they have broken any laws. One solution was a provision of the law under which a prosecutor who failed to get at least a fifth of the jurors to vote for conviction was himself fined, as well as barred from any future suits of the same kind.

Still on Athens:

The victim of theft was was entitled to get back both his stolen property and a sum equal to twice its value. We worry about police planting drugs on a suspect in the process of search; the Athenians worried about a private party planting his own property on someone in order to accuse him of stealing it. They had a simple, solution. The accuser was allowed to search the house where he suspected his stolen property was hidden. But he had to do it naked.

And my favorite section on Athens:

The Athenians had a straightforward solution to the problem of producing public goods such as the maintenance of a warship or the organizing of a public festival. If you were one of the richest Athenians, every two years you were obligated to produce a public good; the relevant magistrate would tell you which one.

“As you doubtless know, we are sending a team to the Olympics this year. Congratulations, you are the sponsor.”

Or: “Look at that lovely trireme down at the dock. This year guess who gets to be captain and paymaster?”

Such an obligation was called a liturgy. There were two ways to get out of it. One was to show that you were already doing another liturgy this year or had done one last year. The other was to prove that there was another Athenian, richer than you, who had not done one last year and was not doing one this year. This raises an obvious puzzle. How, in a world without accountants, income tax, public records of what people owned and what it was worth, do I prove that you are richer than I am? The answer is not an accountant’s answer but an economist’s — feel free to spend a few minutes trying to figure it out before you turn the page.

The solution was simple. I offer to exchange everything I own for everything you own. If you refuse, you have admitted that you are richer than I am, and so you get to do the liturgy that was to be imposed on me.

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161 Responses to List Of Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Legal Systems Very Different From Ours

  1. beleester says:

    Jewish innovations in the legal system haven’t stopped – a more modern concern about marriages is “What do you do when the secular court grants a legal divorce, but the husband won’t grant a religious divorce?” (Jewish law is one-sided in this regard – the husband grants the wife a divorce). This would lead to what is known as an agunah, a woman who can’t remarry under Jewish law, even though she’s for all practical purposes not married.

    The solution that Conservative Judaism came up with was called the Lieberman Clause, where in the Ketubah (the religious marriage contract), it stipulates that if the husband refuses a religious divorce, it must be arbitrated by a Bet Din, which will usually grant the divorce.

    However, this had the problem of asking the courts to enforce a religious contract, which raises major church-and-state problems (and can drag out an unpleasant divorce). So they came up with a new solution – a prenuptial agreement that says (summarized) “If you divorce and obtain a religious divorce, this marriage is valid. If you fail to obtain a religious divorce, this marriage is retroactively invalid.” This makes it impossible to divorce and keep your wife trapped in a religious marriage, and since it’s a purely religious declaration, there are no issues with the secular courts.

    This is only vaguely related to what Scott highlighted, but where else will I get the chance to geek out about Jewish law trivia?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t get what’s wrong with the Lieberman Clause. The secular courts grant a secular divorce as per the secular laws. Then it goes to the Bet Din, who grants a religious divorce. Now they’re secularly and religiously divorced. When does the state have to get involved in religious issues?

      • castinclay says:

        Beis Din can’t grant a divorce if the husband doesn’t consent. The most they can do is order him to give one. While historically it was possible to rely upon a combination of social penalties and (in rare cases) criminal penalties in order to encourage compliance with Beis Din’s directives, in America (particularly less insular/more liberal Jewish communities) social penalties have lost much of their sting and criminal penalties are impossible, meaning that if the husband refuses to honor the arbitration agreement the Beis Din must lean on secular courts to force him to appear. While there are ways to draft this such that it not be a Church-State issue (most of my (Orthodox) friends sign an arbitration agreement before they get married which has consistently been upheld by the courts – we generally don’t find the Conservative alternatives to be Halachically valid), this is legally messy and the Liebermann clause was plausibly too religious in its language for an American court to enforce.

    • SamChevre says:

      Another innovative work-around is using the really-old laws on concubinage. (I have no idea what the Orthodox in general think of this work-around, but I do know the author and her husband.)

      • castinclay says:

        Generally speaking, even aside from its other disadvantages, the Orthodox, following the opinion of Maimonides and many others, view concubinage as being prohibited under most circumstances, making this approach a non-starter.

    • Tamar says:

      Among at least centrist and modern Orthodox Jews, the newly popular approach, referred to as the ‘Halachic Prenup’, involves having the bride and groom, prior to marriage, sign a witnessed legal document by which the groom agrees to pay a significant daily living sum to the bride until such time as he appears before the specified Bais Din for divorce arbitration, in the event of separation. The idea is that this agreement is enforceable in secular court and provides an incentive to grant a religious divorce, without any issue of the husband being actually compelled to grant it (in which case the divorce would not be valid). I myself and my husband signed one of these right before we married, and the Rabbi who officiated our wedding (I mean, you don’t need a Rabbi to get married, just two valid witnesses, but whatever, it’s nice to have one there helping out and making sure everything is done properly) would not have agreed to do so had we refused.

      • Janet says:

        I am not, myself, Muslim, but some of my Muslim friends in modern/Westernized societies have a similar approach– although for the opposite problem, of deterring/coping with peremptory male divorce.

        The explicit Islamic law is that the man can divorce the woman by simply stating “I divorce you” three times, and in three months it is final. (This is to ensure the woman is not pregnant.) She gets to keep the dowry/bride price he gave her, plus any of her personal property, but otherwise she gets bupkis.

        So the “Halal prenup” is that the man agrees to an enormous dowry, which the woman then “loans” to him for the duration of the marriage. If he divorces her, then she calls the loan– often in the form of monthly installment payments. As in the Jewish case, these are normally written to be enforceable in civil courts. Some will also go to the extent of forming a family company between husband and wife, in order that communal property be divided evenly in the event of a divorce (or to override Islamic inheritance rules upon the husband’s death).

        • Jiro says:

          Why would you want to violate the spirit of the law this way?

          If the law said “you’re not allowed to drink intoxicating beverages”, would it be acceptable to get a declaration that vodka and wine are not beverages, so they may be drunk? If the law said you aren’t allowed to steal, could all would-be thieves claim “I’m not committing the crime of theft, I’m committing ‘borrowing against the other person’s will’, and there’s no law against that”? If the law said you can’t charge interest, would it be okay to use a financial workaround that is essentially interest while insisting it’s something else?

          • Qays says:

            Plenty of Muslim jurists (particularly of the Hanafi and Zahiri schools) have historically argued that most alcoholic beverages besides wine are licit, since the word the Quran uses to forbid alcohol (khamr) really only applies to grape wine.

          • Mary says:

            That’s why we have the crime of criminal conversion.

          • Gerry Quinn says:

            I take it those are the party schools?

          • 天可汗 says:

            Plenty of Muslim jurists (particularly of the Hanafi and Zahiri schools) have historically argued that most alcoholic beverages besides wine are licit, since the word the Quran uses to forbid alcohol (khamr) really only applies to grape wine.

            Apparently, the reasoning behind the Mormon ban on tea and coffee is that there’s a ban against “hot drinks” and, since Joseph Smith’s brother said that tea was a hot drink and so was coffee, the ban against “hot drinks” is a ban on tea and coffee and nothing else.

            (It would probably be possible to reconstruct the American health food culture of the day from Adventist dietary laws and the Word of Wisdom, which are pretty similar — the WoW bans “hot drinks” and Adventism bans caffeine [to the point that they aren’t supposed to eat chocolate, which is why Adventist health food stores sell carob products], the WoW says to eat meat sparingly and Adventism recommends not eating meat, both recommend a grain-based diet and ban tobacco and alcohol… Note that the WoW predates the birth of John Harvey Kellogg, which I wouldn’t have guessed.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I wonder if anyone’s done a historical survey of the concept of health food.

    • entobat says:

      Another Jewish divorce innovation, perhaps more in the spirit of the main post.

  2. Sniffnoy says:

    Having read the book quite a while ago, I’d forgotten about the section on ancient Chinese law, it not having really been brought up in your previous post. Really kind of goes against the whole “people will always find a way to make a legal system that works for them” thesis, doesn’t it? Like it honestly seems to have really just been awful. Perhaps we should say instead, people will usually find a way to make a legal system that works for them, but sometimes something might prevent it, like a state that insists on its own terrible legal system and won’t let people route around it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I interpreted Friedman’s thesis as “the state did a bad job, but knew it was doing a bad job, and left everything to the family, and for all we know the family did a good job”. I never heard about ancient China having much of a crime problem, at least.

      • Alkatyn says:

        Its been a while since I read up on it, but my understanding is that the Imperial Courts really only existed for the usage of the very top level of society. As a result normal people’s disputes would be handled by local communities in a vareity of different ways depending where they were. (None of which the scholar-aristocrats were particularly interested in writing about to the annoyance of future historians.)

        • Watchman says:

          I’d suggest this was the case for almost every medieval and earlier system: we only have evidence of the elite’s legal system, and what the man in the fields did (not the Athenian citizen or Icelandic landowner, but one of their clients) is not known to us, although we can use consistent anthropologically-identified patterns to find out. There is a possibly sixth-century Byzantine lawcode called the Farmer’s Code which may actually record this level of engagement mind you, or might just be a local law given a perogative name by the cosmopolitan types in Constantinople.

          I’m not sure if we even have a clear idea of how justice was dealt with amongst nineteenth-century American slave populations comes to think of it, and we have decent written accounts by members of those populations to draw upon (I could just not have seen the right information here though). Remember that even if a historical source claims universality in its application, those it was universal to might in fact only be a subset of the whole population.

