Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Curott and Stringham on the Rise of Government Law Enforcement

Nicholas Adam Curott, George Mason University, and Edward Peter Stringham, Fayetteville State University School of Business and Economics, have posted The Rise of Government Law Enforcement in England, which is forthcoming in The Pursuit of Justice: Law and Economics of Legal Institutions, ed. Edward J. Lopez, ed. (Independent Institute, 2010). Here is the abstract:
Nearly one thousand years ago, before the existence of centralized government police and courts in England, disputes were settled in a decentralized and in many ways voluntary manner. When disputes occurred, private groups would ask the wrongdoer to pay restitution to the victim, and if the wrongdoer refused he would be viewed as an outlaw. Over time, however, the kings saw the court system as a potential source of revenue. Rather than having the full restitution go to the victim, they declared that fines must be paid to themselves for more and more offenses because they violated the King’s Peace. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066 A.D., restitution was completely replaced by a system of fines and punishments. The history of medieval England demonstrates, contrary to common belief, that law and order can be provided in a decentralized manner. It also demonstrates that government law enforcement in England was not created for public interest reasons, but to raise revenue for the kings.