Polycentric law is a legal structure in which providers of legal
systems compete or overlap in a given jurisdiction, as opposed to
monopolistic statutory law according to which there is a sole provider
of law for each jurisdiction.
Devolution of this monopoly occurs by
the principle of jurisprudence in which they rule according to higher
2 See also
4 External links
Tom W. Bell, former director of telecommunications and technology
studies at Cato Institute, now a professor of law at Chapman
University School of
Law in California wrote "Polycentric Law",
published by the Institute for Humane Studies, when he was a law
student at the University of Chicago. In it he notes that others use
phrases such as "non-monopolistic law" to describe these polycentric
alternatives. He outlines traditional customary law (also known as
consuetudinary law) before the creation of states, including as
described by Friedrich A. Hayek, Bruce L. Benson, and David D.
Friedman. He mentions
Anglo-Saxon customary law, church law, guild
law, and merchant law as examples of polycentric law. He notes that
customary and statutory law have co-existed through history, as when
Roman law applied to Romans throughout the Roman Empire, but
indigenous legal systems were permitted for non-Romans. In
Law in the New Millennium," which won first place in the
Mont Pelerin Society's 1998
Friedrich A. Hayek
Friedrich A. Hayek Fellowship competition,
Bell predicts three areas where polycentric law might develop:
alternative dispute resolution, private communities, and the Internet.
University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki (Finland) funded a "Polycentric Law"
research project from 1992 to 1995, led by professor Lars D. Eriksson.
Its goal was to demonstrate "the inadequacy of current legal paradigms
by mapping the indeterminacies of both the modern law and the modern
legal theory. It also addressed the possibility of legal and ethical
alternativies to the modern legal theories" and "provided openings to
polycentric legal theories both by deconstructing the idea of unity in
law and re-constructing legal and ethical differences". The project
hosted two international conferences. In 1998 the book Polycentricity:
The Multiple Scenes of Law, edited by Ari Hirvonen, collected essays
written by scholars involved with the project.
Professor Randy Barnett, who originally wrote about "non-monopolistic"
law, later used the phrase "polycentric legal order". He explains the
advantages of such a system in his book The Structure of Liberty:
Justice and the Rule of Law.
Bruce L. Benson also uses the phrase, writing in a Cato Institute
publication in 2007: "A customary system of polycentric law would
appear to be much more likely to generate efficient sized
jurisdictions for the various communities involved—perhaps many
smaller than most nations, with others encompassing many of today’s
political jurisdictions (e.g., as international commercial law does
John K. Palchak and Stanley T. Leung in "No State Required? A Critical
Review of the Polycentric Legal Order," criticize the concept of
Gary Chartier in "Anarchy and Legal Order" elaborates
and defends the idea of law without the state.  Animated by a
vision of peaceful, voluntary cooperation as a social ideal and
building on a careful account of non-aggression, the book seeks to
explain why the state is illegitimate, dangerous, and unnecessary. It
proposes an understanding of how law enforcement in a stateless
society could be legitimate and what the optimal substance of law
without the state might be, suggests ways in which a stateless legal
order could foster the growth of a culture of freedom, and situates
the project it elaborates in relation to leftist, anti-capitalist, and
Private defense agency
Private defense agency - quoted above as polycentric "alternative"
^ Tom Bell, Polycentric
Law in the New Century Archived 2014-02-01 at
the Wayback Machine., "Policy," publication of The Center for
Independent Studies, St Leonards, Australia, Autumn, 1999. An earlier
version was published by the Cato Institute.
^ Tom Bell web site at Chapman University School of Law
^ a b Tom W. Bell, Polycentric Law, Institute for Humane Studies
Review, Volume 7, Number 1 Winter 1991/92.
^ Research project on polycentric law[permanent dead link].
^ Randy E. Barnett, E/TOC.htm The Structure of Liberty: Justice and
the Rule of Law, Chapters 12 -14, Oxford University Press, 2000.
^ Bruce L. Benson, "Polycentric Governance", Cato Unbound, August
^ John K. Palchak and Stanley T. Leung, "No State Required? A Critical
Review of the Polycentric Legal Order," 38 Gonzaga
Law Review, 289,
Adam Chacksfield, "Polycentric
Law and the Minimal State: The Case of
Air Pollution", Libertarian Alliance, Political Notes 76, 1993.
Roderick T. Long, "The Nature of Law", Formulations, published by Free
Nation Foundation, Spring 1994.
Private defense agency
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