      • adrian.ratnapala says:

        *I never heard about ancient China having much of a crime problem, at least.*

        But from all the movies I’ve seen, ancient China had an awful lot of Kung Fu masters, who’s job seemed be leading private security firms which battled each other in a Viking-like malange of brutality and honour. And it’s in the movies, so it must be true!

        [P.S. sorry I accidentally clicked the “report” link on your post, and now I can’t unclick it]

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          There are actually two genres about this sort of thing. The kungfu genre is about using unarmed combat skill to operate private security firms. Wuxia (“honorable swordsman”, also translated as “chivalry”) is about armed vigilantes who start out dealing ad hoc justice according to their personal morals but end up serving the whole social order (state + the other Confucian relationships). The ur-text is the 14th-century novel Water Margin; I don’t know where kungfu fiction originates.

      • spirocate says:

        The ancient Chinese were also the first to apply forensics science to investigate crimes, so it was not all just arbitrary justice
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collected_Cases_of_Injustice_Rectified

    • suntzuanime says:

      People will always find a way to make a legal system that works for them, unless prevented by an overbearing government. Just like people will find a way to build homes to live in, but we still have the Bay Area.

  3. Said Achmiz says:

    How, in a world without accountants, income tax, public records of what people owned and what it was worth, do I prove that you are richer than I am? The answer is not an accountant’s answer but an economist’s — feel free to spend a few minutes trying to figure it out before you turn the page.

    The solution was simple. I offer to exchange everything I own for everything you own. If you refuse, you have admitted that you are richer than I am, and so you get to do the liturgy that was to be imposed on me.

    Is this a thing that ever actually happened? Such an exchange, I mean.

    I ask because it seems to make sense only in a world with no transaction costs. In reality, the process of exchanging everything I own for everything you own would impose such onerous costs on the both of us that it’s not clear why anyone would agree to such terms unless they were not merely not richer, but in fact much poorer, than the one making the offer—in which case it would never be made. If I am only slightly poorer than you are, or about as rich, then the exchange is likely a loss—for both of us, in fact!—but my refusal is construed as evidence that I am richer. This seems absurd.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I also found that dubious. Also, if there’s really no accounting, what’s to stop you from burying a chest full of gold somewhere, then digging it back up once you’ve switched properties?

    • Another Throw says:

      Why wonder when you have Google? It says the first result when searching for “exchange property liturgy” contains the phrase “No total exchange of property is known to have occured, and, given…” but clicking though the link it wasn’t immediately obvious to me, on my phone, how to find that phrase in context.

      But more directly, you’re attacking it from the wrong side. You’re only ever going to chose someone that is wealthy enough that, accounting for transaction costs (and a few missing chests of gold) (and the cost of performing the liturgy with your newfound wealth), you are still expected to make a positive return by accusing them of shirking their public duty. The edge case hardly matters; if you choose that poorly, you deserve to get Walter Donovaned.

      Also, skimming the Wikipedia for Liturgy (Ancient Greece), it appears that litigation attempting to get someone more wealthy to assume a liturgy was common enough that it was a mainstay of speech writing, and rules about how promptly the trial should start so as to not imperil the important public works were necessary. But as best as I can tell the only evidence for an exchange of property was from the oration of a single such litigation, where the offer was made and refused. I’m doubtful this was common practice.

      Also, replying to Scott, hiding one’s wealth to avoid being chosen for a liturgy in the first place was apparently a problem (the Wikipedia page has a whole section on concealing wealth), which is undoubtedly the reason that the trials were allowed in the first place: to outsource the dirty work of finding where all the chests of gold are buried!

      Edit to add: And, if an exchange of property was to actually be affected, instead of just being a rhetorical device, the person assuming your property would have a pretty damn good incentive, and enough resources, to tail your every move and make it difficult to hide any (more) wealth. They are already convinced the exchange would be in their benefit (including transaction costs) based on the wealth they know about, and it would probably be difficult to effectively hide any of that wealth from them. Whether you have some they don’t know about that you may be able to carry off with you is mostly just damage control. You’re already losing, and they’re already gaining. It’s just a matter of degree.

      • Alethenous says:

        The speech of Lysias I studied for A-level Greek contained (as part of a completely unrelated case amounting to romantic drama that got out of hand) an insinuation that the accuser had engaged in this kind of ancient-style tax evasion; it was seen as very dishonourable to say the least.

      • Jiro says:

        You’re only ever going to chose someone that is wealthy enough

        … or whom you want to intentionally inconvenience.

        .. or whom you happen to be biased against and consider “wealthy” even if he is just as wealthy as you.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, but then again, most of the people involved would have a reasonable idea of the wealth of wealthy citizens, so if X tries to dodge their public duty by saying “Oh no, Y is much richer than I am!”, the relevant officials would have some notion if Y is well-off, just struggling, or really is loaded.

          We can argue over “how wealthy is Donald Trump and is the reason he won’t release tax returns because it would show he’s a lot less rich than he claims?” but I think most people would accept that Trump is wealthy by a reasonable definition (and is not actually only down to a paltry million at the very most).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’d have more respect for Hillary Clinton if she’d said “I love real billionaires. Each of them is going to fund one of the US Navy’s ships.”

          • John Schilling says:

            But if we go full Athenian, they’d also get command those ships. I think the Navy might have some objections to that.

            Meh, we could do worse.

        • Another Throw says:

          Offering to exchange wealth could probably be best thought of as a pre-trial motion establishing that there exists sufficient controversy over who is most (financially) able to perform the liturgy that a trial is warranted. The purpose of that trial being to allocate the liturgy to the more (financially) capable person. At no time is there a risk of a exchange of property being forcefully effectuated. The only inconvenience inflicted, if it can be even called that, is to ensure that you’re performing your share of the liturgies.

          Its no different than telling the IRS about your black market income; regardless of my motives for doing so, and regardless of how much it will piss you off to have them mail you a bill for back taxes, you should be paying taxes in the first place. The whole discussion is about enuring that public goods are produced as a by-product of private interests, after all.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        But more directly, you’re attacking it from the wrong side. You’re only ever going to chose someone that is wealthy enough that, accounting for transaction costs…you are still expected to make a positive return by accusing them of shirking their public duty.

        And to put it in an even broader context, such a person is vulnerable only if they actually aren’t performing regular liturgies.

        I would sort of suspect the real action was not in finding a sap to hand off your liturgy to, but in cutting a deal — perhaps even perfectly legitimately and non-corruptly — with the magistrate about what your liturgy this year would be. In today’s society a rich person will go to some effort to reduce his tax burden, but he would be nuts to just decline to file.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I think it was Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens by James Davidson in which I read that there are records of Athenians being challenged to the exchange of property but none of the exchange actually taking place.

      That book (which I highly recommend) states that a rich Athenian was expected to use his wealth for the benefit of the city. So hiding your wealth was considered to be dishonourable as well as illegal (and punishable by compensation). Squandering an inheritance was also illegal and punishable by loss of the right to address the Assembly (see Aeschines, Against Timarchus, for an accusation of this) for similar reasons.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        As usual, I notice my typo after the edit window closes. I meant confiscation not compensation.

      • Mary says:

        Yes. That’s a great book.

      • jimbarino says:

        I remember after I read that book I had great idea for a hard-boiled mystery novel (which, of course, I never got around to writing) about a private prosecutor (who was paid to argue peoples cases for them) in Ancient Athens who searches for the murderer of a high-class haeterae (who he was in naturally in love with, but too poor to pay her price).

        The murderer ended up being a man who was afraid of it being found out he was seeing her, and (having thus been found out to be much richer than he was letting on) would be liable to a liturgy…

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Having foisted off your liturgy on someone else, you are now a valid target for others to do the same to you.

    • Davide S. says:

      The solution was simple. I offer to exchange everything I own for everything you own. If you refuse, you have admitted that you are richer than I am, and so you get to do the liturgy that was to be imposed on me

      What about claiming sentimental value?

      You could argue argument that you’d rather not give up your home, land, jewelry, horses, weapons and armor you fought with (and which might saved your life), horses…in exchange for greater wealth because these things have special importance to you.

      They might think you’re insincere, sure, but items having special significance to the owner even if they aren’t worth that much on the market is hardly a novel concept.

      • oconnor663 says:

        To the extent that the system really worked that way, it sounds like it rewarded a few curious classes of people:

        – People with less sentimental attachment than average.
        – People who liked weird valuable objects, that no one else liked.
        – People who had their name carved on everything in big ugly letters.
        – People with no sense of smell.
        – People who could eat most of their net worth on short notice. (Though maybe the court would see that trick coming after the first couple times.)

  4. Art Vandelay says:

    Lots of interesting examples. I don’t really understand what they have to do with anarcho-capitalism though, these are pretty much all non-capitalist societies. Surely they provide evidence for the viability a James Scott style anarchism rather than the David Friedman style.

    • adrian.ratnapala says:

      My guess is that you have erected an image of capitilism that most capitalists don’t accept, and then are complaining that the examples don’t match it. But you have a point, the literal word “captilasim” was created by the left (Marx I think) as a boo-word for the things they don’t like. And the construction of the word still makes most sense when used like that.

      But those of us who like to say we are capitalists, mean it as something more like *in favour of economic freedom*. Now you could argue that Jewish disporas and Somali clans probably don’t give a toss about economic freedom; but they are still in a situation where they can’t impose much economic unfreedom — and yet (according to Friedman) they find solutions to their problems.

      P.S. For the second time in ten minutes I have pressed the “Report” link when I really meant of “Reply”. Mea Culpa. But really I blame WordPress.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        I believe that Marx generally described the capitalist mode of production rather than capitalism. I think it appears first in the French utopian socialists, although people like Ricardo had already made use of the term capitalist.

