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
* 1 Overview
* 2 See also
* 3 References
* 4 External links
Tom W. Bell, former director of telecommunications and technology
Cato Institute , now a professor of law at Chapman
University School of
California wrote "Polycentric Law",
published by the
Institute for Humane Studies , when he was a law
student at the
University of Chicago
University of Chicago . In it he notes that others use
phrases such "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
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 Fellowship
competition, Bell predicts three areas where polycentric law might
develop: alternative dispute resolution, private communities, and the
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.
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 polycentric law.
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 socialist
Private defense agency
Private defense agency - quoted above as polycentric "alternative"
* ^ Tom Bell, Polycentric
Law in the New Century, "Policy,"
publication of The Center for Independent Studies, St Leonards,
Australia, Autumn, 1999. An earlier version was published by the Cato
* ^ 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.
* ^ Randy E. Barnett, E/TOC.htm The Structure of Liberty: Justice
and the Rule of Law, Chapters 12 -14,
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press , 2000.
Bruce L. Benson , "Polycentric Governance", Cato Unbound ,
August 16th, 2007.
* ^ John K. Palchak and Stanley T. Leung, "No State Required? A
Critical Review of the Polycentric Legal Order," 38 Gonzaga Law
Review, 289, (2002).