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Justice in the Cyberverse

HM Solomon I


Something that isn't often talked about in this world is how alliances administer justice. Despite the dearth of discussion though, it's actually a crucial subject when it comes to understanding our world because the way justice is delivered across the Cyberverse has a great deal of bearing on how community norms are enforced and alliances maintain control.

So to aid in understanding, this entry will focus on the different generalized systems for administering justice and will analyze their relative strengths and weaknesses.

The first type of justice is arguably the simplest of the lot: justice by decree. In a justice by decree system, one individual or small group of individuals holds the power to decree punishments, and can usually delegate some or all of this power to others in the alliance. The second type of system is the one most familiar in RL: court justice. In a court justice system, one individual or a group of individuals is appointed or elected to administer justice in the alliance. This court decides on punishments, but unlike in a decree justice system, the court is bound by higher law to administer justice consistent with said higher law's guarantees of rights and due process; there can also be a process by which one can appeal the decision of the court to another authority within the alliance. This limits the court's power and strengthens the rights of individual alliance members. The last type of system is the one most associated with socialist alliances: direct democratic justice. In a direct democratic justice system, all alliance members have the right to decide on some or all punishments.

So now that we have this framework of the basic types of justice systems in the Cyberverse, the next step is to look at their relative strengths and weaknesses and then perhaps formulate an approach that might be better than any one of those above. Justice by decree systems have one huge leg up on all the others: efficiency. Nothing is more efficient than one individual or small group just deciding who should be punished and how. No trial, no need for procedures to be followed, just one person (or a few) deciding. However, the problem with this system also stems from this massive efficiency: potential for abuse. Since there is no chance of appeal, and one person or a small group holds all the power, if at some point a particularly malevolent person or people come(s) into that position or those positions, the results could be disastrous for the alliance. Court justice systems provide for strong individual rights, which vastly reduces the potential for abuse which is so high in decree justice systems. This reduced risk of abuse comes at a significant cost though: much less in the way of efficiency. The need for detailed, standardized, and consistently enforced procedures, due process, lengthy trials and the like to ensure rights are fully respected makes court justice systems the most inefficient of the three. Direct democratic justice systems are very participatory as they ensure just about every member can be involved in administering justice. This creates a collegial atmosphere and possibly keeps members better informed as to how the alliance handles those who misbehave. The downside is that a vote or other kind of large-scale decision process is required to actually enact consequences, which can be costly and time consuming to organize, even in smaller alliances, and there is almost as much of a potential for abuse as in decree justice systems. Whereas decree systems suffer from this potential due to their concentration of power, direct democratic systems suffer from it for the opposite reason but to a similar degree. There is a risk that mob justice may prevail, in which vocal members get enough support to punish someone who in fact has done nothing wrong or get a member severely punished for what is typically considered a minor offense.

Given this, none of these systems are perfect, and none ever will be perfect. No system can be, but the question is could one design a better system. Each of the above has clear pros and cons, so it may be possible to construct a hybrid system that minimizes the cons and maximizes the pros.

Consider a Court-Decree system. In a court-decree system, one person person or a small group holds the power to decree punishments. Unlike in a pure decree system though, the offenses are specifically defined in advance and ex post facto punishment is not allowed, so the one or ones decreeing punishment don't also get to decide in the moment what is punishable. And on top of this, all those being considered for punishment have the right to defend themselves and know what they are accused of having done. This does not mean they have the right to a fair trial or the right to counsel; evidence of the offense isn't even necessary, though the authority may decide not to punish without it in specific cases. The defense they make need not even be public (though if it is private one third-party witness would need to be present just to keep everyone honest) nor does it need to have a fixed duration. Anything that is not listed here would be decided by the authority determining the punishment (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The point is, this avoids the potential for mob justice found in direct democratic systems (the participatory aspect isn't essential to justice and is only desirable in actual direct democracies), keeps much of the efficiency of decree systems (since it avoids lengthy trials and keeps procedures to a bare minimum), while providing just enough protections to mitigate much of the risk of abuse.

This system isn't perfect obviously, but it would seem it's a fair bit better than the others, all other things being equal. And of course, this doesn't take into account alliances' histories and cultures, this is a model system and is not designed for a specific alliance.


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Justice in this context is a term referring to whatever systems we use to provide negative consequences to actions we deem worthy of such a response. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with ethics. I merely use the term for lack of a better one that succinctly describes what it is I'm trying to talk about.

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Going to have to agree with Myth here, the idea that there's such a thing as justice on planet Bob is a cruel joke at best

Again, that's not the point of this entry.

Justice is my stomach. Those who need it end up there.

lol :D

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