        Do you genuinely believe that “capitalism” is just a socialist “boo-word for things they don’t like” or are you indulging in humorous self-parody?

        Obviously capitalism, as its used by almost everyone, is a word to describe a particular economic system, a particular way of arranging the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of goods (Marx actually expressed deep admiration for some aspects of this system so it couldn’t just have been a word for things he didn’t like). If you want to change it to mean something else, then we need a new word to describe the economic system that came into being with the industrial revolution.

        I’ll also add that although I’m not familiar with the economic arrangements of Somali clans or any of the other examples Friedman uses, almost every non-state tribe or clan studied by anthropologists have far more curbs on economic freedom than we currently have. Here are some examples of the type of restriction you might expect to find: most exchange mediated through extensive ritual; firm rules on what types of good could be exchanged with each other; labour would not be bought and sold but would be largely dictated by gender, kinship, or age; land might not be bought or sold at all; lots of property would be held in common rather than privately; compulsory, competitive gift exchange; food distributed through centralised redistribution; food distributed by compulsory gifts to certain relatives; compulsory sharing of certain types of food or good. In the absence of states you often find much more elaborate and restrictive social rules surrounding the types of activity that we label economic than you would find in our own society.

        • Civilis says:

          Obviously capitalism, as its used by almost everyone, is a word to describe a particular economic system, a particular way of arranging the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of goods (Marx actually expressed deep admiration for some aspects of this system so it couldn’t just have been a word for things he didn’t like). If you want to change it to mean something else, then we need a new word to describe the economic system that came into being with the industrial revolution.

          Can you give us your definition of what constitutes a capitalist economic system, and what change in the economic system you think occurred in the Industrial Revolution?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Well, much ink has been spilled on the many different ways of defining capitalism and many different possible periodisations. I would tend to emphasise the predominance of wage-labour relations and a competitive market for labour. Why?

          • Civilis says:

            Well, much ink has been spilled on the many different ways of defining capitalism and many different possible periodisations. I would tend to emphasise the predominance of wage-labour relations and a competitive market for labour. Why?

            Do you think that’s what ‘almost everyone’ uses to describe capitalism? I think most people fall back effectively to something approximating ‘private individuals own the means of production’, and while the scale of ownership and the complexity of the contractual arrangements required may have changed, I think the definition most people use describes practices that evolved in Europe well before the industrial revolution. The Hanseatic league dates back to the 1100s, and there are still banks in operation that date back to the 1600s.

            In order to debate, I need to know which definition of capitalism I need to use, the ‘almost everyone’ definition, or some complicated definition incorporating ‘wage-labour relations’ and a ‘competitive market for labour’?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Do you think that’s what ‘almost everyone’ uses to describe capitalism?

            No, although it’s pretty common. I was disagreeing with someone who said that capitalism was just a boo-word that means things leftists don’t like by pointing out that calling the current economic system capitalism isn’t some socialist conspiracy and that it’s a word most people use to refer to an economic system that emerged some time around the 17th – 19th century depending on how you slice it. What they think is special about this system varies (if they think about it at all) but most people believe that it was different to what came before.

            I choose wage labour as the crucial marker because it focuses on what was unusual about the changes in the birth of what is conventionally called capitalism. Of course, it is entirely possible to define capitalism differently and claim that it has been around much longer (although, as I point out then we need to come up with a different term to describe the more modern form of capitalism). In fact, people like Jonathan Friedman argue that capitalism first emerged around 5000 years ago with the first city states. Of course, seeing capitalism and states as intimately linked like this wouldn’t be very good for anarcho-capitalism either.

          • Civilis says:

            [I apologize in advance for breaking this up in a way that does not preserve the original order of the arguments.]

            I choose wage labour as the crucial marker because it focuses on what was unusual about the changes in the birth of what is conventionally called capitalism. Of course, it is entirely possible to define capitalism differently and claim that it has been around much longer (although, as I point out then we need to come up with a different term to describe the more modern form of capitalism).

            What is the social impact of wage labor such that its adoption warrants redefining the result as a new economic system? It just does not seem to be a significant logical breakpoint in differentiating economic systems. It also doesn’t factor in to the conventional dictionary definition of capitalism, which I take as a reasonable approximation of what most people think when they think capitalism (though I do appreciate that you are open to other definitions of capitalism, my interest is in why you think wage labor is a noteworthy transition enough that the system that results is completely different than what came before). For comparison, I could see the transition from feudal serfdom to a landlord-tenant system or the adoption of fiat money as economic changes potentially worth marking the result as a different system than what came before that seem more specific and important than the introduction of wage labor.

            No, although it’s pretty common. I was disagreeing with someone who said that capitalism was just a boo-word that means things leftists don’t like by pointing out that calling the current economic system capitalism isn’t some socialist conspiracy and that it’s a word most people use to refer to an economic system that emerged some time around the 17th – 19th century depending on how you slice it. What they think is special about this system varies (if they think about it at all) but most people believe that it was different to what came before.

            I don’t think many people at all have given much thought to the history of economic activities. If I described the activities of a medieval craftsman’s guild or trading company and asked whether that was capitalism, I would wager most people would say yes. If I had to ask people to name economic systems, I would bet it would be hard to get more than capitalism, communism, and socialism, and I would bet most would have trouble differentiating the latter two systems. Some might be able to pick feudalism out, and even explain what defined it, but that doesn’t support a transition in the Industrial Revolution; in most places, feudalism was long dead at that point.

            If capitalism is the economic system in place since the industrial revolution in the Western world, what is the name for the economic system that it replaced?

          • Incurian says:

            I could see the transition from feudal serfdom to a landlord-tenant system or the adoption of fiat money as economic changes potentially worth marking the result as a different system than what came before that seem more specific and important than the introduction of wage labor.

            Are those different things?

          • Civilis says:

            Are those different things?

            I can’t speak for Art, and since I’m trying to understand him, I don’t know if I should answer. I think trying to answer helps me see if I understand what he’s saying, so I’ll give it a try.

            Art seems to be pegging his change he describes as ‘wage labor’ to the industrial revolution, which doesn’t make sense date-wise for the transition from a feudal to a landlord agricultural system.

            Further, based on my understanding of the agricultural transition, I wouldn’t use the word ‘wage’ to describe anything in the new system, but ‘rent’ might be appropriate. I can see that ‘wage’ might be an applicable term to describe the change in crafts employment from a skilled guild system to an unskilled corporate system, which might be applicable to the industrial revolution, but wage labor has been a component of agriculture since at least the Roman era.

            To allow Art to make his case, I’ve been avoiding my point, which is that I think using (industrial) ‘wage labor’ as a defining feature of a system is only meaningful if using a Marxist view of economics, and thus only to students of economics (not almost everyone or most people). If you’re getting down into the details of an economics discussion, it’s worth distinguishing the economics of the industrial era from what came before and after, but I think most people’s perceptions of capitalism neither begin nor end with the industrial era.

            If Art wants to use ‘capitalism’ to specifically talk about the economics of the industrial era, his blanket statement that the examples that Scott uses are non-capitalism and not relevant makes sense. But for those like Adrian using it ‘capitalism’ in its simplified dictionary form, those examples may indeed be useful. My intention was to head off the usual places these discussions break down by getting a definition of ‘capitalism’ to avoid the risk that the discussion would get bogged down by meaningless constructs like ‘state capitalism’.

        • Incurian says:

          Here are some examples of the type of restriction you might expect to find:…

          None of that sounds familiar?

          • Art Vandelay says:

            What is the point you’re trying to make?

          • Incurian says:

            Sorry, I should have quoted this as well:

            far more curbs on economic freedom than we currently have

            My point was that I recognize forms of all those things in our own society, often facilitated through the state. Your point that others probably have them to a greater degree I think is probably correct, so I guess I’m only quibbling with your choice to describe our differences qualitatively when it seems to me to be quantitative.
            ETA: The usual disclaimer that there’s a 60% chance I completely misread the situation.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Ok I see. Well sure, some of them exist in or society to some extent. My point is that when things like this are the organising principle of the majority of the economy with a limited or non-existent role for market price mechanisms then it seems rather a stretch to suggest we’re talking about capitalism. Partly what I’m trying to get at is the question of what exactly “economic freedom” means.

    • benwave says:

      So, you have concerns that the distinctive characteristics of Capitalism may make the examples difficult in practice? I do wonder what the power relations of capitalism would do to the systems. It seems from this text as though many more efficient justice systems are feasible if there is a high degree of unity and equality.

  5. tmk says:

    > Arguably the list of requirements is so extensive because legal scholars, like many non-Muslim commentators, regarded the punishment (amputation of the right hand) as excessive. Since the punishment was Koranic it could not be changed, but it could be hedged around with enough qualifications so that it was unlikely to be applied.

    This and other examples show the great social value of bending the rules. In the modern day we can learn from it that trying to convince people to just stop being Muslim or Christian is not going to work, and calling out hypocrisy is often counter-productive. Instead, quietly encourage people to bend the religious rules and route around the scripture.

    • SamChevre says:

      One of my favorite rule-evasion systems is Amish–the Swartzentrubergroups in Tennessee specifically.

      Long ago, to discourage trades relative to farming, they set a standard for acceptable pay–so the maximum per hour is something that was ordinary wages for unskilled labor then, but is now unreasonably low (I think $2 per hour). It is forbidden to charge anyone more than that if you work for wages.

      So in addition to paying for labor, you have to let them bring their tools, and rent the tools.

  6. Jack V says:

    “are we sure it’s a good idea to let people know what the laws are?”

    Huh. That is an interesting question.

    I think some rules tend to have clearer boundaries than others. Sometimes you WANT people to go all the way up to the boundary, but never go over it, and having a nice clear boundary is ideal. Other times, you want to ban “this sort of thing”. Like message boards which say “don’t be a jerk”, and don’t want people riding the line to see if they can keep juuuust scraping by, especially if they can provoke other people to step over the line. Or say, stalking, which isn’t clearly definable as “this number of instances of this behaviour” but is clearly wrong when you see it. Or maybe, some forms of tax evasion/avoidance. In the latter case, there might be reason for having a fuzzy boundary so people stay back from what’s clearly enforceable and avoid indulging in other undesirable behaviour too.

    But I’m not sure if that would be a good idea. There’s a lot more to do with enforcing existing laws before eating into “commonplace but undesirable behaviour”.

    • Jiro says:

      That reasoning takes into account poor faith rulebreakers, but doesn’t take into account poor faith rulemakers. Letting people know what the laws are prevents unbridled discretion on the part of rulemakers and that in itself can be good regardless of the effect on people following the rules.

    • beleester says:

      AFAIK, the standard way of banning “this sort of thing” while still having a specific law is to specify “a pattern of behavior.” If someone’s harassing you, you take notes on each instance of harassment, and eventually you have enough evidence to convince a judge. Or on a message board, you have the mod give a visible warning for “this isn’t bannable by itself but it indicates bad behavior” and then when you rack up enough warnings you trigger a ban.

      Basically, you build some slack into the law before the punishment triggers, and you come up with a clear indication of whether someone is moving towards a punishment, so that only repeat offenders get banned, and innocent people have a chance to correct their mistake before they actually get punished.

    • Watchman says:

      Not sure you want anything to do with money to be subject to value judgements in law – that sounds like a wonderful way to destroy the value of money bit by bit. So tax avoidance and evasion can be clearly defined (assuming we find anyone capable of writing adequate rules on taxation, which has been a constant failure in human history so far…) but it would just cause uncertainty if we allowed edge cases to be decided morally. And uncertainty about money in effect destroys a system which ultimately depends on us having faith the cheap paper and metal (and the virtual numbers) we own actually have value.

    • adrian.ratnapala says:

      Hazy “don’t be a jerk” type rules inherently put discretion in the hands of the enforcers — which is a way nice to tempt the mighty into rottenness. Such rules can work well where:

      (1) Where enforcement is dispersed, such that there is no privilged class of enforces. I think this mostly describes informal social norms, such as “don’t be a jerk”.

      (2) Where privileged enforcers only have a limited domain. Such a this message this board, which is a particular community that mostly trusts Scott’s judgement and is in any case voluntarily working under his authority for one very limited thing.

      From the description above, ancient Chinese authorities not telling people the law was only “good” for the purpose of efficient elite control of their position in a society that might otherwise get rambunctious. (Though Chinese history is in fact full of rambunction).

    • Peter says:

      I’ve heard about secret laws – well, secret rules – in the context of silently changeable secret rules. There’s the game of Mao but that’s for fun. The case that springs to mind is concentration camp rules – the guards had various rules for which things are permitted and when, which areas are off-limits and when, breaches of the rules are punished, changes to the rules were not publicised. The aim of all this was to make the inmates quiet, pliant and unadventurous – to be afraid to do anything for fear of breaking a rule.

      I’m not entirely sure what a whatever-century-it-is-Confucian-scholar’s view of appropriate virtue for the lower classes is, however I suspect that quiet, pliant and unadventurous – perhaps not to the extremes that a concentration camp guard would want – might have been a factor.

      Secret-but-stable rules are potentially another matter – if a rule is stable enough, then given enough time people can in principle learn it by seeing who falls foul of it and when.

      Vague laws/rules, which necessarily allow discretion to the arbiter, are sort-of like secret and unstable rules, but have additional problems all of their own. Which I suppose means secret-but-well-formulated laws are not entirely devoid of merit.

  7. Mercy Vetsel says:

    ” it’s important to keep on remembering the degree to which you can still pretty much do whatever you want. [cites Amish]”

    Yes, anyone could start a modern alternative system equivalent of the Amish. Just plan out your system, collect your followers and elect a bishop. Then you’ll need to head out to the barn, grab the phone and make yourself comfortable — you’ve got some calls to make:

    1. Call the SSA. Inform them that you’ll be opting out of Social Security including the 13% payroll taxes as well as the benefits. Ask them to inform the IRS that you won’t be getting Social Security numbers.
    2. Call HHS. Inform them that you’ll be opting out of Medicare taxes and benefits. Let them know that you’ll also be declining all aspects of the Obamacare mandate.
    3. Call the USDA and FDA. Explain to them that you won’t be following their mandates, that you’ll be selling raw milk, butter and other products in your community as you’ve always done.
    4. Call the EPA. Inform that their runoff regulations and waterway won’t be applicable to your farms but that you will be workers will seem quaint and organic to city-dwelling environmental activists.
    5. Call the Federal and State Dept of Education and your local school district. Tell them that you will won’t be using state-certified teachers, that you’ll completely ignore state and federal curriculum and testing mandates. Also they’ll only go to school till the age of 13.
    6. Call the Bureau of Labor and tell them that you aren’t going to follow child labor laws.
    7. Call the Federal Courts and explain that you won’t be following the ADA and some provisions the 1964 Civil Rights act and expect to exempted from lawsuits.
    8. Call the state board of insurers and exempt yourself from their life, health and casualty insurance regulations. You’re approach will be different.
    9. Call the local planning committee and exempt yourself from zoning and land use ordinances.
    10. Call the SEC and Federal Reserve to let them know that you’ll be dealing largely in cash and bank alternatives while ignoring their regulations.

    Of course, you’ll have to modify this for your own group preferences that may not be looked upon as favorably as the deviations the Amish make from modern norms.

    Also, plan on being very persuasive since you won’t have a 500 year tradition including over 300 years in Pennsylvania, the sympathy of millions of Mennonites, Brethren, ex-Amish and half the people in PA who have Anabaptists roots and 70+ year tradition of being exempted from the modern fascist/socialist programs starting with the New Deal.

    The simple reality that there is NO room in the modern centrally regulated system for a group like the Amish or Orthodox Jews without very significant grandfathered exemptions for non-voluntary rules.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The problem is that where Cthulhu swims by preference is toward totalitarianism. When I hear leftists say that “the personal is the political” I think they are to blame, and agree with Moldbug’s formulation that the direction is leftward. But at least a few of the items on your list are bipartisan.

      We evolved in a tribal environment where individual autonomy was not prized, and possibly detrimental. Our minds have sneakily invented a better way, that allows societies to exceed Dunbar’s number. But we have not yet evolved to make that better way come naturally to us, nor did we even understand what we had accomplished soon enough to adopt a stance of constant vigilance against our more primitive nature.

    • JoeCool says:

      I agree that if you called up every agency and told them your not following the rules you’d have your community nixed before it even began, but with the exception of the things the state super cares about (SSA) I think if you just quietly didn’t do follow the other rules you’d have a sporting chance at it, and over time, in the U.S at least, you might get legal exemptions if you say your doing it for religious purposes.

      Good luck if you don’t use the religion card though, and god help you if your some sort of atheist agrarian community.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        So the right approach is to just quietly break tons of laws and hope nobody notices?

        Sure, you might be fine. But it’s building on sand. “Keep your head down and don’t attract attention” is how you survive a totalitarian state, so if this is the best approach on offer, it’s pretty damning.

        • John Schilling says:

          So the right approach is to just quietly break tons of laws and hope nobody notices?

          Uber’s valuation is currently estimated at somewhere north of $70 billion, so maybe you don’t even have to be that quiet about it.

          • Another Throw says:

            If I was an enterprising US Attorney that (somehow) really, really hated civil asset forfeiture and didn’t mind lighting the world on fire, I would pursue the subject. Uber is a central example of the kind of criminal enterprise that civil asset forfeiture is (supposedly) intended to combat, after all! Furthermore, it is utterly inconceivable that any of Uber’s principle investors are unaware of its criminal activities, and it is through them that Uber’s enormous, illegal profits are laundered.

            We’ve more than met the burden to just go ahead and impound all of the assets for Uber and its principle investors; you know, those jerks at Google Ventures, Kleiner-Perkins-whatever, Fidelity, Blackrock, Goldman Sachs, and so on. Jeff Bezos. You get the idea. Oh, and since Alphabet is plainly a sham structure designed to facilitate the laundering of illegal profits from Google Ventures, we can go ahead and include them too.

            What’s that, they’re suing to get their stuff back interceding in the trial against their assets? Well, I’m sorry your honor, but you happen to be an un-named co-conspirator in the criminal enterprise that prompted the confiscation. Your retirement program is (IIRC) managed by Blackrock, which they have gone ahead and invested in Uber on your behalf. As a direct financial beneficiary of a crime, and considering that it is your assets at issue, you (and every other federal judge) can just go ahead and recuse yourself…

            If anything can get the Supremes to actually check the power of the State, it is their personal checkbooks and those of every Federal employee. 😉

            Assuming of course there wasn’t a coup while waiting for the courts to un-fuck themselves during a global economic implosion—$10 trillion or so floating around in legal limbo tends to do that.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

        • So the right approach is to just quietly break tons of laws and hope nobody notices?

          That’s not too far from the approach the Romany have been using for the past thousand years or so, with variable levels of success.

      • Kevin C. says:

        On all of this, Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss’s 1985 book How to Start Your Own Country [pdf] is relevant, especially the parts about the “Vonu” strategy, where one tries to remain out of sight of the government, either by retreating into the depths of an uninhabited area like a modern-day “mountain man” (“‘Vonu’ at fixed site”), or else by adopting a Traveller-style modern nomadism (“mobile ‘Vonu'”).

  8. As I mentioned in a comment on your earlier post, Scott is linking to a draft from several years ago. The current draft is also webbed.

    There are some significant differences in the chapter on Chinese law. The version Scott linked to was from before I discovered recent work based on documents from low level courts that became available after Mao’s death opened China up. It turns out that while the system was entirely criminal in form, about half of the time of the magistrates was spent on what were really civil cases (“minor matters”–loans, property, marriage and inheritance) prosecuted in the form of criminal cases. So anyone interested in that system should read the later version. What the earlier draft described was the system as viewed from above, from the standpoint of the high level Confucian bureaucrats.

    Also, the order of chapters is different in the current draft.

    • I was remembering that bit from some class or other I took in college and was going to ask Scott if that was in the book until I saw your comment. In practice do you have a guess as to much this might have damaged Chinese commercial development? Though I suppose if you’re going to be hardcore about meritocracy like the Chinese were you’re always going to be short on magistrates and so you need to find ways to discouraging people from using the courts.

    • Alphonse says:

      I don’t have anything to add regarding the substance, but I wanted to say that I enjoyed reading the excerpts of your book which Scott listed, and I appreciate the manner with which you engage with people here. Your contributions are one of the most notable aspects whenever I think about what makes SSC a wonderful, enlightening, thought-provoking place. I just wanted to say thank you for how much value you add to this community.

  9. JASSCC says:

    “It follows, if Elon’s account of the situation in Spain is correct, that under some circumstances the gentile authorities were willing to execute a Jew for the crime of betraying information about other Jews. Betraying it, presumably, to the gentile authorities.”

    Nobody likes a snitch.

  10. Walter says:

    I’ve always thought the story of Barabbus in the Bible is a great example of legal wtf? Like, Pontius Pilate has one-and-only-one pardon to give out…and somehow the crowd makes him give it to the guy he doesn’t want to?

    • Deiseach says:

      The story of Barabbas is very clever. As noted above, the religious courts can’t inflict the death penalty (something we’ll see later in the days when the Catholic Church is burning scientists heretics at the stake – technically, the religious court/inquisition there can’t inflict the death penalty either, so the offender is handed over to the secular government for punishment and they are the ones who carry out the death penalty).

      So the Sanhedrin, after the decision and condemnation of Jesus as a blasphemer, have to turn Jesus over to the civil authorities to carry out any punishment, and since the occupying Roman forces are now the civil authorities, they try and get Pilate to do this. He ducks out of it the first time on the grounds that this is a religious dispute, and the Romans don’t get involved in Jewish religious quarrels, so they make their own decisions and he has no interest in or authority to get involved.

      Then Caiaphas and associates turn it into a civil affair: okay, this guy is also a revolutionary and involved in a conspiracy, now it is your affair and we bet back in Rome they’d be very interested to hear you didn’t want to try a case where a guy is calling himself king and getting tax collectors to give up their work of collecting the imperial taxes. So Pilate is forced to hear the case (after first trying to pawn Jesus off on Herod, since Jesus is a Galilean and that makes him Herod’s problem as Tetrarch of Galilee, but Herod is clever enough to send him right back), because part of the job is “We don’t want any more unrest and revolts and riots in Judaea, you hear?”

      The release of one prisoner every year is not a legal requirement, it’s something done by the Roman administration to try and mollify Jewish resentment over the occupation by honouring the feast of Passover and appeasing the crowd by an act of mercy (commuting one death sentence by popular acclaim, that is, the governor or prefect doesn’t decide, the will of the people gets to decide). The clever stroke is in stoking up the crowd to shout for the release of Barabbas, whether this was actually the will of the mob or was the result of action taken by the High Priest and his colleagues to ensure Jesus would not be released.

      Pilate was hoping that if Jesus really was as popular with the crowd as the alleged threat of insurrection made out, this would get him off the hook: he could release him according to the custom without fearing consequences from Rome; by letting their prisoner go, he would show the Sanhedrin they couldn’t push him around; and if Jesus had any sense he’d hightail it out of town and not be a troublemaker again (or if he didn’t have sense, then the Jewish authorities could arrange a low-key stoning on their own time and not get Pilate involved again).

      But the cleverness was in getting the mob to shout for Barabbas: if Pilate refuses to let him go, then it’s the mob he’s going against, and they’re likely to riot, and this gets Pilate in trouble. If he insists on releasing Jesus instead of Barabbas, or says nobody is getting pardoned this year, again – it’s not the Sanhedrin he’s going against, it’s the mob, the crowd, the people of Jerusalem, and the mob is likely to break out in violence at any excuse. And since Pilate is already in trouble with Rome for his heavy-handed “send in the troops and bash heads and if a few die that’s their tough luck” approach, a riot that needs to be put down by force in the Jewish capital on one of the Jewish important religious festivals is going to get him in very hot water if he doesn’t avert it. So Pilate is out-manoeuvred and forced to go through with the trial.

      (This is also why we’ve decided to have a legal system and not decision by mob acclaim: the same crowd that cheers your triumphal entrance last week calls for your head on a pike the next week).

    • geist says:

      It’s a non historical story, written by people who lived well after the supposed events and who lacked historical knowledge

      • marshwiggle says:

        The thing is, the account Deiseach gives above meshes quite well with the history of Pilate and Herod we have from sources like Josephus (a historian from a generation later than those events, but really one of our best sources on the region).

        Accounts of the gospels being written with no historical knowledge have not done nearly as well under historical scrutiny.

        • geist says:

          Deiseach’s story takes the sparse details in Luke and tries as best as possible to combine them with knowledge that came from Josephus, which is the reason it agrees with it. But even then, the basics of the gospel story border on absurd. The part about Antipas only appears in Luke and makes no sense, the tradition of pardoning a condemned prisoner is not attested anywhere, and there’s no reason to think that Pilate would have had to bow to the will of the crowd. Deiseach’s story is what you get when you assume the details in the gospels are true and try to come up with a half way plausible story to connect them, but that still leaves it less parsimonious than the idea that this is all fictional.

          • marshwiggle says:

            To my knowledge the tradition of pardoning a condemned prisoner is not elsewhere attested, yes – but the probability that we would have such a record given it in fact happening is low, so that is weak evidence.

            I don’t see how the part about Antipas makes no sense.

            There is solid historical reason to think that Pilate would have had to bow to the will of the crowd. Admittedly, all the non-Biblical sources we have on Pilate are themselves biased in various ways, being about politics. Still, take this example from the time of Caligula, from a letter called Embassy to Caligula (or Gaius), about how Pilate hated to give into a Jewish crowd (over a different episode) but feared he had to:

            “But this last sentence exasperated him in the greatest possible degree, as he feared least they might in reality go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government, in respect of his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.”

            At least according to some extrabiblical sources Pilate’s early governorship in Judea had quite a good bit of ‘I can do to you whatever you want’, but the results of that plus a loss of patronage back in Rome put him on thin ice with respect to causing more riots. So there is every reason to think that Pilate would have had to bow to the will of the crowd.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Er… Yes ? Given that the Gospels are largely functional, Deiseach’s analysis is still an excellent in-universe analysis of the (fictional) events. That’s still pretty cool, IMO.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Eh, from what we know of Pilate and of the way the Romans ruled in general, they don’t seem to have been overly concerned with preventing people dying in riots in Jerusalem, let’s put it that way.

  11. Calvin says:

    RE: the Icelandic solution to class action law suits

    Common law countries have considered the idea of transferable tort interests and decided that they created mroe problems than they fixed due to an overall increase in litigation. Some jurisdictions allow it but they are few and far between, with lots of regulations imposed. It’s unfair to say transferable torts are the cutting edge when it was a discarded idea. See: Champtery and Maintenance

    • adrian.ratnapala says:

      I wonder how that increase in litigation stacks up compared to the litigousness of modern America.

      Indeed when I follow your Wikipedia link, it looks awfuly like Champtery and Maintenance are ways in which the legal proffession prevent interlopers from helping from butting in on their monopoly. Not surprisingly it doesn’t seem to stop external parties from funneling money to lawyers. And double not surprisingly, it doesn’t prevent frivolous class actions brought in the interest of lawyers.

    • b_jonas says:

      There is one case though when I seem to be allowed to sell tort interest. I can buy insurance for my property, such as a car, against (some kinds of) theft or damage caused by other people. If I buy theft insurance for my car, and someone steals my car, then the insurance company will pay me the value of the car. But in the rare case when the thief is found and is made to pay compensation for the car he’s stolen, the insurance company will then get that money, so I won’t ever get the value of my car twice.

  12. component.elements says:

    A super interesting article here on how law “codes” weren’t really codes as such in the ancient Middle East… relates to the (only later?) need for e.g. Jews to “get around” the “code.”

    https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2013/12/what-is-this-thing-called-law/

  13. 2irons says:

    One area where it can be thought of as more efficient not to let people know what the laws are is finance. If you are up against bankers who are great at optimizing, they will find ways to get round your laws if you lay them out clearly.

    You see this sort of thinking a lot in financial regulation. There is a widespread view that the rule of law doesn’t quite work in financial regulation, that if financial regulators are constrained to follow the usual rule-making procedures and to give bankers advance notice of what is and isn’t illegal, then the bankers will always game the rules and be one step ahead of the regulators. So the only way to make the game fair is to let the regulators decide what’s illegal after the banks do it. As a legal theory this seems problematic, but it has a real practical appeal. Most of the stuff that regulators decide should have been illegal probably should have been illegal!

    I’m quoting Matt Levine who used to work as a corporate lawyer and a derivatives structurer for Goldman Sachs. Now he writes this column for Bloomberg View where you often you get the sense that he sees the world in a way that nobody else does. In my opinion he absolutely nails how banking really works and his blogs are hilarious.

    I’m hoping this goes full circle and Scott ends up writing something on Levine’s stuff as he’s previously referenced this blog a few times.

    • Iain says:

      Something similar regarding taxes has been officially enacted in various jurisdictions in the form of a General Anti-Avoidance Rule. (Here’s Canada’s version.) It basically says “If you are doing this solely for the purpose of gaining a tax benefit, we reserve the right to call your bluff”. If you want to engage in responsible tax avoidance, you therefore have to hire a top-notch law firm to carefully examine your proposed maneuver and certify that you are within both the letter and the spirit of the law. (If the law firm tells you to go ahead, and the government disagrees, it may cease to be a top-notch law firm.)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        This works great with all the tax breaks specifically designed to change behavior. The whole point is that people will change behavior purely for reasons of the tax break, which then voids the tax break at the government’s discretion.

        • Iain says:

          5. Subsection 245(4) states that the rule does not apply to an avoidance transaction if it may reasonably be considered that the transaction would not result in a misuse of the provisions of the Act or an abuse having regard to the provisions of the Act read as a whole.

          Transactions that rely on specific provisions, whether incentive provisions or otherwise, for their tax consequences, or on general rules of the Act can be negated if these consequences are so inconsistent with the general scheme of the Act that they cannot have been within the contemplation of Parliament. On the other hand, a transaction that is consistent with the object and spirit of provisions of the Act is not to be affected. Revenue Canada will follow this principle in interpreting section 245 of the Act.

          IANAL, but I am pretty sure that this language is designed to rule that case out.

          • spkaca says:

            A GAAR is not compatible with the principle “De Tallagio Non Concedendo”. It radically weakens individual property rights at the whim of bureaucrats. You might assume it will only be used against other people, but that’s not a safe assumption. The real answer is a radical simplification of the tax system.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      When you’ve got as many friends in high places as Goldman Sachs has, regulatory discretion is going to look pretty good to you.

  14. nweining says:

    If I’m understanding correctly, Robin Hanson’s proposed system for enforcing stability rents in http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/10/for-stability-rents.html

    is more or less exactly a modernization of the Athenian liturgy system.

    • tmk says:

      Also like Nordic Folk Racing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folkrace

      Anyone can place a fixed price bid on any car, and the buyer is then chosen by draw. The fixed price is € 1400 (Finland, ca. USD 1400 ) or 6500 SEK (Sweden, ca. USD 1000). Refusing to sell is grounds for having one’s competition license revoked. Personal equipment such as the seat and safety harness are not included in the sale. This type of system eliminates the motivation for sinking extensive amounts of work and money into a folk racing car.

      I have heard of cheating by having a large number of associates bid on your car, almost guaranteeing you can buy it from yourself.

    • Glenn says:

      It’s a really interesting system that seems like it has a lot of problems, in particular idiosyncratic or sentimental value — if a bunch of people own otherwise-identical dogs, each will ascribe a lot more value to their own than to any of the others; the only reasonable “market value” to tax on is the value of a generic article to a generic person, excluding the purely sentimental value that will be destroyed by a transfer. (Since the purpose of stability rents is to enable value-creating transfers, not value-destroying ones.) But someone who fails to pay tax on the higher sentimental value opens themselves to blackmail (someone threatens to buy your dog).

      A possible solution I see is this: when making a forced purchase, you don’t get to choose which article you get, but somehow must receive a selection among a set of comparable articles, perhaps at random. Then it becomes impossible to harass someone through purchasing things they own which are of sentimental value.

      (This doesn’t account for cases where the object might have sentimental value to both the would-be buyer and the seller/owner, e.g. a pet in a case of divorce. But it seems like having a separate system for such cases might be better…)

      This is harder to apply in cases of real estate — with pets it seems obvious to me that the current owner’s sentimental value, and their interest in protecting it, far exceeds any possible interest by the forced purchaser (in obtaining one pet relative to another near-identical one of the same breed.) But this might not be _as_ true for homes, where I may have good reasons to want your specific home, instead of a very similar one. On the gripping hand, perhaps that’s only true in our current world, where the supply of homes available for purchase is limited to the tiny fraction currently having active interest in selling. In a world where all homes are available for purchase at any time (for the right price), perhaps there are always enough reasonable alternatives to specify that — if you are choosing a forced sale over a cooperative one — you don’t also get to choose the exact property you end up with, but only the class of property down to a set of, say, size 10 or 100.

      (EDIT: To be clear, I think Robin Hanson disagrees with me — I think he believes the correct value to tax _is_ the “indifference value”, which would be the higher sentimental value. I think that’s clearly nonsense, because no additional value-creating transfers are enabled by pricing my dog, say, 20% higher than the value of a comparable dog from the pet store / the value that a stranger would put on it, versus 5000% or whatever would truly capture my purely idiosyncratic value.

      It seems like we really need some kind of equivalent of a second-price auction here, so that I can pay the maximum of what anybody else values my dog at, rather than what I value my dog at — this is the actual correct value, I claim. But you’d have to blind the process somehow, so that someone who wanted to hurt me couldn’t exaggerate their value of my dog to do so.)

      • Jiro says:

        This should result in a form of insurance, where you price your house or dog at $X, and then you pay someone a monthly fee in exchange for a promise to buy your house for at least $Y and sell it back to you if it ever goes on sale.

  15. OptimalSolver says:

    Under Jewish law, “informing,” giving gentile authorities information about a fellow Jew injurious to him, was a crime. At some times and places, informing three times was a capital offense.

    Aka “snitches get stitches.” How very…ghetto. 🙂

    • OptimalSolver says:

      It follows, if Elon’s account of the situation in Spain is correct, that under some circumstances the gentile authorities were willing to execute a Jew for the crime of betraying information about other Jews. Betraying it, presumably, to the gentile authorities.

      So what would stop the condemned Jewish informant from telling the gentile authorities everything in exchange for his life? Presumably, he had only gone to the authorities with some minor information to settle some petty score, but with his ass on the line, he’d probably be willing to spill much more damaging beans that could negatively impact his entire community.

      • Randy M says:

        Probably the fact that the authorities were more interested in peace & taxes than micromanaging the Jewish population.

        • OptimalSolver says:

          The endless state-sanctioned pogroms, expulsions and…micromanagement of Jewish populations would seem to contradict you.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh. I don’t think an occasional tattle-tale is going to have much sway on whether or not a pogrom occurs. Such are examples of macromangement more than micromanagement I would think.

          • bbartlog says:

            The various persecutions that occurred throughout history were no doubt memorable, but they are not necessarily reflective of the day to day or even year to year interactions between the Jewish and gentile populations.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “Under Jewish law, “informing,” giving gentile authorities information about a fellow Jew injurious to him, was a crime.”

      Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League was upset at Larry David for mentioning in his Saturday Night Live monologue that a lot of the Harvey Weinstein-type sexual harassers in the news were Jewish.

  16. andagain says:

    I don’t see how any of this is supposed to support “anarcho-capitalism”, libertarianism, or whatever.

    All these legal systems had the ability to enforce their judgments somehow: they would not have been effective legal systems if they didn’t. If they have a monopoly on this ability they ARE the state, as the term “state ” is customarily used.

    If they don’t have this monopoly, everyone ends up in the position of Rene Artois in those Allo Allo episodes where the Germans, French Resistance, and Communist Resistance were each threatening to kill him if he did not do what they wanted – and also if he did what either of the others wanted.

    People seem to think that a state sufficiently unlike the government of the United States in the early 21st century doesn’t really count as a state, and so demonstrates the possibility of doing without one.

    • The book isn’t about libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism, it is about legal systems.

      But if you read the chapter on feud law, I think you will see that it is possible to have law that is enforced without having a monopoly enforcer.

      • andagain says:

        I get the impression from the review and comments that some people do see the book as supporting anarcho-capitalism, so my puzzlement is more about the readers than the book.

        But I don’t think it matter much whether the system enforces its judgement by ordering someone to enforce them, or by authorizing someone to enforce them in the name of vengeance. Or by any other method. If it can usually enforce its judgments, clearly it is able to use force against people it deems violators. If it cannot come to a conclusion about who the violators are, or if it cannot enforce its judgments, clearly it is not an effective legal system.

        The system that decides who the bad guys are and squelches them is the government. If there are several rival systems, you have civil war. And if there are several neighboring systems that don’t interfere with each other, you have several little neighboring governments instead of one big one.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @andagain:
          Maybe you should read David’s book that is about anarchocapitalism. That book is titled The Machinery of Freedom; there’s a pdf version online here.

          You particularly want to read the first few chapters of Part III: Anarchy is not Chaos.

        • The system that decides who the bad guys are and squelches them is the government.

          Consider the simplest of the feud systems I describe, the Romanichal. I think you cheated me. I demand compensation and threaten to beat you up if I don’t get it. Both of us know that if you did cheat me, as interpreted by the system of norms of our society, my friends will back me and your friends won’t back you. So you pay up or leave town.

          What are you claiming is the government in that set of institutions?

          For my view of what makes something a government, see this chapter from the third edition of Machinery.

          • andagain says:

            Apologies for the late reply: yes, if you are obviously in the right in our dispute, that may make it easier for you to get friends and relatives to support you. But if you are not obviously in the right, being in the right after careful examination will not help you. Hardly anyone will know, and those who do know can plausibly claim not to.

            OTOH, if I have more (adult, young, male) friends and relatives to start with, that will certainly help me. If me or my family are better armed than yours, that will certainly help me. If you are from outside of town, that will certainly help me. And if I and my friends are habitual criminals, we will certainly stick together when one of us commits a theft.

            So not everyone would call this a well-functioning legal system, because having numerous, powerful friends and relatives matters at least as much as being in the right.

            You might argue that having numerous, powerful friends and relatives is simply one of the norms the system enforces, so in that sense it is a well-functioning legal system after all. If you do, I will point out that those norms give the power to decide who should be punished to the people with many powerful, well armed relatives.

            So the best connected people govern, as has usually been the case in most societies.

            But if you want impartial justice, do not look to the friends and relatives of the disputants to provide it.

          • @andagain:

            Short reply. In most real societies, most people are neutrals to any dispute. Using violent force without taking precautions to convince neutrals that doing so is justified is usually imprudent. The relevant precautions seem to typically involve neutral third party arbitrators of some sort.

            Further, if tort claims are transferable, as they were in saga period Iceland, the weak victim can transfer his claim to someone strong who will then profit by collecting it.

  17. jhertzlinger says:

    Control of information might explain why some communities tended to oppose education. Anybody literate might be recruited by the government. A bureaucrat with local knowledge was their worst nightmare.

  18. Douglas Knight says:

    You refer to “ancient China,” but most of the chapter is about the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty, the last one, 1600-1900, although the conflict between the Legalists and Confucians is from the earliest dynasties, Qin (Ch’in) and Han.

  19. Well... says:

    My conclusion about the Amish is the same as Friedman’s–that they’re onto something and they know it, and that’s why so relatively few defect–but anyone who knows me by now already knew that.

    • Jiro says:

      My conclusion about the Amish is that they’re onto something, but this something is optimized for the survival of the Amish as an entity, not the wellbeing of the humans in it.

      North Korea is onto something too, insofar as creating a stable society that few people leave.

  20. JoeCool says:

    The Amish quotation is interesting, but I do think the problem of finding a job is more difficult than it first appears, and in that in the modern employment system they will be statistically discriminated against and basically treated as a high school drop out, at least when it comes to most employing firms. So that limits their options significantly.

    Moreover, they will have no idea how to drive, no housing, and depending on the community, no English skills, or at the very least they’ll have an accent.

    Also, do girls get apprenticeships? Like I dont think they do, unless you count a home making, but who would hire a Amish nanny? I mean they’d be ideal in some ways, but most nannies are hired via social connection or through agencies, plus there is the problem of not being able to use an oven.

    The social lock in is probably still the most significant factor though.

    That being said, the fact that defection rates soared for Amish who left their hometown during WW2 to take part in the civilian public service makes me think the current rates of defection is more of an oppression thing than a choice thing.

    • Well... says:

      they will have no idea how to drive

      A lot of Amish kids on jungspringe seem to learn to drive OK. Lots of non-Amish don’t drive too (apparently more now than in the recent past).

      I mean they’d be ideal in some ways, but most nannies are hired via social connection or through agencies, plus there is the problem of not being able to use an oven.

      A lot of communities make exceptions in their ordnungs for using certain tools while at work. The determination about a given technology isn’t necessarily about not touching or using it, it sometimes is applied to where it is used or who may own it.

      Plenty of Amish girls could theoretically use an oven during an apprenticeship.

      the fact that defection rates soared for Amish who left their hometown during WW2 to take part in the civilian public service makes me think the current rates of defection is more of an oppression thing than a choice thing.

      This would still comply with the Friedman/Well… theory that the Amish view the non-Amish correctly. The problems they see outside their communities were much less pronounced during WWII, I imagine.

    • “Moreover, they will have no idea how to drive, no housing, and depending on the community, no English skills, or at the very least they’ll have an accent.”

      Amish schools teach in English, so Amish, as best I can tell from the sources, are normally fluent in both English and their home language.

      • Watchman says:

        So the movie stereotype of the Amish speaking perfectly good English with a bit of an accent might actually be accurate?

        • SamChevre says:

          Yes.

          It’s more than JUST accent, but I’ve not met anyone in the Amish world, in the US, under 75, who didn’t speak English that was as easy to understand as that of my non-American colleagues with US college degrees. Yes, the sentence structure can be German-influenced (Are you coming with? The kitchen needs swept.), and sometimes a few really useful German words get dragged into English (I still say Freundshaft, although I know to explain it).

          One key contributor to this: the Amish German dialects aren’t used as written languages: if you want to read, you need to read in either Hochdeutsch or English–and being able to read is important. So most people learn to read primarily in English, and only learn enough Hochdeutsch to read in church. (For an analogy, think of the average American Jew’s familiarity with Hebrew.)

          • 天可汗 says:

            The sentence structure is German-influenced in a lot of that area — both of those constructions are entirely normal in Baltimore.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            Another data point: I live in Scotland, and people use “the kitchen needs swept” all the time.

          • Glenn says:

            I didn’t realize “the kitchen needs swept” came from German! It’s completely typical local dialect in Pittsburgh, PA, where I went to college. That makes a lot of sense and I’m surprised nobody seemed to know that when I lived there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is “are you coming with” a strange English construction?

            “I’m going to the store”
            “Can I come with?”

            Seems fairly normal to me.

      • JoeCool says:

        Oh, my mistake.

        I could have sworn I read it in an article about an Amish sexual abuse survivor, but I guess I didn’t, for sure I cannot find it anywhere.

        I also can’t find anything about the defection rate during ww2 so perhaps I was mistaken there as well. Woopsie daisy.

    • jimbarino says:

      Or it might have something to do with the health (as perceived by them) of “English” society now vs. back in the 40s…

  21. One good law out of all the bad ones:

    if the accusation was found to be false the accuser was subject to the penalty that would have been imposed on the accused if found guilty.

    I’ve always thought that accusers should be subject to the same punishment as the accused would be if found guilty. OF course the accusers should be convicted only if guilt of lying is proved beyond reasonable doubt, as would be the case of the accused. That way perjury would be subject to punishment at the level of significance of the accusation.

    • poignardazur says:

      I think it would hurt more than it would help. Lower-status victims of high-status personalities could be more easily bullied into not going to the cops / not pressing charges. Serious false accusers would just have to put more effort into faking their evidence, or produce the false evidence in a way that gives them plausible deniability that they believe what they’re saying.

    • Walter says:

      I dunno. Punishments mean different things to different people.

      Say you get mugged while out jogging one day. You told them you ‘didn’t carry cash’, and so they scooped out your eye and tossed it into traffic. Say your rule is in effect. Do you go to the cops?

      I mean, it seems cut and dried, but it’s not like you know these guys personally. Could you pick them out of a lineup? I mean, not to be cliche, but don’t they (the poor), kind of all look the same? If you pick the wrong ones (even one of the wrong ones), there may be an alibi, and YOU could go to jail, where you can hang out with the ones you properly accused, as well as the senior members of their organization.

  22. Loquat says:

    couples that wish to reproduce are expected to first leave their family households, flee a substantial distance away—far enough so that their kin cannot find them and retrieve the woman—and return only when the child is weaned and so no longer requires a visible association with its mother

    Staying away from birth until weaning sounds way too nuts to actually be true, especially considering that in non-industrialized societies children were often not done breastfeeding until at least age 2. Like, is the man supposed to find work in their new location to support the woman while she takes care of the baby? And wouldn’t it be much better for infant survival rates to stay home where the new mother could be helped out by her family, particularly if it’s her first baby?

    I can see hiding the pregnancy, sneaking away before birth, and returning a few days later with a baby acting like “oh yeah, I found this while I was out hiking”, but any absence much longer than that just does not seem workable.

    • ellevt says:

      This jumped out at me as pretty weird too. I couldn’t find any other source for it.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Other than the cited one: 1 2 3.

        When youngsters fall in love they could not show it in any way lest the movements of the girl would be watched even more tightly….attempt to go as far as they could, often hundreds of kilometers away, without anybody’s knowledge….Traditionally the young couple tried to remain in hiding for at least two years, by which time a child would be conceived and about one year old, before reunification wit the families was attempted….Only repeated abscondings with the same man could convince the family that it was useless to try to keep them separate, and a slow process of acceptance of the liaison would start.

        On a slightly different topic,

        The divider between childhood and adulthood in the life of a Finnish Rom female child was putting on the full Roma skirt….The young girl herself had to make preparations for obtaining and getting dressed in the full Roma woman’s attire without so much as a hint to the older women, including her own mother and older sister, all of whom would have tried to prevent any “such nonsense” while knowing full well that this was the way they did it in their time. One day she just appeared in the attire and received the ritual scoldings from the older women in the family. She was supposed to wear the attire from then on; there was no return to European-style clothing.

        Grönfors wrote about marriage in less detail in this 1986 paper, which I has a similar title to an unpublished report from 1977, at the time of the fieldwork.

  23. cvxxcvcxbxvcbx says:

    In Ludology, a podcast on board game design I list to, they pointed out that the Ancient Greek “exchange everything” rule might make an interesting board game mechanic.

  24. Watchman says:

    Question I’d never thought to ask before: are we sure it’s a good idea to let people know what the laws are?

    Answer of a type you have to use a lot: it depends on what the outcome you want from the laws is to be.

  25. RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

    He’s a law professor so I hesitate to raise this but I was surprised to see the author characterize federal diversity jurisdiction as a choice of law rule. Isn’t it a jurisdictional rule? I mean the federal court will still have to apply a choice of law analysis and will ordinarily apply the substantive law of one of the States, so the federal forum isn’t being used to address the sorts of choice of law problems that the accompanying text is discussing, isn’t that right?

  26. Steve says:

    The same issue exists in current U.S. law, which is in its own way polylegal. Each U.S. state has its own system of legal rules. Most disputes have an unambgiuous location in a particular state, but not all; consider the case of a customer in California who purchases a product produced in Massachusetts from a seller in Texas. What court gets to decide the resulting product liability dispute? U.S. legal theory includes an elaborate set of rules for solving such “conflict of law” cases. One of those rules is diversity jurisdiction. A civil case that would normally be under state law can be heard by a federal court instead if the plaintiff and defendant are from different states, under different state laws. Think of it as a modern version of the rule that sends cross cases to the ruler’s court.

    This is badly muddled, enough so that it creates a clock-striking-thirteen problem for me regarding every other passage. I know about American law; I don’t know about ancient Chinese law. If there are gross mistakes in the digressions about American law, I don’t have a great deal of confidence in the sections on topics I don’t know about.

    Diversity jurisdiction and choice of law are unrelated concepts. For one thing, diversity jurisdiction depends not upon differences in laws, but upon differences in citizenship. If litigants from different states are parties to a lawsuit, the plaintiff may invoke diversity jurisdiction even if the laws of the respective states are the same in all practical respects (which they usually are in diversity cases). Further, even where the litigants are citizens of different states, there’s usually no dispute which state’s laws apply. If you, a California citizen, drive to Oregon next week and are involved in a car accident, Oregon law will apply, notwithstanding your citizenship.

    For another thing, diversity jurisdiction solves nothing about the choice-of-law problem described in the passage. Where a case is brought in federal court under diversity jurisdiction, the federal court does not apply “neutral” federal law (except regarding procedure), but instead must determine which state’s law to apply. Thus, in the example described in the passage, a federal court asked to adjudicate the litigation would be required to determine whether the laws of California, Massachusetts, or Texas applied to the dispute. It could not apply federal-law principles to the litigation (there would be no federal-law principles to apply). Indeed, the federal court would not even invoke its own choice-of-law principles; it adopts these too from state law.

    The problem solved by diversity jurisdiction is not that litigants might be governed by different laws and therefore neutral principles must be invoked, but that state forums are more likely to be biased against out-of-state litigants than federal forums. This concern is reflected in rules such as: a case filed in state court may be “removed” to federal court by the defendant, if the case could have been brought originally in federal court by the plaintiff — but the defendant may not remove the case if (1) the reason the case could have been brought in federal court is diversity of citizenship, and (2) the defendant is a citizen of the state in whose courts the case is being removed from. In that situation, there’s no risk of bias against the would-be removing party, and therefore no reason for removal to federal court.

  27. akarlin says:

    More on the alien (to Western sensibilities) nature of Chinese law from Arthur H. Smith’s Chinese Characteristics.

    The object in such cases is not the execution of even-handed justice, which, even if theoretically desirable, seldom occurs to an Oriental as a possibility, but such an arrangement as will distribute to all concerned “face” in due proportions. The same principle often obtains in the settlement of lawsuits, a very large percentage of which end in what may be called a drawn game.

    To an Occidental, fresh from the republican ideas which dominate the Anglo-Saxons, it seems a matter of little or no consequence who his neighbours are, and if he be a resident of a city he may occupy a dwelling for a year in ignorance even of the name of the family next door. But in China it is otherwise. If a crime takes place the neighbours are held guilty of some- thing analogous to what English law calls “ misprision of treason,” in that when they knew of a criminal intention they did not report it. It is vain to reply “ I did not know.” You are a “ neighbour,” and therefore you must have known.

    On the other hand, voluntary substitutions of a son for the father, in cases of capital punishment, are known to occur, and such instances speak forcibly for the sincerity and power of the instinct of filial devotion to a parent, though this parent may be a deeply dyed criminal.

    Another example of “ absence of sympathy ” on the part of the Chinese is their system of punishments. It is not easy, from an examination of the legal code of the Empire, to ascertain what is and what is not in accordance with law, for custom seems to have sanctioned many deviations from the letter of the statutes.

    The Chinese theory and practice of responsibility has been often cited as one of the causes of the perpetuity of Chinese institutions. It forges around every member of Chinese society iron fetters from which it is impossible that he should break loose. It constantly violates every principle of justice by punishing all grades of officers, as well as private individuals, for occurrences in which they had no part, and of which,
    as in the example just cited, they were not improbably utterly ignorant. It is the direct cause of deliberate and systematic falsification in all ranks of officials, from the very lowest to the very highest. If an officer is responsible for the existence of crimes which he does not find it easy to control, or of which he is ignorant till it is too late to prevent them, he will inevitably conceal the facts so as to screen himself. This is what constantly happens in all departments of the government, to the complete subversion of justice, for it is not in human nature to give truthful reports of events when, in consequence of such reports, the person who makes them may be severely and unjustly punished. The abuse of this principle alone would suffice to account for a large part of the maladministration of justice in China, to which our attention is so often called.

    • Smith observed the final dynasty at the point when it was breaking down, so it is hard to know how applicable his observations would be to earlier in that dynasty or others.

      • akarlin says:

        From other sources I’ve read I get the impression that China was extremely corrupt from at least the time of the Opium Wars up to the end of the Qing dynasty.

        Less corrupt (or at least more functional) in the 18th century.

        However, the general principles of Chinese laws not caring a whit about the individual seems to be a constant (and seemingly confirmed by the quotes Scott cites). The great rebellion that toppled the Qin was provoked by peasant conscripts getting delayed by floods from getting to the marshalling grounds in time, the penalty for which was death. Rather than deal with the certainty of death for treason/desertion, they decided to try their hand at insurgency instead.

        • ChetC3 says:

          That’s a weird example to use for the argument you’re making. The point of that story was to show Qin’s tyrannical laws being the cause of its fall. It’s in the same vein as all the stories of Legalist philosophers being killed by one of the gruesome new execution methods they invented.

        • I believe that story, and most of what we “know” about the Qin, comes from the Han–the dynasty that replaced the Qin. To quote from my footnotes:

          The excavation in 1975 of the tomb of a minor Qin official in Shuihudi produced written texts that included accounts of legal rules and procedures for investigating crimes. They were inconsistent with the claims of extreme severity, suggesting that the conventional account of legalism may have been, at least in part, propaganda by its victorious enemies.

  28. Viliam says:

    Gypsies treat a name, more generally an identity, as fungible, property belonging to the extended family to be used by any member who finds it useful.

    My brief experience with Gypsy/Romani culture: I met a few kids in a summer camp, and one of them “friended” me on Facebook. Now about once in a month I receive a new friend request from him saying “hi, this is me again, XY” from another account. And when I asked him why he was making a new account every month, he said something like: “well, everyone in our village already knows the password for the old one, so I made a new one for myself”. But of course the next month he is going to make a new account again, for the same reason.

    It’s fascinating how well this strategy works even today. I am afraid sometimes what people could find if they look at my old Facebook records; but if anyone looks at his record, it’s just a few photos from the last month, nothing else. Even if you try some machine learning to find out which other accounts have the same owner, this will be more difficult if other people use the same account once in a while.

    Also, if I can trust what the kids at the camp told me (there is always the chance they were pulling my leg), at the village almost no one uses their real name. Everyone has multiple nicknames, and they gradually gain new ones and abandon old ones. So unless you are in a regular contact with the community, it would be difficult to find out which nickname refers to which person. Especially if they later recycle an unused former nickname of someone else; or if two different people use the same nickname at the same time (plus each of them a few other nicknames in parallel).

    This works great against outsiders, but of course does not scale well beyond the village.

  29. JoeCool says:

    I think the criticism that you can’t leave Amish life behind because you lack education has more power than it appears, as the “obvious” answer seems inadequate to me.

    I also am not sure women get an apprenticeship program, I mean perhaps you could argue they are apprenticed to be excellent child care providers; but they wont be able to drive and use an oven, and child care in my experience is a job entrusted to someone within your social circle or through an agency. In either case an Amish women would be hard pressed to find a job. Any Amish person is going to statistically discriminated against on job applications because they will be treated as essentially high school drop outs. I don’t think hiring managers at that low level really have the discretion necessary to make exceptions for odd Amish run away, and the system is unlikely to change because its net benefit to the employer even though the employer will miss out of a few high productive Amish workers.

    The crux of the difficulty though is that you need a little breathing room to at least learn how to drive, and to learn the weird arcane application process to modern low skilled work ie you need some sort of housing which of course you would not get as an Amish defector. The few times its pulled off is a weird happen stance social connection with an outsider, at least from what I’ve read.

  30. Baja Roki Thompson says:

    The piece about Finnish Gyppos running away to have their children is a yuge exaggeration, at least for the last century or so. They do have this thing for keeping their relationships secret, then running away as a way of in a way announcing their relationship. It’s about their concept of modesty, aversion to directly talk about taboo subjects to their elders. The girl’s parents may catch them and bring them back, and then they’ll run off again to show they’re serious. But the important thing is that they never directly mention the relationship to their parents, no public display of affection ever, in public you’re supposed to treat your spouse like anyone basically, even at the point where you live together. For example if you go to church you may sit on different benches, and if you want to communicate with your wife you could use your kid as a messenger, or cellphone today I suppose.

    The running away does interfere with their work, schooling, and all that – shocking that gypsy culture isn’t conducive to good corporate careers.

    I don’t know far back you’d have to go have living arrangements as described here, where there’d be lots of women living in the same household. Typical gypsy family does have their own house not shared by a huge family, and this is not a new development. Both parents are still members of only their own respective families, which can complicate things if the families get into a blood feud for example. If they’re christians they may have a wedding, but only a small one for friends, absolutely you don’t ever invite your parents or even mention directly to them about it.
    Maybe at some point in history it may have worked closer to as described, with the whole raising children with several mothers, and I suppose giving birth in another gypsy community that’s willing to help them hide, in order to hide from their own families… But a gypsy is more likely than not to lie about details of even their current-day culture, let alone in her grandmothers day, not that she’d explicitly know either due to the whole modesty thing, you wouldn’t talk to your elders about subjects like that.

    t. a White Finn

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